What Is Workplace Collaboration?

It can make you feel happier and perform better. Learn the key secrets of collaboration.

What Is Workplace Collaboration?

Collaboration increases motivation.

No man is an island, so says the famous sermon by poet John Donne, who believed humans thrive when they’re part of a community. This piece of Donne’s writing is over 400 years old, but its message of collaboration is plenty relevant, especially in today’s workplaces.

Not only is collaboration a skill to hone and flaunt as an employee, but also as a job seeker. In fact, according to the Monster Future of Work: 2021 Outlook survey, employers chose teamwork/collaboration as the second most important skill a candidate should have (dependability is number one).

Why all the fuss? Let’s take a look.

Collaboration: Definition and examples

Collaboration is the act of people working together to achieve a common goal. Some call it teamwork, synergy, and partnership. But no matter how you define collaboration, the universal focus is on the coming together of individuals to put their heads together and get something done.

While collaboration at work is a way to build relationships among employees, it’s also a practical strategy. Could one person feasibly complete a large project—say designing and building a car—by themselves? While it may be possible, it would take them a much longer time to complete properly than if they were to collaborate with others.

Examples of collaboration include:

  • Co-workers creating a presentation, with each person contributing a slide on their area of expertise
  • Construction workers, electricians, and plumbers providing their time and labor to build a house
  • A band of musicians working together to compose a song
  • Scientists sharing their expertise and equipment to perform research and jointly publish their findings
  • A creative director, fashion designers, pattern makers, textile experts, and seamstresses creating this season’s line of clothing

Remote collaboration

What is collaboration worth if you work from home and don’t get a chance to see your co-workers—maybe ever? The good news is that you don’t need to be in the same physical space to collaborate.

For example, cloud technology has made team collaboration possible for remote employees. You could be typing a presentation on a document in the cloud while your co-worker simultaneously enters her edits. Not only is this excellent for enhancing productivity, it also fosters a sense of teamwork for people who are physically apart and may feel isolated.

Steps to collaborate

1. Define the goal. Get everyone on the same page or risk wasted time and efforts. You don’t want one person thinking you’re building a two-family house when you’re in fact building a single-family house.

2. Figure out who needs to be involved. Which team members have the skills that are required to achieve your goal?

3. Make sure those people are on board. Your co-workers are busy with their own projects, so you want to be sure they’re actually available to collaborate with you.

4. Establish expectations. Agree on who will do what and in what timeframe to avoid one person pulling more than their share of weight.

5. Keep track of the project through to completion. Have everyone regularly report on their progress. If one person can’t complete their contribution, it needs to be known early in the process in case this affects other team members. On the flipside, it you finish your contribution ahead of schedule, let your team know.

6. Review together. Each contributing team member should be on board with the finished product. Again, this is about getting everyone on the same page. You can’t have successful collaboration without harmony.

5 reasons why collaboration at work is important

1. It builds interpersonal relationships

Collaboration is a powerful relationship builder, and research by Intelligence Group shows 88% of employees prefer a collaborative workplace rather than a competitive one.

2. It boosts job satisfaction

A Globoforce survey found that people with workplace friendships are nearly three times more likely to say that they love their companies. Strong ties between colleagues can also help professionals enrich their personal lives—about nine in 10 professionals said work relationships matter to their quality of life, the Globoforce study found.

3. It improves work performance

In a survey of 1,100 companies, the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Babson College found that collaborative work is five times more likely to result in higher performance.

4. It keeps employees motivated

A study from Stanford University found that workers who feel like they’re part of a team were more motivated and more willing to take on additional challenges than their isolated counterparts.

5. It reduces turnover

Collaborative co-workers are happy co-workers, and happy co-workers are less likely to leave a job. That’s beneficial for an employer’s bottom line, since the cost of losing an employee is $15,000, according to the Work Institute's Retention Report.

How managers can foster collaboration skills

There are a number of ways that employers—and managers specifically—can cultivate collaboration skills among teams:

  • Build brainstorming sessions into team meetings. This will allow employees to feed off of each other’s ideas.
  • Lead by example. You can be a role model for your direct reports by sharing your knowledge and expertise with them.
  • Use technology to help remote workers communicate. Instant messaging platforms enable workers to collaborate with their peers in real time, which can be a game changer for remote workers. Consider investing in a collaboration software like Slack or Troop Messenger to effectively integrate your team.
  • Get out of the office. Team lunches are great, but also think about organizing a weekend retreat for your group. (Pro tip: It doesn’t have to be an exotic location, especially if your department has a limited budget.)
  • Chang up seating arrangements periodically. If you work in an open office, considering letting your employees “hot desk”—a practice that would allow them to choose their workstation every day on a first-come, first-serve basis, which helps employees meet new people.

Not enough collaboration at your job? Find a new one

If your workload is crushing you and your company doesn’t support collaboration, find a new job that does. Need a little help getting your job search off the ground? Collaborate with Monster for free. Upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you—and then let us take over. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. We’ll also send you customized job alerts so you can apply ASAP.