What Is Collaboration? (With Benefits, Types and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 November 2022 | Published 30 August 2021

Updated 24 November 2022

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teams and organisations often achieve the greatest success when they work together to accomplish shared goals. This teamwork is known as collaboration. Leveraging collaboration in the workplace can help you achieve your own individual and organisational goals. In this article, we define collaboration, explain its benefits and provide examples of types of collaboration, to help you succeed in your team and in your career.

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What is collaboration?

To understand what is collaboration, it's the process of working together to accomplish a shared goal. This can happen at the individual level, between two or more employees of an organisation, between supervisors and team members and between members of organisational leadership. Multiple organisations, departments or other groups of people can also collaborate to achieve common objectives.

Related: Improving Collaboration at the Workplace

Why is collaboration important?

Collaboration is important because it allows diverse individuals to contribute to shared goals. Because of this diversity of backgrounds and experiences, teams often enjoy better outcomes when they collaborate and leverage each individual's greatest potential. Collaboration can be particularly effective when done in a cohesive, strategic manner that helps the team achieve more than any one individual would be able to do alone.

Related: How To Build a Team in 12 Steps (Plus Purpose and Benefits)

Benefits of collaboration

Here are some key benefits of collaboration in the workplace:

Problem-solving

Teams that work collaboratively often solve problems more effectively and efficiently than those working separately. The process of communicating can often help reveal new and creative solutions. Teams with diverse backgrounds also often suggest and implement more solutions to complex problems.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills Examples (With Steps to Develop Them)

Productivity

Collaboration can help boost productivity in the workplace. This is because collaborative teams often share a sense of mutual accountability. Their unified purpose can also motivate team members to accomplish their individual tasks that contribute to the team's shared objectives.

Related: How to Identify Team Strengths and Weaknesses (With Examples)

Innovation

Collaboration can drive innovation in the workplace by inspiring diverse individuals to brainstorm and implement new ideas. This can, in turn, help give the organisation a competitive edge. Innovation can also help increase revenue and boost profitability.

Alignment

The unified goals necessary for collaborative teams to succeed can help establish alignment between individuals and teams. This benefit of collaboration can continue into team members' individual work outside the team. Collaboration can also help foster alignment with other key stakeholders, such as clients and partners.

Engagement

Collaboration can help employees and leaders feel more engaged in their roles in the team. Increased engagement can support increased employee recruitment and retention. Increased engagement can also boost productivity and profitability.

Profitability

Collaboration can boost your organisation's profitability by increasing efficiency and problem-solving. For example, collaborative teams might be able to solve a complex business challenge more quickly thanks to the diversity of skills on a given team. This can, in turn, promote higher revenues.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

Types of collaboration

Collaboration usually involves many types of individuals and can help accomplish numerous goals. It can help to understand different types of collaboration that might work well for a particular team or objective. Here are some common types of collaboration for your consideration:

Contextual collaboration

This type of collaboration occurs primarily in digital spaces. Contextual collaboration occurs when a team compiles digital tools and resources such as applications and files in one shared online space. This can streamline your team's workflow because members can work in one shared space rather than switching between programs and apps.

Team collaboration

This kind of collaboration occurs in settings in which each individual involved knows every other individual. They might be familiar with one another because they work together frequently, for example, or because they are part of the same organisation. Each member of a collaborative team is familiar with the other members' unique skills and abilities, which helps the team maximise their overall potential by leveraging each person's speciality.

Related: What Is Teamwork? (Plus Skills and Examples of Teamwork)

Community collaboration

This collaborative strategy emphasises the importance of building community or shared values and knowledge on a team. By sharing information and knowledge, collaborative teams are better equipped to accomplish tasks that contribute to their shared goals. These types of teams are typically non-hierarchical, meaning senior and junior members can freely share and discuss information and skills that can help them all achieve mutual success.

Cross-functional collaboration

This type of collaboration brings together multiple departments to achieve a shared organisational goal. This can help foster innovation and a unified approach to projects and problem-solving. Cross-functional teams often collaborate well in a digital space, especially in decentralised or remote organisations.

Cloud collaboration

This is a specific form of online collaboration that leverages cloud technology to store and work with shared project assets. This can be a useful form of working as a team when members are located in physically separate locations. Cloud collaboration can be valuable even when teams can meet in person because it makes resources available in a centralised, shared space.

Virtual collaboration

Most types of collaboration that occur remotely can be referred to as virtual collaboration, because digital tools are to help teams accomplish their shared goals. Tools such as cloud storage, live collaborative documents and video conferencing can support virtually collaborative teams. Many remote teams prefer to use tools that incorporate all of these features in one cohesive platform.

Collaboration tips

If you want to implement or improve collaboration on your team, here are some tips to help you succeed:

Communicate clearly

Clear communication helps collaborative teams succeed. This involves verbal and written communication skills. Conveying information clearly and understanding others' ideas supports achieving shared objectives. Clear communication also entails sharing the most accurate information and resources related to the project you're currently working on.

Use active listening

Active listening skills involve seeking to understand others before contributing your own ideas. This means using body language to convey interest, asking meaningful questions and clarifying when necessary. Active listening helps a team work effectively by establishing clear communication and a sense of respect for each other in the team.

Define team member roles

It can be helpful to provide team members with defined roles in each collaborative project. Defining roles often helps individuals stay focused on the most important processes for them. Consider each team member's strengths and abilities and leverage them when assigning roles on your collaborative team. For example, you might invite an experienced quality assurance professional to manage QA for a particular project. You might also use defined roles to provide team members with opportunities to try out new tasks, which can help them learn new skills and feel challenged in their career.

Related: 20 Ways to Collaborate with Your Team in the Workplace

Set meaningful goals

Meaningful goals support united, efficient team collaboration. Work together as organisational leaders or in the team itself to develop shared objectives. Consider using the SMART goal framework, meaning you develop goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. Reflect on your goals often and modify your collaborative strategies if necessary.

Measure your success

Use the goals you develop as a team to measure your overall success. Consider using your organisation's key performance indicators (KPIs) or develop your own. Gather data associated with your project, and consider using visualisation tools to make sense of the information you gather.

Value teamwork

Teams are most likely to succeed when members value the importance of collaboration. This involves prioritising shared outcomes, sometimes over individual goals. Professionals who value teamwork also usually take an open-minded approach to the collaborative process to learn what each team member has to offer.

Try team-building activities

Team-building activities can promote a positive company culture that supports collaboration. They can also provide benefits such as improved communication skills, refined leadership abilities and increased employee morale. Try popular group activities such as an escape room or office Olympics to build camaraderie in your team.

Related: 11 Team-Building Activities for Companies (With Tips)

Leverage technology

Most teams work the best together when they use technological tools to share resources and ideas. Be sure each member of the team is comfortable with the shared tools you use to collaborate. Consider working as a team to choose these resources and programs early in your collaborative process, as well.

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Prioritise diversity

Diverse teams often collaborate more successfully and effectively. Bring together an array of experiences and backgrounds to encourage creativity and innovation. Leverage each individual's unique skills and abilities to garner the best possible results from a collaborative project. Consider diverse personal backgrounds and identities, and professional attributes such as experiences, strengths and credentials.

Related: 12 Different Diversity Types You Can Find in the Workplace

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