Building a collaborative workplace

Entrepreneurs are faced with unique challenges as they grow their businesses. One unavoidable aspect of scaling a business is the need to specialize roles and create departments. This allows teams to hire and develop talent focused on specific job functions, such as sales, marketing, finance, and operations.

One potential side effect of creating specialized roles and departments is siloed working groups that do not intercommunicate, which can affect collaboration, team cohesiveness, and morale. There are several things to consider as you scale your business to maintain a collaborative team culture and avoid the classic “Sales vs. Marketing” dilemma.

1. Create Corporate Values and Promote Them

Values are a set of adjectives that represent your business. A business’ values guide its corporate culture and should be integrated into all aspects of the company, including the hiring process, team celebrations, leadership style, and business decisions. Values should be visible to your team so that they are reminded to use the values as a guiding post.

At Mentor Works, our values include the 5 A’s: Awareness, Alignment, Agility, Autonomy, and Achievement. We use these values to determine the talent we want to hire for, the behaviours we want to celebrate, and the style of our management and leadership. If all employees instill and promote your company’s values, it creates a sense of unity across your team.

2. Include Flexibility in the Role

Job descriptions represent a role’s responsibilities and required tasks. However, that doesn’t mean that team members in one functional group can’t help other groups. As you’re building out the roles for your company, consider including 10-15% flex time for professional development, cross-training, and team collaboration. Cross-training will build empathy towards team members in other departments and brings in fresh perspectives that could lead to new solutions. It can additionally be used to create a long-term career development plan if team members wish to develop skillsets in other areas or join other departments in the future.

3. Celebrate Team Successes

Businesses’ day-to-day activities can move fast. As a business leader, it’s important to slow down sometimes and celebrate the victories, both large and small. For example, when one of our clients is awarded government funding, we celebrate with the entire team. Highlighting the impact of each department can create unity. The writing team helped craft a winning funding application, the sales team helped qualify their project, the marketing team helped create awareness of the funding program for the client, while the admin team ensured the whole process ran smoothly and was documented effectively.

On the flip side, it can be helpful to avoid a culture that fears failure. There’s an inherent risk in most business decisions. Risks can lead to successes, but they can also lead to failures and as long as the team is learning from those failures and no blame is spread, it’s a healthy part of any growing business. Build in flexibility for those risks and embrace the failures as learning opportunities.

4. Share Key Information

The more team members that know how all roles contribute to the business’ goals, the clearer picture they’ll have on their colleagues’ impact. You don’t have to go so far as showing them your financial statements, but having cross-departmental visibility can help collaboration. It’s one of the many benefits of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. If marketing sees that the sales pipeline is light for a particular product line, they have more insight into where to focus their promotional efforts. If operations is able to understand that the new leads coming in through marketing channels is skyrocketing, they can anticipate the need to hire more staff or ramp up production to accommodate for the demand.

5. Document Clear Hand-off Processes

Young growing teams are susceptible to blurred lines between departmental responsibilities. This can create friction and lack of clarity on job roles. Document your Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and create clear hand-offs between departments where relevant. In addition, ensure your team agrees with the hand-offs. For example, if marketing is responsible for partially qualifying leads before they are added to your sales team’s pipeline, have the sales team agree on what a “Marketing Qualified Lead” (MQL) looks like and be ready to evolve that definition over time.

6. Encourage Team Building

The saying “work hard, play hard” carries a lot of truth. Business leaders should create opportunities to allow team members to have fun together and interact with colleagues outside of their working group. Give them opportunities to connect on a personal level.

Team members from different departments might not have the opportunity to work together directly, but playing a few lines of bowling or celebrating a large team win over a drink can break down barriers and bring your team closer together.

Bottom Line: Consider Collaboration in Everything

There are so many opportunities to foster collaboration across a business. It’s up to business leaders to create and promote those chances, whether that be in the business’ values, the structure of each job role, the way the team celebrates, and how information is shared and documented. On top of that, remember to allow for some fun and personal connections. The result will be a happier, more empathetic, and cohesive team culture.

 

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For over a decade, Chris Casemore has helped thousands of Canadian businesses grow by helping them access government funding. Chris also partners with clients to develop their marketing plans and leverage technologies such as CRMs and marketing automation tools to scale their business models. Chris draws on his equal passion for marketing (B.Comm Marketing Management) and technology to equip clients with efficient, scalable, and forward-thinking strategic planning approaches. Follow Chris Casemore on Twitter.

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