Be honest: do your attempts at team collaboration feel like a free-for-all?

Sure, it’s easier than ever to “assemble” a team given the rise of remote work and the wealth of communication apps out there.

But true team collaboration is so much more than a Slack channel.

Food for thought: 36% of B2B marketers cite collaboration as a “critical challenge.” 

Although business is booming for many agencies right now, consider that companies plagued by poor communication struggle when it comes to long-term growth.

And you may not know you’re struggling until a teammate leaves or a project breaks down.

In this guide, we’ll highlight what strong team collaboration looks like and how to turn your team of individual rockstars into a supergroup.

5 team collaboration strategies that actually work

Effective team collaboration doesn’t happen by accident: it requires a conscious effort. Below are five strategies to serve as the foundation for bringing your team together:

1. Establish shared spaces to collaborate with your team (hint: not email!)

Fact: 72% of B2B marketers picked up some sort of team collaboration tool in 2020.

Not a huge surprise, right? 

We’ll bite: apps aren’t the be-all, end-all of encouraging better teamwork. That said, they’re necessary for the sake of consolidating communication and ensuring that your teammates are working, you know, together.

Shared drives, team chat apps, and project management software are the staples of agencies today. Each serves as a brilliant alternative to time-consuming email chains that make workers feel like they’re being talked at (versus having an actual discussion).

Collaborative drives and documents (Google Drive, Google Docs)

Chances are you have some experience with the likes of Google Drive or Google Docs. With Drive, teams can access shared files and folders (think: style guides, client assets) around the clock without the back and forth of email.

Google Docs Example

Meanwhile, features baked into Google Docs encourage thoughtful and timely collaboration. This includes comments, conversations, and approval of changes for key details of your business documents (think: contracts or blog posts).

The problem with Google Docs is you begin to rely on everyone to organize essential documents across the organization. This can get tricky as some items are shared and others left behind.

That's why using a centralized hub for your document sharing, that also conveniently integrates with your chat software, is essential to team collaboration. Resources like Teamwork Spaces allow teams to work and share together.

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By having a single space – that's also extremely easy to search – for these documents, you don't waste time hunting down what you need to get a project done.

Team chat apps (Slack, Teamwork)

For fully remote teams, chat apps are a must-have for the sake of real-time collaboration. The ability to communicate from anywhere reduces bottlenecks and serves to recreate the sense of unity that in-office teams enjoy.

For example, many big-budget businesses adopted Slack as their go-to team chat app. Company-wide and team-specific channels serve as collaborative spaces to ask questions, provide clarification, and share documents.

Slack product example

Project management software (Teamwork)

And then there are project management solutions like Teamwork that do much more than your typical project management tool.

Project boards serve as the central hub for remote and distributed teams. For example, Teamwork lets you set deadlines, highlight project collaborators, and monitor the progress of any given task.

Rather than bounce between apps or chase people down for updates, everything is documented in one place.

Again, these spaces serve as the foundation of your team collaboration strategy. The sooner you pick them and understand their features, the easier it is to create a collaboration process for teammates to follow.

2. Be open and transparent about your projects’ progress

“Uh, what should I be doing next?” “

“Who are we waiting on?” 

“Where are we at with this project?”

We know firsthand that these questions are way too common due to poor collaboration.

Eliminating these head-scratchers and bottlenecks means making your project process as transparent as possible. In short, teammates and collaborators should always know the following by default for any given project:

  • Deadlines (including individual task deadlines for long-term projects)

  • Collaborators and stakeholders

  • Deliverables

Here’s a snapshot of how Teamwork’s project view breaks down the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your team’s schedule at a glance.

Teamwork Project Workload View

Putting project progress front-and-center creates a much-needed sense of accountability (not to mention urgency). When projects are forward-facing, there’s a greater incentive to keep things moving and respect your teammates’ schedules. 

This transparency also helps stakeholders understand the contributions of each individual on a project.

And hey, that actually leads us to our next point.

3. Define roles and responsibilities among your teammates

Remember those group projects in high school where you had to overdeliver because your classmates were slacking?

The same shouldn’t happen with your agency hires. This speaks to not only keeping projects transparent but also making roles and responsibilities crystal clear. Specifically:

  • Ensure that tasks are distributed appropriately among the team based on bandwidth

  • Make sure teammates are empowered to do work that plays to their strengths

  • Each individual is part of an established team or department (even if it’s a group of two people as part of an agency)

Yet again, project management software is a game-changer for your teams' schedules and guarantees that work is distributed evenly (and with the right stakeholders involved).

People and viewing roles in Teamwork

For example, Teamwork displays personnel and tasks while also highlighting the role of any teammate involved. For agencies with several clients, it's easy to see the company, role, name, and billable rates all at glance in the People View.

4. Break down project goals and milestones (and put ‘em into context)

Anything you can do to engage workers and adopt a “team” mentality is a plus.

Explaining the “why” behind a project and its necessary tasks is a subtle yet significant way to do exactly that (“This project is a crucial piece of our [x] campaign because...”).

And then based on this context, assignees are given more stake and incentive to knock out their tasks.

Breaking projects down into smaller tasks for your team not only makes them more manageable but it's easier for teammates to understand the overall progress.

Adding a person to a project in teamwork

For example, Teamwork highlights individual tasks within projects and allows users to mark them as “complete” as they progress. Piggybacking on strategy No. 2, other teammates will understand what they need to do next while stakeholders have a bird’s eye view of where the project is at.

5. Ensure your communication is open (yet secure) to new collaborators

From fresh freelancers to full-time hires and one-off clients, agencies need to be able to bring new people into the fold ASAP. That said, you should do so without sacrificing security or disrupting your business.

For example, many businesses have private Slack channels for guest collaborators or freelancers that might not need to see the big-picture of your business. This way you can seamlessly integrate part-time or temporary workers into your communications strategy without worrying about oversharing.

Similarly, restricting permissions and access to certain files or drives is a smart move to ensure that only the right people access your docs.

Inviting users on Teamwork with permissions

And the same applies to your project boards. In Teamwork, you can invite users via email and limit (or allow) access to a project based on your specifications, including Chat and Spaces.

If you want to give someone more access or restrict it accordingly, doing so is a cinch.

The not-so-hidden benefits of effective team collaboration

You’re probably wondering if tweaking your business’ approach to collaboration is worth it.

The shower answer? Absolutely. 

Beyond the benefits we’ve broken down already, let’s look at some proven reasons why so many agencies are making conscious collaboration a priority. 

Getting more done

It’s no surprise that collaboration goes hand in hand with productivity. That said, the degree to which teams become more productive is staggering.

Recent research from Gallup found that engaged and collaborative workplaces are 66% more productive and experience greater participation from individual employees.

When workers can bounce ideas off each other and respond swiftly, they’re more likely to crush their schedules.

Doing better work

Brainstorming. Thoughtful questions. Comments and critiques. 

In addition to productivity, consider how team collaboration encourages teams to come up with better ideas. Teams that are open and comfortable with each other can hash out campaigns and concepts without fear of judgment.

Consider that fewer than half of today’s sales and marketing teams actually share and report on KPIs together. Imagine the results of a company that’s broken down communication silos and promotes collaboration versus those that don’t.

You’d rather hang with the former, right?

Helping your team avoid burnout

Especially when managing remote teams, where personal interactions can be few and far between, team collaboration is crucial. 

In addition to the “suit and tie” documentation and reporting of projects, collaboration provides opportunities for coworkers to share their experiences and simply get to know each other.  Besides, making connections with colleagues (yes, even freelancers!) correlates with improving work performance.

How to improve your current team collaboration strategy

Despite the benefits and endless tools available, only 30% of workers feel that they have “strong” collaboration at work. 

Yikes.

If you’re on board with communication tools and want to make an effort to rethink how your team works together, you’re on the right track. To wrap things up, let’s look at three final tips to cement your collaboration strategy.

Tip 1: Create proactive processes for how your team communicates

Again, you can’t just dump your colleagues into Slack or a project management app and expect them to “get it.” You need to be clear about it:

  • Where your team collaborates (apps, spaces)

  • How often do teammates need to check in or provide updates

  • Expectations for communication (in terms of tone, language)

In short, you need an explicit internal communications strategy which details these points and more. Having an established strategy makes it easier to onboard new talent and seamlessly integrate new talent into your processes.

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Tip 2: Encourage flexibility and autonomy (hint: don’t micromanage)

Collaboration is about getting stuff done, not just chatting or checking in endlessly.

Workers (freelancers especially) should be given a sense of autonomy and not feel pressure to constantly communicate. Doing so is not only a mental burden but also a net negative on their creativity.

Again, team collaboration is about empowering people rather than bogging them down. This speaks to the importance of establishing a communication cadence and giving workers some much-needed “off” time.

Do not disturb status settings example in Teamwork

Teamwork allows users to change their status within the platform for times when they need to step away or otherwise focus deeply. This is a prime example of giving people control of their schedules without completely shutting themselves off from their teams.

Tip 3: Integrate collaboration into your company culture

If you want to boost morale, allow your team to talk openly and actually get to know each other. From encouraging diversity to support your teammates in their personal lives, collaboration and communication are signs of healthy company culture. 

Think about the various ways your team can improve collaboration by simply talking more often. Whether it's through a coffee buddy system or job shadowing opportunities, giving your team the chance to collaborate starts with more emphasis on communication.

It's up to team leaders to improve communication and make it a part of your company culture.

Have you made team collaboration a top priority?

Listen: strong collaboration happens when there’s buy-in and spaces for teammates to communicate. Whether you’re just now getting your team together or are trying to fine-tune your current collaboration strategy, the tips above can help.

And don’t forget the role a tool like Teamwork can play in bringing your team together.

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