Back in high school or college, were you the one who always did the bulk of work on a group project, then wondered why the teacher wouldn’t just let you do it by yourself in the first place? Your teachers didn’t make you participate in groups to frustrate you. They aimed to teach you critical collaboration skills.
Those people skills can be invaluable in today's workplaces, whether they're in shared office spaces or hybrid or remote environments. And for creative professionals, workplace collaboration is an increasingly pivotal part of the job. Projects involving design, marketing and user experience often require working together across departments and in teams that have different goals, priorities, skill sets and personalities.
Workplace collaboration is multifaceted and includes a range of soft skills, such as clear communication, problem solving, empathy and accountability. The following five tips can help you develop your collaboration skills:
1. Go outside your comfort zone
Taking on projects that fall outside your area of specialization forces you to rely on the expertise of others. For example, if you're a digital designer and have an opportunity to help implement a new project management system, use the opportunity to offer your creative expertise while also learning from colleagues in other departments, such as media services, IT and training.
2. Communicate clearly
Technology has made it easier to provide multiple channels to support collaboration, from file-sharing tools to cloud technology, screen-sharing and project-management software.
Keep in mind that it's important to be timely in your online business communication, and the buzzwords or acronyms you and your teammates use may not be understood when you’re collaborating with other departments.
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3. Find or become a mentor
It's a good idea to recognize when coworkers have expertise in certain areas and ask for their input. Likewise, use your know-how to help others, even when there doesn’t seem to be a direct benefit to you.
Some organizations offer formal mentorship programs. Even if yours doesn’t, you could ask a colleague with strong collaboration skills to be your mentor, or you could learn how to be a mentor yourself. Another option is to enroll in college classes or attend webinars and seminars — online or in person — that focus on boosting collaboration and teamwork skills.
4. Join industry groups
Industry associations and marketing conferences are excellent resources for the professional development of both hard and soft skills. For instance, volunteering on a committee can be a good way to expand your network while honing your collaboration skills outside of work.
5. Participate in team-building activities
Sure, playing virtual games like typing-speed races and virtual icebreaker questions might seem silly, but time spent working with a group toward the same goal helps strengthen collaboration abilities. If your organization doesn’t promote teamwork in the workplace, you might suggest the idea to your supervisor as a way to improve communication by boosting morale and connection between colleagues.
More ways to build collaboration skills
There are some other things that will help you boost your workplace collaboration skills. When you work with a team, put the needs of the group ahead of your own. When you collaborate on interdepartmental projects, be especially attuned to differing perspectives and knowledge bases. For example, if you work in the marketing department of a nonprofit, you’ll likely need to coordinate with the development department regarding grants and fundraising campaigns.
Share your ideas, but also listen to the input of others. Recognize when someone else has a stronger idea than your own and support it, being sure to give credit where credit is due. Your efforts will go a long way toward building strong workplace collaboration.
Read about the 14 Highest-Paying Creative Jobs in 2022 and learn about the latest hiring trends in the Robert Half Salary Guide.