Collaboration is a magic word for business. It means that your employees are able to work together effectively and smoothly, sharing ideas, swapping recommendations, and refining texts without a hiccup.
But like many things in the world of business, it’s often easier said than done. Wires can get crossed, messages can go unseen, and sometimes egos can get in the way of the friction-free collaboration that you dreamed of enabling.
The sudden shift to remote work with the arrival of COVID-19 did no business any favors when it comes to collaboration. If your employees struggled to collaborate effectively when they were all in the same office every day, they’re going to really flounder when they’re trying to do so from their individual homes. And many companies that enjoyed excellent communication and collaboration in “normal” times found that it slipped from their grasp when they tried to recreate it from a distance.
Small Business Collaboration Tips
If you’re finding it hard to actualize the level of collaboration your business needs, take heart. We’ve gathered 6 tips to help you achieve true collaboration nirvana for your SMB.
1. Keep Everything in One Place
One of the biggest obstacles to smooth collaboration is lack of access. It’s not easy to gather everyone’s feedback on your latest branding if half your employees can’t access it, and the other half have accidentally deleted the email with the attachment and are waiting for you to resend it.
A cloud-based online notes platform allows you to store all your works in progress in a single location and ensures that they are always synced to everyone’s device, so employees have the most up-to-date information at their fingertips. Look for a tool with effective tag and search capabilities so you can quickly retrieve the right item without trawling through hundreds of files.
2. Support Real-Time Communication
There’s nothing like a face-to-face brainstorming session, with everyone sharing their ideas and reacting to new suggestions. It’s hard to recreate that energy when everyone’s working remotely, but real time chat can be the next best thing.
Real-time communication means that as soon as someone responds to a question, edits a document, or throws a new idea out there, everyone else can see it instantly. Now it’s possible for multiple people to work on a document or troubleshoot new issues together as a team, even when they can’t be in the same room.
3. Encourage Employee Relationships
Collaboration always flows more smoothly when your employees feel that they have a relationship with each other. It lowers the chances of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and makes everyone more inclined to listen to each other’s perspective. Without informal chat at the watercooler, your employees can quickly lose their sense of belonging to a team, even if they’ve worked together for years, and new hires risk feeling left out and confused.
Invest time in employee bonding activities, both when you’re in the office together and when everyone is working from home. Virtual employee activities like a “get to know you” Kahoots quiz, an office virtual escape room, or a Zoom happy hour with cocktail kits that you’ve had delivered to each employee can make all the difference to your business communications.
4. Allow Employees to Respond in Their Own Time
Despite the benefits of real-time chat, there’s also a place for asynchronous communications alongside it. Sometimes it’s just not practical for all your employees to join the conversation at the same time, especially if some are working in different time zones or keep getting interrupted by kids who are home from school.
Cloud-based communication platforms store entire conversation threads so that people can join the discussion, respond to suggestions, and share their ideas when it’s convenient for their daily rhythm. This way, no one needs to feel like they missed the party just because it took place at 4am Pacific time.
5. Cut Down Your Toolbox
Cloud-based tools and communication platforms are awesome and, like we said above, can make a huge difference to your employees’ ability to collaborate. But there are so many options, and SaaS licenses make them so affordable, that it’s easy to get carried away and bring in too many.
If your employees are simultaneously working on project management platforms, messenger apps, internal communication channels, and cloud drives like Google or Microsoft, it’s easy for people to lose track of discussion threads and for projects to slip through the cracks. Try to slim down your collaboration toolbox and centralize all your collaborative work on just a couple of channels.
6. Educate to Collaborate
It can be easy to forget that collaboration isn’t a given for every employee. Some organizations encourage individuals to power ahead and work independently, instead of stressing cooperation and teamwork, while other employees are simply driven by nature to work alone.
Create a culture of collaboration amongst all your employees by making it clear that this is part of your company values, stressing it as an expectation, and onboarding new hires. Make it clear that working together is part of the way you evaluate employee performance while also investing in activities that encourage teamwork and bonding.
Make Smooth Collaboration a Reality for Your SMB
Smooth collaboration can be a reality for every small business; all you need are the right tactics. By offering the right tools for real time chat, asynchronous communications, and easy access to resources, enabling employee bonding, creating a culture of teamwork, and avoiding tool overwhelm, you can bring your employees to collaborate smoothly and help your business grow.
With people being primarily virtual, make sure you have a channel for informal communication. Some of the best ideas come in those informal conversations.