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How to increase collaboration in the workplace

The most successful companies are ditching healthy employee competition for collaboration and coming out on top

In previous business generations, companies thrived in manipulating the internal politics between employees in order to foster competition. This competition is supposedly friendly in nature; after all, everyone is working for the same team. More often than not, however, this friendly competition turns into a less productive office at best and pure sabotage at worst. In any case, the model has changed: The most successful companies of the modern era openly foster an environment of collaboration rather than competition, and these are the companies that are coming out ahead.

If you are trying to switch from a culture of competition to one of collaboration, alongside Google, Facebook, Chik-Fil-A and other market leaders, here are three tips to help facilitate that.

Make the Reward System Completely Objective

Gamification is a huge topic among business circles because of its ability to take all subjectivity out of the office reward system. No longer are individual managers responsible for determining the amount and type of work that is worthy of raises and praises; top companies now relegate that responsibility to an automated computer system. The joyless system cannot play favorites, nor can it accept bribes or consider emotional pleas. It goes strictly by the numbers. Combined with other strategies, Gamification and reward objectivity will go a long way in helping your employees to focus on the work rather than competing against each other.

Synchronize the Company between Departments

Even in the world of SMBs, companies inadvertently create competition in the name of specialization. The most obvious example is the sales department versus the marketing department. Marketing is so happy to be away from the front lines that they begin to lord it over the sales department. This leads to disconnected long term strategies from marketing that translate horribly in person. Of course, marketing blames the downturn on sales, and sales has no recourse but to continue to undermine the marketing. 

Instead of creating this contentious environment, you can foster collaboration by implementing two-way communication systems with less of a formal hierarchy. Gamification will go a long way in helping to create a hierarchy of respect that is based on performance alone, but top management can cement the culture by bringing everyone to a round table instead of a square one with defined roles. Google, Facebook, and other industry leaders take this quite literally. One look around their offices will confirm that all of their conference rooms actually have round tables rather than square or rectangular ones.

Require Specialization

Company roles are becoming more specialized in every business generation. This is great for two reasons: Employers no longer have to worry about picking up new graduates with general education degrees that mean nothing on day one. Secondly, specialists usually cannot complete projects on their own. Collaboration is required. 

When you go through your hiring process, require specialization defined by the specific roles that your company needs, not the hottest hiring trend on the street. Pick your team with the same nuance that professional basketball coaches use, choosing players based on reams of pages of statistics. Your salary cap may not be as high as the Chicago Bulls, but you should be able to name your specializations as long as you advertise your company as a forward thinking, challenging environment.

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