A collaborative culture is one where collaboration is regular and deliberate. 

A lot of organizations like to talk a lot about how collaboration drives innovation. But then when it comes to building collaborative cultures, there’s not much action behind all their talk. Developing a collaborative culture is a challenge for everyone involved. Within most organizations, employees often (rightly so) have the impression that they do not have time to work together or collaborate and that incentives are structured in a way as to discourage collaborative practices – this is particularly true in large companies. Yet, collaborative workplace practices present numerous advantages. They not only allow people to better leverage their experience by promoting best practices and knowledge (and therefore improve performance), they also create a sense of community belonging within the company.


Peer-to-Peer and Documentation Culture: What Practices to Put into Action

Creating a collaborative workplace culture requires you to rethink some of your current processes. Put into perspective that the goal being put into mechanisms will allow individuals to work together in a flexible environment but a disciplined manner. This implies a larger reflection on the tools your company uses (favor cloud-based tool, easy to use daily) and to instill certain habits in your employees:

  • Sharing Knowledge: Systematically documenting best practices is an absolute necessity for collaboration since learning how to summarize one’s expertise to facilitate the work of others already incorporates notions of teamwork and joint participation.
  • Creating Internal Feedback Loops: Encourage your staffs to relay feedbacks and constantly optimize ongoing projects.
  • Ensuring Transparency: The lack of visibility on business objectives and global corporate strategy, it is difficult to encourage anyone to work together. Everyone must do everything possible to develop transparency, including, for example, logging information into digital interfaces and phasing out paper documents.
  • Creating Team Alignment: You can achieve this by encouraging the sharing of information & creating clear decision-making processes.


A Climate of Internal Trust – A Modern Day Essential

Generalizing collaborative practices requires creating a managerial atmosphere that is conducive to collaboration and working together. This is done by making sure staff are free to speak their mind internally and driving project ownership amongst employees.

Let’s take the example of creating a company university: instead of deciding top down the skills staff need to acquire, why not directly ask employees what skills they would like to learn? This is what one of the participants who attended our last conference on this topic did, with impressive results. By adopting an exploratory, operational, and creative method, project owners of the company university initiative surpassed their goals with an 87% registration rate on the e-learning platform.

Involving managers in the project is also crucial. To establish long-lasting collaborative workplace habits, managers must constantly communicate, show signs of engagement and demonstrate exemplary behavior. They also need to be reassured about their role within a collaborative environment. They should be driving forces within the organization by animating working communities and by empowering employees to take responsibility and finding solutions to problems on their own.

Leaders can also take a step and model collaboration towards this culture. For collaboration to take hold as an organizational value, leaders must become collaborative role models. Their team members are (hopefully!) paying attention to what they say about collaboration. So what must leaders do?

  • Practice what you preach
  • Seek opinions, because it is ok not to have all the answers all the time
  • When leaders model vulnerability, they’re demonstrating how much they respect the contributions of their team members. Employees crave more respect, creating an environment where everyone wants to bring in their best.
  • Empower employees to collaborate
  • Reward teamwork… because gratification!

Building a collaborative culture can be an involved and an ongoing process. So where should you start?