“Collaboration” is one of today’s hottest business buzzwords. While it’s easy to use it in meetings or in conversations around the water cooler, many companies struggle with implementing a truly collaborative culture on an organizational scale. True collaboration is more than having the latest file-sharing software or virtual meeting app, although these do help. It involves working closely together, keeping others in the loop, and celebrating each other’s successes.

For true collaboration to occur, it needs to be built into the fabric of your company. It needs to be part of your culture. There’s a lot involved with creating collaborative culture, but here’s how you can get started.

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Internal Customer Service

Building a culture of collaboration is a lot like internal customer service. Internal customer service is a mindset where every person in an organization treats everyone—from people external to the company to coworkers—like a customer. This means employing the tenets of customer service with every professional interaction: listen and engage, be transparent, build trust, and take the extra step.

Great internal customer service and collaboration go hand in hand; it’s nearly impossible to have one without the other. For them to work, it’s best to deploy them both across the entire company. As with building great internal customer service, true collaboration requires an examination of your current systems, then adjustments to encourage and support collaboration across all departments.

Organizational Workflow

Start with an organizational workflow chart. This is a diagram that shows all lines of necessary communication, transfer of materials, and responsibility across an organization. It indicates which departments depend on others for what, and how closely they need to work together to accomplish their jobs.

Once you have it all down in writing, take a look at how your company runs. Is there room for improvement? Chances are, there are many areas that could improve with a bit more collaboration. Talk to your employees to see what really happens in the day-to-day. First, focus on areas where there are bottlenecks or confusion about task ownership. These are the areas that need improvement most.

Improving Collaboration

It’s easy to find the problem areas, but much more complicated to fix them. If your organization has struggled with collaboration, it may be hard to change the behaviour of existing employees. Here’s how to get the ball rolling.

Explain what you’re doing, the reason for the change, and how it will help. Emphasize the benefits of collaboration for both the company and the individual. Let employees know that collaboration is a company-wide endeavour that will benefit all employees.

Lead by example. Managers and executives need to set a good example. They should share strategies with staff for keeping teams informed, celebrating colleagues’ successes, and helping when necessary.

Foster support and camaraderie. All that talk around the water cooler may not have a direct influence on getting reports written faster, but it does help employees develop relationships with their coworkers in order to grease the wheels of collaboration. Consider redesigning the office to “get people to collide more often,” as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says. Alternatively, find ways to help employees engage with each other on Facebook, or build your own internal community.

Reward collaboration successes. Eighty-six per cent of employees find motivation in recognition. A special parking space, awards, bonuses, and a profile in the company newsletter are all ways to reward employees for collaboration. Just make sure you’re using the right metrics to determine who gets which reward.


True collaboration doesn’t happen overnight. It takes constant effort, which is why you’re better off making it part of the fabric of your company culture. Anything less than organization-wide change will just be a temporary fix.

While it takes a lot more than the latest technology to boost collaboration, having everyone on board with seamless, integrated systems help. Learn more about how to use technology to encourage a culture of collaboration by having instantly accessible, up-to-date data for everyone in your company. Using a customer relationship management (CRM) platform is just one more way you can support individual employee’s efforts to work together.

For more on how Salesforce’s CRM solutions can help you connect with your customers in new ways and propel your growth, check out our eBook, “How a CRM Helps Your Business Grow” by following the link below.

CRM success series: How a CRM helps your business grow. Get the ebook.

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