What are team collaboration tools?
Team collaboration tools at their core are designed to increase awareness, improve communication, gain feedback and sustain decision making and transparency amongst teams at work. They help to reinforce and encourage the desired behavior of dependability amongst team members.
Critical drivers of collaboration at work
Hint: Work is everywhere and anywhere
The acceleration of flexible remote workers and distributed offices is driving the demand for increased collaboration amongst teams. Employees also expect to leverage technology to support productivity so they can deliver results.
A whopping 61% of global companies currently allow their staff to have some sort of remote working policy according to IWG Global Workplace Survey
The unintended advantages of flexible work include cost savings and increased productivity. Companies can achieve an average savings of $11K for every employee that can work from home for 50% of their work week.
Hyper-collaborators are leading teams globally
Another primary driver for wanting to increase collaboration at work is attributed to leaders across companies worldwide. According to DDI, 51% of leadership roles globally include Gen X’ers. This group uses social tools more habitually than any other generation. They are trailblazers in early tech adoption. 67% of Gen X leaders are highly effective in hyper-collaboration and work tirelessly to tear down organizational silos. This generation of leaders still values traditional face to face collaboration tools like meetings, workshops, and training courses. Yet, they realize the value that collaborative technologies can deliver through their convenience and automation.
When you’re attempting to connect distributed people and company information together, collaborative tools save time, create transparency and remove communication blocks so you see results faster.
Rewards of Collaborating at work
The central challenge many leaders are working to solve is to ensure their employees can use tools to boost teamwork and efficiency. These tools enable teams to reach their shared goals but also allow them to learn and grow along the way by exchanging knowledge.
Transparency is vital. Every manager is attempting to tear down group silos and geographical boundaries so that employees can work from anywhere, be that one floor down or miles apart. The best tools allow teams to work seamlessly and effortlessly to communicate, coordinate, share, and receive feedback that is useful and where they can apply across their work day.
The primary rewards awaiting companies that use collaboration tools for their teams fall into these five categories:
Top 5 features you want in team collaboration tools.
Eighty-six percent of executives and employees blame a lack of collaboration and poor communication for workplace failures. On this statistic alone, the business case for increased collaboration is undeniable. An inclusive approach is what’s needed if you want to foster collaboration within your company. We recommend working with your teams to uncover what when and how collaboration tools can apply to their day to day workflows. Once you have this information, you can adequately promote the advantages that collaboration brings to your teams and ultimately to your customers. The six features you can’t afford to include in workplace collaboration tools are the following.
1. Workspace Dashboards
Reliable collaboration tools at their core have been systematically designed to increase the atmosphere of transparency of work and leverage fluid communication patterns amongst teams.
When new groups & projects are spun up in your company, everyone needs a central location where they can find, post and organize relevant information. Team members need to be able to stay in the know regarding tasks, workflows, activity and give and receive feedback to other users in their team.
Workspaces allow team members to post and share project and team notes, training, procedures, processes, files and videos.
You can also quickly see who your teammates are, learn more about them through their profile and start communicating with them directly.
The best collaboration tools have a dashboard that updates them on when and what they need to know. It’s the hub of their work activity, decisions, and approvals, and it offers a place for friendly chats that happen between teammates.
2. Conversation & Feedback
It helps if you have collaboration tools that give managers and employees choices to communicate with teammates effectively. First, the best tools ensure people can see who is on their team at a glance. Or if they want to find and connect to other people outside of their team, they can do it through search or drilling down into categories of expertise or departments.
The best collaboration tools smooth the way for decisions, feedback, and conversation through a combination of messaging features.
These include @mentions. By using @mentions, you can notify team members of important updates, questions, or activities, so results happen faster.
Comments allow everyone to participate and proactively engage across work. They are simple yet useful and enable teams to make suggestions and give and receive feedback. We’ve all seen comments within documents, but valuable tools let teams see and give comments right alongside their work, and that can include files, blogs, pages, team and project spaces, or any content they post. Comments encourage participation and help everyone arrive at better decisions and help to spur work along. Comments offer a brilliant way to recognize and appreciate the work of others in or outside of your team.
Discussion forums offer another way to communicate and share opinions, expertise, and gain feedback. Great tools give you the flexibility to add a discussion forum to any page or workspace. Set the topic and get the conversation moving.
Discussion forums have many uses, and they can be used to get feedback on an idea? Or ask questions on a particular topic. Online discussion forums also work well for building out knowledge construction around a problem because unlike instant messaging, people can post or reply to messages when it works for them.
The best collaboration tools also offer integrations with chat tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, so you can post and reply directly to Slack within your collaboration platform.
3. Search and Discovery
To complete work most of the time, teams need to find and often refer back to the information stored in team discussions, files, and webpages. Search is an integral part of ensuring they can retrieve results and lay their hands on current or past knowledge.
Teams can collaborate easier if they can organize and see how information is related to each other. When users search for content, they should be able to see its rating, comments, word tags, and expertise that’s associated. This fills in the knowledge gaps and people feel confident that the information is right for their needs. Great tools also surface the most critical content to your teammates based on their role, team, or project.
4. Share Team Initiatives
Useful collaboration tools are designed to ensure that a silo mentality does not become a problem. Great collaboration tools remind employees about the common goals, values, and expected results the company is shooting for. This can be automated or manual and allows teams to post and share success stories, key results, and broadcast information across the whole company.
Often operational groups in dispersed companies are not aware of other team initiatives or projects or innovations. So broadcast features let them shout out their research and development initiatives or celebrate progress.
Every leader wants to create alignment across all levels of a company. Giving a voice to teams and recognizing their work is essential in creating highly capable teams. The tool should also ensure that teams can comment and provide feedback on the initiative, ask questions, and connect to experts within the organization to further share knowledge across the company using @messaging and commenting features.
5. Document and Content Management
Document management software lets users organize, store, share, and work together with all types of files or content. The best collaboration tools allow users to track the history of the changes through versioning, but alongside files are comments and reviews on the usefulness of the file.
The most useful collaboration tools let users categorize files centrally so employees can quickly discover and find them. Amongst the most desired features you'll want to ensure that you can secure data and content and provide different levels of access based on roles. Great collaboration means you can share files and comments about those files with your teammates anytime from mobile or desktop.
6. Forms and Workflow
We all want to automate processes and save time. Robust collaboration tools let users streamline, collect, review, and approve work procedures or processes using workflows and forms.
When tools allow users to save time using prebuilt editable forms like HR, Sales, Project Forms or Safety Procedures or simply create their own form, its a win-win. When teams can use forms to collaborate, collect data, and push through approvals it leads to efficiency and faster decisions.
Understand how your teams work
There are significant advantages for companies that utilize team collaboration tools to help their teams work smarter to deliver better services and products to their customers.
Teamwork and collaboration are critical if you want to retain your best talent.
To get the best results out of a collaboration tool, you should consider your teamwork and work culture. Questions to consider include:
Do the collaboration tools promote desired cultural behaviors, values, and norms of the company?
Do the tools complement the rate and velocity in which you need to communicate at work?
Do they support the desired working style and habits formal and informal communication?
Does the design of the tool facilitates flow of information across the company and can people find information faster.
A good place to start when launching a collaboration and communication strategy is to understand and review how teams communicate and share. Review the current toolsets and team use cases. Then map the insights, document expected values and understand how you’ll measure the results. All that’s left to do next is to find and implement a collaboration tool that lets individuals come together to do their best work.
Turn your people into teams using CentricMinds
We’re aware of what teams need to be active collaborators, and that’s why we develop CentricMinds for employees who want to work as a team.