Collaboration is vital for the success of a startup. Through collaboration, teams will come up with more original, creative, and fleshed-out ideas than if they were working individually. Teams can rebalance workloads to make sure no team member is overworked or underutilized. They can also build camaraderie and morale, which may lead to greater productivity all around.
But in a remote work environment, collaboration can be a challenge. You won’t have any incidental communication (such as passing chats on the way to the water cooler or restroom), meetings are harder to organize and execute, and digital communication tools may actually work against you.
The question is, what steps can you take to encourage more active and productive remote team collaboration in a startup?
Invest in the Right Intranet Software
A good place to start is to invest in the right intranet software. A suitable intranet software will store and share information, and enable your team to communicate with one another, transfer files, work on tasks together, and stay organized.
If your intranet software is easy to access, easy to learn, and easy to use, it’s going to enable your team to work together more closely and efficiently. But if it’s outdated, counterintuitive, or you don’t even have one, your team will not be able to collaborate well.
Review your options with care, and invest in an intranet software that serves your needs best.
Create a Collaborative Culture
If you expect your employees to collaborate, you need to create and reinforce a collaborative culture. In other words, your startup should promote remote team collaboration with its attitudes and values.
- Set a good example. As a leader in your organization, your job is to set a good example. If you want your employees to collaborate, you need to be collaborative in your own actions. Ask for the opinions of others, work with others on projects, and seek regular opportunities to ask people what’s going on in your organization.
- Emphasize collaboration as a core value. If your startup has a set of core values, or you’re creating one from scratch, consider emphasizing “collaboration” in some explicit way. This can show how seriously you regard the importance of working together.
- Ask individuals for contributions. In meetings and email chains, go out of your way to ask people for their thoughts. Encouraging contributions demonstrates that each person should have a voice, and you’re intent on having everyone work together as a unified team.
- Reward individuals for sharing ideas. As a follow-up, make sure all your employees get rewarded when they share ideas or contribute something to the group. This fosters an environment in which coworkers feel free to express their thoughts and opinions.
- Facilitate openness and transparency. It’s much easier to operate collaboratively in a business that’s open and transparent. Facilitate this by being utterly honest with your employees and rewarding them for being open and honest in response.
Assign Tasks to Groups
Make it easier for employees to collaborate by giving them meaningful practices. Assign tasks and projects to groups of carefully selected people and compel them to work together. Try to pair strong collaborators with weak ones if you can; when you do, you’ll give weak collaborators good models and provide them with a chance to improve.
Develop Individual Bonds
You can also make it easier for employees to collaborate by inspiring more individual bonding. Encourage your employees to have personal, casual conversations with each other. You can also host occasional remote team-building events to help individuals become more comfortable within the group.
Next, try making use of cross-training. This is the practice of allowing employees to train each other on the other person’s responsibilities. Sometimes, this even transcends departmental borders. This remote team collaboration process will help each employee get a better perspective on how the organization operates as a whole. It may also build empathy and team bonds. As an added benefit, you’ll have more skilled and better-trained employees in every department.
Use Feedback as a Tool to Improve
Finally, try to use feedback as a tool to improve your startup’s ability to collaborate—and employ it in both directions. For starters, you can identify how your people are collaborating effectively (and ineffectively), and provide them with direction on how to improve. Tell employees how they’re successful and help them identify areas that could be better.
Similarly, ask them how you could cultivate an environment that leads to even more remote team collaboration. Your colleagues may have useful, actionable advice for you; for example, they may recommend installing a new tool for the team or establishing different communication policies from the bottom up.
In a remote workplace, your employees probably won’t collaborate effectively by default. If you hope to see a productive, collaborative environment, you’ll need to build it from scratch—and use these strategies to improve, refine, and reinforce that goal.