5 tips to improve collaboration among employees on the frontline

Here are five of the most effective ways to boost collaboration among employees in your company.

What we'll cover

“Teams of knowledge workers who collaborate intentionally are nearly three times more likely to achieve high team innovation than teams that do not use an intentional approach.”

Alexia Cambon, Director, Research, Gartner.

How much do your frontline workers collaborate when working? If your answer is a “they do okay,” you’re probably not getting the most out of your workforce.

A 2022 Corel report shares that 64% of surveyed employees claim poor collaboration costs them at least three hours per week in productivity. And 41% have also left their job or would consider leaving their workplace due to poor collaboration.

Team collaboration among employees is a vital skill for every organization, even more so for frontline organizations where employees are often at considerable distance from each other. Those frontline employees who work well together are happier with their jobs, more productive, and less stressed.

With that in mind, here’s what we’ll cover:

How do you know your frontline workers are collaborating effectively?

Frontline workers who gel well build positive working relationships with customers and team members. They understand how different views can lead to innovative ideas for better outcomes.

That said, here’s how to know if your employees are collaborating effectively:

Clear communication of goals and progress

Clear communication of goals, progress, and needs is the first sign of team chemistry. That’s why 96% of business leaders believe effective communication gets them the desired results from employees.

Frontline workers who collaborate well know who’s responsible for which task. This collaboration among employees saves time and increases productivity.

Healthy conflicts

You don’t always need to shush a conflict. Workplace conflict can be good if you turn it into a healthy debate that leads to business growth.

Healthy conflicts promote stronger ideas, more creativity, and more engaged employees. But it requires workers to understand each other and respect where the others are coming from. In other words, you’ve got yourself a collaborative workforce if you can have healthy conflicts.

Exchange of opinions and ideas

Frontline workers who collaborate well don’t hold back opinions and ideas. They’re free to say, “I don’t think this can work. Why don’t we try this instead?”

Every employee feels free to discuss their point of view. They can all sit together over coffee and discuss the problem and prospective solutions.

This healthy exchange of ideas is what team collaboration achieves. It also leads to creative thinking and overall awareness of critical decision-making elements.

Peer-to-peer recognition

Recognition heavily influences employee satisfaction.

A collaborative frontline workforce recognizes the work each individual does and celebrates them for it. This recognition motivates everyone to work towards the common goal and enables each individual to shine.

In fact, Deloitte shares that organizations with the right recognition program have 14% higher employee engagement, productivity, and performance than those without it

Signs of poor workplace collaboration

Successful businesses have a healthy collaborative work environment, but problems start when organizations fail to see the signs of fading collaboration among employees.

Here are some red flags to assess whether you need to examine your frontline employees’ team dynamics:

Low enthusiasm during meetings

Employees talk freely and even share foolish ideas when there’s team collaboration.

But if employees don’t speak up during meetings, your workplace might lack a culture of team collaboration. Silent meetings mean it’s time to evaluate how well your workers collaborate.

Poor communication among your workers

Poor communication is a clear sign of a dysfunctional team. You may have the best bunch of individual stars in the world, but the team won’t be worth a dime if they don’t play well together.

Project.co shares that over 35% of businesses have lost employees due to poor internal communication.

Signs of poor communication include conflicting goals, missed deadlines, and negative attitudes. If such issues are present in your organization, it could be a sign that your employees lack team collaboration.

High employee turnover

You may be unable to prevent some of your top employees from leaving; Gartner shares that the annual voluntary turnover in the U.S. is likely to rise by 20% in 2022.

But if most of your best employees bid your farewell, there’s a good chance that team dynamics may be contributing to it.

If you lose your best frontline workers, you lose your most effective problem solvers and reliable winners.

Create an exit interview process to learn why employees left. Maybe the workplace culture isn’t conducive to team collaboration and professional growth. Or the pay rates aren’t competitive enough. You’ll only know if you ask.

No accountability

Employees who disagree with a leader’s management style are less likely to take the initiative and responsibility for tasks.

Are you seeing blame games among your employees? Bad behavior? No staff loyalty? Eroded values? Don’t care attitude?

If you notice such patterns, it may be time to tackle the accountability issue head-on.

Chat with individual employees. Ask them what’s wrong and apply that feedback to your processes. Get them involved, so they feel part of the process and work towards the goal instead of against it.

Lastly, talk to your team leaders and ask them to practice accountability. That means owning up to their mistakes and taking responsibility for the team’s actions. If something didn’t get done, they should show the team what they can do differently next time to make sure it gets done.

How to improve employee collaboration

1. Let your employees know what you expect from them

2. Create a safe environment that encourages open and honest communication

3. Use an employee engagement app to transform the workplace experience

4. Have regular team-building activities to solidify relationships

5. Reward team collaboration as you do individual success

Employees collaborate differently depending on their working model, so consider your goals, company size and workers’ needs before implementing these steps.

Here are five ways to create a collaborative environment and improve employee collaboration in the workplace:

1. Let your employees know what you expect from them

“High expectations are the key to everything.” — Sam Walton.

You can’t expect your frontline employees to collaborate if they don’t know you want them to.

What performance level do you want from each person? Communicate it.

Set clear boundaries between each employee’s individual role and what they’re expected to do with their workmates.

Do you want your employees to help one another instead of showing an “it’s not my job” attitude?

Well, communicate it.

Tell your workers to always ask for help needed and be open to constructive feedback without being defensive.

Set your expectation for collaboration from the get-go. Add it to your onboarding process so potential hires know you prioritize teamwork.

Also, let your employees share their opinions about working collaboratively — positive or negative. You can support the positive thoughts and address any concerns openly. That way, you’ll create a judgment-free environment when dealing with issues.

Here are some tips to help you clearly state your expectations when talking with workers:

  • Meet your frontline employees face-to-face to communicate with them as often as you can.
  • Break down what you want them to do in clear, small tasks and make sure they’re listening.
  • Share your expectations via a knowledge base accessible to both desk-based and deskless workers.

2. Create a safe environment that encourages open and honest communication

The more your employees feel safe to speak out, the more ideas they share and the more productive they become.

Let your workers speak openly — even about political and social issues.

Political and social topics have intense power over people. PwC shares that 65% of employees discuss social and political issues at work. And the benefits of these discussions outweigh the cons:

Encouraging sensitive conversations in the workplace isn’t easy. Just make sure they happen in a safe, no-judgment environment.

Practice active listening. Ask questions to show your employees you understand their opinions or ideas.

Say something like, “What I heard you say is… Is that correct?” That shows you want to understand their point of view. It also enables them to clarify if you misunderstood what they said.

Doing that creates a work environment where your employees feel it’s okay to speak up. And that promotes empathy and openness.

The safer the space for communication, the more collaborative your workers become.

3. Use an employee mobile app to transform the workplace experience

Millennials are a huge part of the workforce now, and their smartphones have come with them. So let employees use the devices already part of their daily lives to make work and collaboration better.

Invest in an all-in-one mobile-first app to encourage communication on all levels and foster an environment of teamwork and engagement. You can even use the app to streamline projects or launch surveys and polls.

The platform you choose will depend on whether you are managing desk-based employees in the office or frontline and remote workers (most of today’s employee apps such as Slack, are designed for desk-bound office workers).

Frontline employees need an app that will go beyond providing traditional top-down communications and will empower staff to have engaging interactions with any member of the company, regardless of where they are working from.

Blink is a mobile employee app which enables frontline workers to connect and collaborate when they’re on the move by combining workplace messaging with access to all the information they need in one place. This opens up two-way conversations, empowers everyone to share feedback, and means company-wide announcements are never missed.

Analyze the results periodically after implementing the collaboration tool of your choice.

How many employees use the tool? What do they engage with most? When do they log in? Do they participate in your published polls or lose it in a cluttered feed?

Make changes to improve the system, reduce workplace communication errors, and increase employee collaboration.

Are your employees missing crucial work-related info? Make sure you pin it to the top of the newsfeed or send a push notification to everyone involved in the project.

Also, instead of deploying tools to frontline workers, deploy tools with them. Involve some of your employees as core project members. Use their experiences and insights to design solutions that’ll support them and their workmates.

You’ll have projects that deliver benefits sooner with less risk, and you’ll face less resistance to change.

4. Have regular team-building activities to solidify relationships

Deskless workers have more time constraints than desk-based workers. They often work part-time or night shifts and spend most of their workday away from screens and the office team.

Schedule time for fun team-building activities. You can even just play football or basketball.

These activities help build new relationships and mend the broken ones. It helps if your employees see each other as people, not job titles.

Team-building activities also motivate new hires (especially the millennials) to gel with employees who are older.

To make the team-building activities even more effective, make sure the games are fun and employees learn the skills they need.

You can have a short conversation at the end of each game. That’ll help each team know what it did well and where it showed weakness. It’ll also help the employees understand what they must work on for better collaboration.

Have your employees create goals to work on as individuals and in collaborative teams. They’ll learn communication and problem-solving skills and how to overcome conflict.

5. Reward team collaboration as you do individual success

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.” — Zig Ziglar.

This quote hits right at the heart of employee recognition. Everyone wants to be recognized and rewarded when they do a great job (even you).

Reward individuals where necessary but don’t forget to acknowledge the team’s success.

It’s not always possible to notice every achievement. But look for opportunities to reward your frontline workers. Send them a thank you message and let them know their efforts and hard work matter.

Did you have a successful project?

Invite your staff to your favorite pizza joint (people like to be fed).

Say hats off to the best-performing employees (bonus points if you take a hat with you).

Recognize individual and group achievements using an employee feed: upload photos and videos of their best work. Share stories of frontline workers to help your employees connect.

Doing this boosts their productivity and creates a positive team culture.

It’ll also instill loyalty that reduces employee turnover. Gallup shares that employees are 56% less likely to seek job opportunities when recognition hits the mark.

Here are some tips to help you show appreciation to your frontline workers:

  • Consider arranging a pizza party every month and invite a different group to the stage to acknowledge them.
  • Celebrate birthdays and ask everyone to add their compliments to a jar.
  • Note what you like about an employee and forward that feedback when you get a chance.
  • Choose an employee app with an easy to use colleague recognition feature — It will encourage a culture of appreciation.

Final thoughts: 5 ways to improve collaboration among employees in 2022

Highly successful organizations have a well-oiled, collaborative workforce. But even the best employees need the right tools to work well together.

Find an employee app that’s easy to use for the less tech-savvy workers to promote team collaboration.

Blink is an employee app that boosts collaboration, resulting in improved productivity, conversations and retention across industries. Request a free demo today and find out.

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