There’s no doubt ‘collaboration’ is the flavor of the month right now. But what does it mean in practice? How can it be achieved if most staff are working-from-home? And why is it essential, especially to SMEs that might have only a handful of employees? Regardless of company size, team collaboration supports agility and innovation while also improving productivity. Here we make a case for why every business should embrace cross-team collaboration.
Cross-Team Collaboration Meaning
Let’s define cross-team collaboration first: it’s when a group of people come together to share their knowledge, expertise, and resources to achieve a common task, project, or objective. Also known as cross-functional collaboration, a practical example could be a project to develop a new product line. It’s likely the group would involve R&D staff as well as representatives from sales and marketing. R&D will advise on the feasibility of developing the new product. Sales staff contribute insights on customers’ needs, wants and expectations. And marketing representatives provide guidance on how to position and price the new product to potential customers.
This example makes it clear that no one department acting on its own can bring a new product to market without the help of the others. And that’s what cross-team collaboration is all about. In simple terms, it means working together to innovate and achieve more for the business.
Cross-Team Collaboration Benefits
So, what are the benefits that cross-team collaboration can bring to my business? Here are ten reasons why cross-team collaboration is vital.
1. Assists with Problem-solving
Everyone knows that when it comes to problem-solving, two heads are better than one. Cross-team collaboration allows you to leverage the skills, knowledge, and experiences of a much wider group of people.
A diverse group of employees working together are more likely to identify and overcome roadblocks than an individual working alone. Each member has a unique skill set as well as being an expert in their discipline. Ideas are pooled and insights shared within the group. The result is a cross-departmental team that supports resourcefulness and the identification of solutions.
As well as doing away with traditional information silos, team collaboration means your business performs better at creative problem-solving.
2. Fosters Innovation
Similarly, collaboration fosters innovation for more agile and responsive decision-making. Businesses can be guilty of getting stuck in their ways. Processes happen in a certain way often only because they have always been done like that. The deeper insights, fresh perspectives, and creative thinking that cross-team collaboration offers can give you a competitive advantage.
Toyota is an excellent example of a business that uses cross-function collaboration to encourage innovation in its manufacturing processes. Learning is shared between projects as people are rotated around different collaborations.This approach builds knowledge and expertise throughout the company overall.
3. Supports Personal Development
Team members working together also learn from each other. Sharing opinions and feedback as well as finding out how collaborators approach tasks is a fertile ground for personal development.
What’s more, there are more opportunities for staff to try out different roles and functions. It can be a useful vehicle for developing the organization’s leadership capabilities. Staff have more chances to become project leaders, developing their skills in managing and leading teams. The insights and expertise gained not only benefit the individual, the company as a whole also stands to gain.
4. Enhances Internal Communications
Internal communications is often a bugbear for companies – super important but tricky to get right.
A culture of collaboration opens up new channels of communication. Employees that otherwise wouldn’t come into contact with each other develop new connections and conversations.
Effective communication is at the heart of every successful team collaboration and enhances organizational communications generally. Companies that promote collaboration soon discover communications are more open, and the flow of information is easier.
Technology has undoubtedly made it easier for staff members to connect, communicate, and collaborate regardless of physical location. This is essential in today’s workplace where more and more of us work flexibly, remotely, or in non-desk roles. Whether it’s social intranets, messaging and communications apps, or collaboration software, technology will facilitate joint working and internal communications.
5. Breaks Down Information Silos
Most organizations work in silos to some extent. It could be teams, departments, or different office locations. They become a problem when crucial corporate data is locked into those information silos and isn’t shared for the greater good. Duplication of effort and missed opportunities often result.
A culture of cross-team collaboration ensures that teams and departments make connections. Staff members gain a better understanding of the bigger picture and their contribution to it.
Perhaps most importantly, working with colleagues from other parts of the business helps to build trust. In this context, a cross-team approach to onboarding is a great example. A collaborative approach – whereby new employees are introduced to and spend time with different departmental employees – will achieve better outcomes for the business. The new recruit can get up and running more quickly while gaining a wider appreciation and understanding of the various roles within a company.
6. Boosts Employee Engagement & Team Morale
Research organizations such as Gallup have clearly demonstrated that engaged employees produce better business outcomes than other workers. This holds true regardless of the industry or company size. And it also applies in good economic times as well as the bad.
As reported in Forbes, employees are more engaged when working in cross-functional teams. Forbes cites the example of Wiley Publishing. The company identified a skills gap and a lack of strategic direction concerning its approach to social media. Wiley Publishing set about developing cross-functional social media training to close the digital skills gap and improve the customer experience. As well as a 90 percent increase in employee engagement, the company also reported an improvement in overall team morale. This illustrates how collaboration not only solved a business problem; it also increased engagement and camaraderie among employees.
7. Helps with Employee Retention
As we have seen, collaboration underpins employee engagement, morale, and satisfaction. It also helps with employee retention. A sense of connection and community alongside open communications leads to a happier workforce. It’s those social relationships we share with our colleagues that add to the enjoyment of each working day. And cross-team collaboration means there are more opportunities to build connections with more colleagues.
Furthermore, the big picture thinking that collaboration encourages ensures there is a greater sense of connection with the company culture. Through collaboration, employees develop strong links with the business’s values, mission, and purpose. Employees that can closely align themselves with the company culture tend to stay longer in their jobs.
8. Keeps Work Interesting
Let’s be honest. Doing the same work and performing the same tasks every day can get a bit dull. No matter how great your workplace environment is, if team members are bored at work, they may start looking elsewhere.
Cross-team collaboration is the perfect way to mix things up! Put your employees in a new environment with different people to reawaken their creative juices, and get them re-energized. Collaboration can help to get staff excited and enthused about work once more. Many innovative companies encourage staff to spend at least one day a month in a different department. Ideas to improve processes and brainstorm ideas, all the while nurturing mutual respect for co-workers’ roles can be greatly beneficial.
9. Improves Working Efficiencies
One of the early pioneers of cross-team collaboration, Northwest Mutual Life, famously set up collaborative teams to consider how computers would change the business world. The company’s ground-breaking work in the 1950s meant that it had a significant competitive advantage that lasted for several decades. It demonstrated how collaboration was ultimately behind working through complex or demanding projects that require problem-solving and creative thinking.
10. Supports the Flywheel Model for Customer Success
The flywheel model puts customers at the heart of your business. Company goals, business processes, and operations are then aligned with and built upon that customer center. Cross-team collaboration supports the flywheel by eliminating potential sources of friction between teams. Information is more readily shared, and communications are more fluid in a collaborative environment.
The impact on the customer experience, in turn, is significant. Customers are more likely to act as your brand ambassadors and advocate for the business in their networks and online.
Keen to know more? Check it our other articles on MyHub’s blog. You’ll find a wealth of resources on cross-team collaboration as well as information on other business topics including internal communications, knowledge management, and the digital workplace. Check it out here to inform, inspire, or challenge your thinking.