Definition

team collaboration

Contributor(s): Sarah Lewis

Team collaboration is a communication and project management approach that emphasizes teamwork, innovative thinking and equal participation to achieve objectives. While the word collaboration refers to the act of working with someone to produce something, team collaboration in the workplace also incorporates corporate culture and technology. Goals of team collaboration include completing projects quickly and efficiently, collectively brainstorming solutions and giving all team members a sense of accomplishment.

While there are a variety of approaches to fostering and improving team collaboration, there are a few agreed upon best practices. Once a team is developed, each member should become acquainted with each other and understand their personal background, expertise, strengths and responsibilities. Team building activities can help members collaborate from the start. A team leader should also be chosen to lead by example, foster open lines of communication and facilitate meetings and tasks.

Team collaboration can be applied to multiple types of business relationships such as bosses and subordinates, representatives from multiple teams, employees from two partnering organizations and company agents with service providers, contractors, volunteers or vendors.

Teams with successful collaboration methods tend to produce benefits such as faster project turnaround times, more met deadlines and, as a result, less money spent. In addition, effective team collaboration helps employees learn from each other, problem solve more efficiently, break down communication barriers and see the larger company picture.

Elements of successful team collaboration

  • Communication- This can range across providing clear instructions, asking for clarification when necessary and listening to all members of the team. One aspect of proper communication might be implementing a team messenger tool that allows members to share files, make virtual calls and send updates in real time.
  • Transparency- Along with open lines of communication, dialogue needs to be transparent. This includes setting clear goals, defining roles and responsibilities upfront and informing members when problems arise.
  • Employee engagement- Keeping employees on the team engaged and interested in collaborating will make the project more efficient overall. This can be achieved by identifying and maximizing each team member's strengths as each person will bring something valuable to the project.
  • Compromise- If disagreements arise, team members need to be prepared to compromise for the best interest of the group. Choosing team members with a positive attitude that are willing to meet in the middle ensures that the entire team as a whole will be more successful.
  • Conflict management- Effective team collaboration may result in minimal conflicts, but a management strategy needs to be put in place if those issues arise. Conflict management could be handled individually with the team leader or as a group conversation.
  • Reliability- Once the goals and duties are identified for each team member, it is the job of the entire team to hold accountability. Team collaboration will fail if certain team members fall short of their expectations and need others to pick up their slack.
  • Diversity- Having a team with a diverse set of skills, expertise and perspectives will foster a more holistic approach to team collaboration.

Team collaboration software

Team collaboration software tools can be used to increase collaboration efficiency, hold team members accountable and organize projects. Key features that collaboration tools might incorporate include chat platform integration, scheduling systems, video conferencing and task checklists. Popular team collaboration software providers include Microsoft, Slack, Trello, Zendesk, Dropbox and Skype.

This was last updated in February 2019

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