What does collaboration mean in the workplace?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

Published 25 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Collaboration enables teams to make the most of their members' unique skill sets. No matter the role you play, you can better contribute to your organisation if you actively collaborate. In this article, we explore what collaboration is, its benefits and how you can enhance your collaboration skills in your workplace.

What does collaboration mean?

Collaboration means two or more people work together to complete a specific task or achieve a goal. In a work environment, individual employees, different departments and project teams depend on collaboration to reach desirable outcomes. Collaboration also might involve working with parties outside of an organisation, such as other businesses or institutions. However, the goal in each instance remains sharing experiences and knowledge to solve issues and accomplish objectives.

To work as a team, you must have collaborative skills, including communication skills, emotional intelligence skills and respect for diversity. Employees that are willing to work together as a team are often the most effective and reliable. They can brainstorm and share experiences and skills to handle complex jobs.

Types of collaboration

There are different types of collaboration possible in an organisation. Collaboration includes working arrangements such as:

Team collaboration

Team collaboration means working in groups where members know each other's tasks, abilities and timelines for a given project. It allows each employee to contribute their specialised skills and receive support from others when needed. Team collaboration also means the entire group takes shared responsibility for difficulties and equal recognition for successes. This type of collaboration is effective if leaders are efficient and diligent in keeping the team together.

Related: Group vs. team: a guide to differences and similarities

Community collaboration

Community collaboration's primary focus is creating a sense of togetherness within a workplace. As opposed to working in distinct teams, community collaboration means sharing and learning without boundaries across an organisation to complete tasks. Community collaboration minimises hierarchical arrangements, encouraging senior employees to share information and directly collaborate with junior employees. Community collaboration also lessens the need for individual recognition and emphasises the group's achievements instead.

Network collaboration

Network collaboration occurs when individuals working on their own projects indirectly help others working on similar matters or seeking similar information. In network collaboration, the members are unfamiliar with each other. Network collaboration depends on information technology to connect people across time zones and distant geographic locations. It's an alliance between entities, individuals and organisations that aims to collaborate and achieve a common goal. For instance, online encyclopaedias often reflect individual efforts that together form an extensive body of organised work.

Related: What is an individual contributor?

The benefits of collaboration

Some of the benefits of collaboration include:

Bringing organisations together

Collaboration brings people closer together in an organisation, encouraging those that work in different departments to interact with each other. When people learn about each other's roles, their own work often improves. They can better account for how their contributions affect the entire company or the work their colleagues do.

Improved problem-solving

Collaboration allows you to access a pool of talent and skills. If you cannot solve a certain issue, someone else in your department or a different department may have an idea. Collaboration gives you a chance to get different perspectives on an issue, making it easier to solve problems.

Read more: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Greater learning opportunities

Whenever working within your team or with members of other teams, you have the chance to learn from professionals with different experiences and backgrounds. You can grow by working with people who have different skills, abilities and methods of handling tasks. Employees often feel more motivated when their work involves learning insights that can help them advance their careers and improve their decision-making abilities.

Increased efficiency and productivity

Working as a team makes most tasks easier. You can divide responsibilities according to team members' strengths and abilities. That way, each member can focus on the tasks they can complete efficiently and accurately instead of spending excessive time on a job beyond their knowledge and skill. Also, when several people work on a project, it's easier to meet deadlines since they can support each other even on complex tasks.

How to enhance your collaboration skills

Here are a few ways to improve your collaboration skills in your workplace:

1. Set clear tasks and objectives

When leading a team, make sure all members have a clear understanding of their tasks. Encourage your personnel to understand their colleagues' responsibilities as well so they can appreciate the workflows supporting project completion. When tasks and objectives are transparent, collaboration becomes easier as all employees know who to approach for specific problems. Having a shared vision and aim also creates rapport and trust among team members.

2. Ask for help

Sometimes, people feel nervous about asking for help, which can limit a workplace's collaboration. However, asking for help is key to facilitating mutually supportive environments. When facing a challenge, welcome your colleagues' input so they know you appreciate and value their perspectives. When they have challenges of their own, they know they can approach you for your help.

3. Be willing to listen and compromise

While you may feel that your ideas are particularly effective, listening to other people's opinions can be helpful. Consider how differing opinions can complement your position on an issue and make your team's solution more comprehensive. This commitment to collaboration eliminates disputes and instead encourages productive conversations where collective action resolves even the most pressing concerns.

Related: How To Improve Your Active Listening Skills

4. Avoid assigning blame

Sometimes mistakes happen within a team, and you might feel inclined to assign blame elsewhere to protect your interests. Instead, try to take responsibility for mistakes as a team and find solutions together. Just as everyone would like to get recognition when projects are successful, teams function better when they share responsibility for mistakes. By learning to ask for forgiveness and forgive others, you allow your fellow members to communicate with you and build trust.

5. Celebrate differences

Often, people's different professional, academic and personal backgrounds affect how they approach a challenge. To improve your collaboration skills, embrace and celebrate these different backgrounds so that they become a central asset of your organisation. A team can work more effectively when colleagues accommodate one another and empower each other's individualised habits.

6. Welcome change

To enhance your collaboration skills, welcome change. Most organisations experience at least occasional shifts in policy, personnel and project objectives. Collaboration can make all of these transitions smoother and more successful.

Collaborative working examples

Here are a few examples of how a company can encourage collaboration in the workplace:

Job rotation

Job rotation is an excellent opportunity for employees with different specialisations to practise collaboration. Team members interact as they train each other on different skills and learn about each other's duties. It also reduces workplace boredom and offers employees professional development experiences.

Open discussions

When in a meeting, the best approach is to give everyone a chance to share their opinions and ideas rather than have one person guiding the entire session. It fosters collaboration and boosts morale as team members feel that their company values their opinions and perspectives. It also introduces you up to new ideas that you might not have previously considered.

Video conferencing

With more people working from home, video conferencing is one of the best examples of fostering collaboration at work, even in non-traditional workplaces. It offers the chance for people to connect remotely and share their ideas and opinions even when working apart. Video conferencing can facilitate meetings, quick conversations about work issues and socialising among colleagues.

Hot desking

Hot desking is where employees have no specific assigned work space in an office. They can sit anywhere and change positions daily. Unlike in normal office settings where people from the same department or team occupy the same space, hot desking ensures that employees intermingle regardless of position or department. This fosters collaboration and cultivates a sharing environment.

Team building activities

Team building activities are crucial in fostering collaboration and good rapport among employees. Team building activities allow people to interact with each other and learn things they're less likely to share while focused on their daily responsibilities. If someone needs help handling a specific task, they may feel more comfortable asking for help from a colleague with whom they've developed a positive and friendly relationship.

Related:

  • 9 workplace collaboration benefits (with types and tips)


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