Teamwork and Collaboration: How To Improve Both at Work

Updated February 27, 2023

Combined, teamwork and collaboration can foster a healthy work culture and environment where teams of individuals can achieve goals through powerful skills and effective work. Collaborative teamwork can promote innovation, increase job satisfaction, find solutions to resolve problems and develop excellent soft skills.

In this article, we discuss what teamwork and collaboration are, how collaborative teamwork is different, ways to improve teamwork and collaboration and the benefits of using teamwork and collaboration.

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What is collaboration?

Collaboration is the action of working with one or more people who have different skill sets to produce something, such as finishing a project, developing a shared idea or completing a task. In business, collaboration refers to colleagues with varying areas of expertise working together on a common goal to accomplish a purpose or produce results. Workplace collaboration is a set of learned skills that can improve productivity, solve problems, foster healthy relationships and create teamwork.

Examples of collaborative skills include:

  • Self-awareness: Be clear about who you are, what you want and what you need from others.

  • Purpose-driven: Keep in mind the purpose of the project and its goals.

  • Resource management: Keep information organized and know how to share it.

  • Forgiveness: Be willing to apologize for mistakes and forgive those who make errors.

  • Collaboration tools: Communicate clearly and in a timely matter using collaborative tools.

  • Address problems: Be willing to find and discuss obstacles with an open mind.

  • Learning opportunities: Create team experiences to engage in learning, foster growth and be creative.

  • Soft skills: Build your mindset and character as it affects how you handle projects.

  • Encourage innovation: Face obstacles and overcome challenges with a positive attitude.

  • Share success: Expand your idea of success to include achieving big group goals and team wins.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Soft Skills Are Important To Employers

What is teamwork?

Teamwork is the qualities, abilities and processes of working well with one or more people to accomplish a common goal. Teamwork in the workplace is a group's ability to work together effectively, communicate well, define roles and leadership, share resources and actively listen to each other. Teamwork is a set of learned skills that can boost morale in the workplace, build rapport, increase the quality and quantity of output and improve retention rates.

Examples of teamwork skills include:

  • Interpersonal skills: Know how to interact and speak with others.

  • Conflict management: Help mediate between members and settle your own disputes fairly.

  • Communication: Be open to constructive criticism and sharing your ideas with others.

  • Listening: By actively listening, your teammates feel valued and you reduce miscommunications.

  • Enthusiasm: Have a positive outlook and be excited about working together.

  • Time management: Have good time-management skills as it can affect your team project.

  • Respectfulness: Make eye contact and listen actively.

  • Positivity: Be positive and help others to be positive, too.

  • Reliability: Complete your tasks, be mindful of deadlines and let other know they can count on you.

Related: 10 Ways To Have a More Positive Attitude at Work

What is collaborative teamwork?

When you combine collaboration and teamwork, you get a team whose members have distinct skill sets and have the ability to productively work together. There is both individuality and a cohesive group. Each individual knows how to use their role, skills and expertise while also working as one with the entire group to accomplish a goal.

Collaborative teamwork engages the group to combine expertise and problem-solve together, while also assigning individual tasks and roles for autonomy. This type of group work is an intentional coordination of how and when participants act to achieve efficiency.

Related: 10 Ways To Improve Your Time-Management Skills

Benefits of teamwork and collaboration

There are many benefits to promoting teamwork and collaboration in the workplace. Here are some reasons it's an excellent practice:

  • Increases productivity and efficiency: Collaboration allows individuals to focus on what they do best so that the entire team benefits. Each person has their own strengths and specialties that they bring to the team, creating efficiency and productivity.

  • Enhances social skills and communication: Individuals on a team grow social skills and communication by learning to relate to peers, improving decision-making skills, presenting results and strategies, sharing their knowledge and developing communication skills.

  • Common goals: An environment of teamwork and collaboration acknowledges that employees can achieve success not only individually but through collaborative effort. These outcomes are often greater than what individuals can achieve by working independently.

  • Individual style: Teamwork provides the opportunity for employees to gain insight into their style, such as discovering whether they focus on the positive or the negative or whether they're reactive or proactive.

  • Increases diversity: Working together with different people and personalities, especially from different departments within a company, lets employees learn from each other and about other aspects of the business.

  • Enables learning: Informal learning naturally occurs when individuals take part in collaboration and teamwork, particularly when there is a safe environment that encourages learning from mistakes, friendly competition, debrief sessions and open conversations.

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How to improve teamwork and collaboration

There are many effective strategies for improving teamwork and collaboration within an organization. Here are some ways to accomplish collaborative teamwork:

  1. Establish intentional leadership. This type of leadership creates an environment for easy collaboration and purposefully considers and implements factors for good teamwork.

  2. Make change a positive step. Learn to embrace change positively and let go of the fear of the unknown. This includes learning to accept failures and criticism with a positive attitude.

  3. Clarify roles. Each team member needs clarification on their role in the group, their individual and group responsibilities and the group's expectations for them.

  4. Create group problem-solving. Bring your team together by encouraging open dialogue and productive problem-solving strategies.

  5. Take advantage of project management tools. There are a variety of online project management tools that can help track teams, organize projects, conceptualize ideas and improve communication. Try to find a program that works best for your team.

  6. Let leadership change. Allow leadership roles to naturally shift and change as the project matures and different needs develop.

  7. Celebrate individuality. Leaders should recognize individual efforts and understand that everyone works with different methods, styles and schedules.

  8. Be a model of behavior. Instead of just talking about expectations, model for your team the integrity and accountability you want to see.

  9. Stay curious. Help the team consider and explore outside viewpoints, look for overarching themes or ask questions about data.

  10. Be humble. Show your humanity by being able to acknowledge when you're unsure of something. Asking for help is a natural part of collaboration and teamwork.

  11. Create infrastructure. Prevent struggles when organizing a project by reviewing potential bottlenecks and creating open channels of communication.

  12. Invite healthy debate. Turn discourse into a healthy debate with professional conduct and respectful communication.

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