3 Mistakes Companies Make That Destroy Collaboration

Snap, Ping, Slack, Post…no this is not the sound your bowl of your Rice Krispies. It is the sound of communication in today’s workplace. The landscape of communication at work is turning into a complex web of email, collaboration tools, and social media platforms. Employees are bombarded daily with emails, texts, IM’s, Skype’s and chatbots.

As organizations continue to focus on innovation and speed to market, their organization designs are becoming more matrixed. These matrixed environments make communication across channels and verticals even more of a challenge. As studies continue to directly link communication to engagement, companies are recognizing the value of effective team communication. They are spending millions of dollars purchasing and implementing collaboration tools for their employees expecting to increase their productivity through easier and more efficient communications.

Collaborating in the Work Environment

Today, employees spend their days Yammering, Skyping their colleagues overseas, posting their latest accomplishments on Workplace, hosting Google Hangouts, downloading files onto their iPad from Box, creating spreadsheets on Smartsheet, placing documents on Sharepoint sites, and posing questions in Teams groups. At the same time, they are sifting through hundreds of messages in their email dungeons and responding to texts and phone calls.

Collaboration tools bring companies hopes of a more productive and engaged workforce. They also bring requirements for employees to utilize their skills differently.  Many employers don’t realize how being accessible 24/7, working in multiple applications, and working in a faster paced work environment can impact employees. Some employees find this to be a refreshing and even energizing change. Unfortunately, for many, it can be confusing and frustrating because their success now becomes contingent on their ability to build relationships, communicate, and work through a series of messages, texts, chats, and applications.  This confusion and fear can cause resistance and ultimately can lead to failure in the adoption of these tools.

Why Companies Miss the Mark

With such large amounts of money at stake, employers would be well served to engage in change management efforts to increase the adoption and usage of these tools. The good news is many companies recognize this and attempt to do so. Good change management discipline will ensure critical questions are raised such as: 

“What capabilities do employees need to possess so they can effectively work with these tools?” 

Unfortunately, a common mistake many employers make is underestimating the effect these tools have on employees. Most employers incorrectly assume the primary skill gap is technical skills and they focus their training solely on learning the technology, limiting their support to training guides or tutorials offered with the solution.

If employers expanded their support to help employees sharpen just three additional skills when rolling out collaboration tools, they would not only see significant increases in adoption and productivity gains, but they would also see additional lifts in engagement and communication.

1. Building Networks and Relationships

Demonstrating good interpersonal skills and genuinely connecting with people is important in any business and is especially critical in a collaborative or virtual environment. This means people will have to take the initiative with others to build relationships outside of the traditional face-to-face setting. Knowing how to connect with people, find commonalities, and build trust takes quite a bit of time and effort. That effort is compounded when a person’s work team suddenly increases to a network of hundreds of people linked through collaboration tools. Helping employees build networking and relationship building strategies utilizing collaboration tools is key to enabling employee to adapt and succeed in this new environment. When employees are connected, they feel more engaged, and engaged employees are more likely to creatively use their networks to get more done within an organization.

2. Laser Focused Communication

Communication has always been one of the most crucial factors in any work environment and it will continue to be this way as collaboration tools are implemented into the work environment. What will change is the speed in which a person expresses their thoughts clearly and their ability to successfully manage multiple communication channels. Before collaboration tools emerged, most people presented ideas in meetings. These forums provided a captive audience who could hear the person’s tone of voice and see their non-verbals as they communicated information. In the world of collaboration tools, people have a matter of seconds to articulate their message in a succinct way that emits the intended tone. The key to effective communication is to understand your audience so you can quickly tailor your message to appeal to them and make the most impact. It is especially important when working with people from different cultures to develop an understanding of how people prefer to communicate with and be communicated to. This can be more challenging when most of the communication is in writing, which brings me to point number 3…

3. The Lost Art of Writing

Good writing skills are imperative when it comes to communication. When people interact with friends and family via text, instant message, or through social media, there really are no rules. People are free to say what they want, when they want, with few to no consequences. In these settings, vocabulary is reduced to a series of acronyms, abbreviations, and sentence fragments. Tone is portrayed by using slang and emoji characters. Because of this, many people falsely believe the value of written communication is going by the wayside as technology heavily influences how people communicate. Those people could not be further from the truth! In the business world the written word is critical, but there are rules…very specific ones.  If these rules are not followed, credibility is ruined, performance diminishes, and in extreme cases, jobs are lost. In business, your conduct and written communications on collaboration tools not only influences your personal brand, but it can also be the difference between success and failure.

 Vocabulary matters… language matters… punctuation matters…spelling matters… grammar matters! 

There is nothing more distracting or detrimental to your credibility than typos and grammatical errors, especially when that is your primary mode of communication! This can be tricky in an environment where speed is just as important as correctness or when you rely solely on safety nets such as spell check.  Providing employees with the opportunity to brush up on some of those foundational writing skills is a simple and cost-effective way to ensure your employees are equipped for success.


The good news is these three competencies do not require an entirely new set of skills, but rather a different way of executing and brushing up on a set of existing skills.  Employers who make additional investments to allow employees to focus on these skills, will see a more confident, engaged employee population, who are equipped and ready to take on the world of collaboration tools. They will be more apt to adapt, adopt and make the most of their company’s investment and will encourage those around them to do so as well.