By Lynnda M. Nelson
Founder and President, The International Consortium for Organizational Resilience (ICOR)
In a world where the only constant is change, embracing a culture of collaboration and inclusion is essential for businesses to grow and thrive. Collaboration – and it is a skill that can be learned and honed – is an enabler of true teamwork across an organization resulting in a more inclusive environment.
Read this article to learn more about how collaboration and inclusion increases engagement from all interested parties, enabling more cohesion and synergy with teams working together towards a common purpose or goal, along with a joint vision for building resilience.
Behaviors that Enable Resilience Series
This is the fourth in a series of seven articles focusing on behaviors identified by ICOR that enable an organization to enhance its resilience. These behaviors underpin an organization’s resilience strategy and demonstrate how it interacts with itself and with others. This article considers the behaviors of collaboration and inclusion.
These behaviors can be observed in relationship to the 17 Strategies to increase resilience documented in ICOR’s Organizational Resilience Capability Assessment (ORCA).
Why Collaboration & Inclusion?
Most often, you see Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as behaviors grouped together. In this article, we focus on collaboration and inclusion through the lens of organizational resilience.
While DEI is very important, ICOR is most interested in the relationship between an organization’s resilience capabilities and the enabling behaviors of collaboration and inclusion. The July 2022 ICOR webinar and articles seven in this series will focus on the behaviors of diversity and integration.
Collaborative and Inclusive Organizations
The following are examples of how an organization demonstrates collaboration and inclusion:
- The organization seeks collaboration with and engagement of its interested parties to enable working together towards a common purpose or goal.
- A shared ownership or joint vision to build resilience is an outcome of a collaborative and inclusive environment.
- The organization conducts broad consultation and engagement activities with interested parties, creating cohesion, strengthening social contracts and empowering people to participate.
- All parts of the organization agree on a vision for the organization’s future and are aware of the shock and stresses it faces and their respective and complementary roles in protecting and developing the organization into the future.
- Addressing the shocks or stresses faced by one department, location, or line of business in isolation of others is an anathema to the notion of resilience.
- Inclusion is demonstrated by the organization when it distributes benefits and impacts justly and equitably across the organization; reducing stresses and disproportionately poor outcomes.
- The organization provides a high quality of life for all its employees, building cohesion, and empowering its people to play an active role in their future.
Organizational Capabilities & Attributes
ICOR’s Organizational Resilience Capability Assessment (ORCA) identifies capabilities and attributes of more resilient organizations. The following capabilities and attributes demonstrate what organizations should do in order to be more collaborative and inclusive.
Shared Vision & Unity of Purpose (inclusive)
The organization articulates its vision, purpose and core values to all interested parties to provide strategic direction, coherence and clarity in all decision-making. There exists a collective identity which unites all employees around the organization’s overarching purpose.
Understanding & Influencing Context (Collaborative)
The organization maintains strong relationships with interested parties and fosters cooperation at all levels. Employees feel connected to others at work. There are opportunities for employees to get to know one another and to develop interpersonal relationships across the organization.
A Culture Supportive of Organizational Resilience (Inclusive & Collaborative)
The organization is a safe place for collaboration and connected ways of working. It implements targeted interventions to enhance feelings of inclusion for their employees.
Shared Information & Knowledge (Collaborative)
The organization maintains strong relationships with interested parties and fosters cooperation at all levels. The organization’s people offer to help others resulting in improved relationships across teams and creating a more efficient workflow that benefits the entire organization. Coordinating with others helps people to learn from each other.
Availability of Resources (Inclusive)
All employees are provided with equal access to information, opportunities, and relationships they need to be successful.
Coordination & Alignment of Systems (Collaborative)
The organization actively engages in cross-organizational collaboration and teamwork rather than working in silos. The organization enhances communication, coordination, and cooperation between its systems to build a coherent approach.
What is Collaboration in the Workplace?
Collaboration Defined: the action of working with someone to produce or create something. The skill of collaboration enables individuals to work together to achieve a defined and common business purpose. Employee collaboration occurs when two or more people work together, sharing knowledge while helping one another work more efficiently while improving professionally. Good workplace collaboration leads to healthy employee relationships and creates a positive workplace culture.
What Does a Collaborative Organization Look Like?
There are three important characteristics that help to define a collaborative organization:
- A networked and non-hierarchical organizational structure versus the traditional command and control organization.
- A culture of openness, honesty and trust where very individual has a voice and is encouraged to express their opinions without fear.
- An engaged and valued workforce. The workforce has a say in the way things are done and the direction the organization is taking.
Types of Collaborative Working
Lumapps.com a digital employee engagement platform that works to connectivity, information, and business applications to empower employees and enhance productivity. Through its solutions, LumApps has identified eight different types of collaborative working:
- Team Collaboration. Working in teams is one of the most common types of collaboration. Each person knows their role and how it impacts other team members. There are set deadlines and goals. Team members receive equal recognition upon completion of the task/project.
- Community Collaboration. Participants share an interest. The goal is to share knowledge and learn as opposed to completing a common task. Participants share concerns, ask questions, and get advice from others. They then share with their teams.
- Network Collaboration. Begins with individuals acting in their own self-interest. They contribute to the network to make themselves and their area of expertise known to other members. Social media tools are an example and open-source is another.
- Cloud Collaboration. Access to documents, etc., is via online collaboration tools to manage documents in real time and as an alternative to email.
- Internal Collaboration. There are many different types including discussion forums (or bulletin boards), microblogging to share messages within the organization (internal twitter?), and wikis developed to manage information within the organization.
- External Collaboration. Knowledge sharing that occurs outside the organization such as between a brand and its presence on social media. The brand collaborates with social media users when asking for opinions and feedback. Blogs allow your customers to ask questions and make comments providing you to learn from them.
- Strategic Alliance. A form of collaboration between organizations where they agree to combine their efforts and resources temporarily to reach goals.
Benefits of Collaboration in the Workplace
There are many benefits of improving collaboration in the workplace. Lumapps and Indeed, an online job board catering to the needs of jobseekers by providing search tools, resumes, company reviews, and more, have provided some benefits to consider.  
Improved problem-solving abilities. When employees collaborate, they’re sharing knowledge with one another, which means that in a situation where an issue needs resolving, employees who may be weaker in that area benefit from the support of other workers with more experience.
Increased efficiency. When employees know how to work together as a team, they’re capable of dividing up tasks to complete them with maximum efficiency to the highest quality possible. This results in your business becoming more efficient and delivering high-quality work to clients or customers.
Employee productivity rates increase. As employees start working together more collaboratively, their overall productivity will likely increase.
Boost in morale / positive workplace atmosphere. When employees form connections with one another, trust forms naturally, creating a positive work environment where everyone feels safe, confident and welcome. Working together allows colleagues to get to know each other better and build strong social connections.
Stronger team bonding. Collaboration brings people closer together and can help encourage teams in your workplace that aren’t communicating well to improve their dynamics. Implementing team-building exercises with mixed-skill teams often proves beneficial for everyone involved. Mixed-skill teams means putting people from different departments together into a collaborative situation, allowing them to learn from each other and develop interdepartmental communication skills.
Team collaboration increases the organization’s potential for change. When employees collaborate effectively, the organization has a higher capacity to adapt to changes.
Employees learn from each other. When employees from different backgrounds and at varying levels of experience are allowed to work together, everyone benefits.
Vertical hierarchy is reduced or eliminated. Previously, an employee may have been hesitant to approach someone in the organization with an idea because of their job title. The vertical hierarchy may have led to senior managers becoming out of reach for employees that want to ask them questions or express concern.
Employee wellness and engagement improve. Employees perform at their best when they feel as though their contributions are valued and appreciated. Employee engagement is a key to improving collaboration in the digital workplace.
Higher rates of employee retention. When employees enjoy coming to work each day and are happy with their workplace relationships, they are less likely to seek employment opportunities elsewhere. Job satisfaction leads to higher retention rates, allowing you to cultivate a team with a strong bond and deep trust, rather than expending resources on hiring and training as you would with a higher rate of turnover.
Types of Collaboration Skills
Collaboration skills are generally considered a “soft skill” that can be identified and improved. Zippia , a comprehensive job board service, suggests the following collaboration skills for you to consider:
Active listening. Fully absorbing what your team members express and asking key questions when you don’t fully understand something.
Communication. Includes verbal, nonverbal, and written communication. Maintaining a confident posture and tone will help support your spoken words.
Open-mindedness. Keeping an open mind to different ideas and perspectives will help your team make positive changes and keep things from growing stale.
Persuasion. The ability to advocate for your ideas is essential for solid collaboration. Innovation relies on people proposing bold new processes and strategies, but to get those ideas listened to, you will need good persuasion skills.
Compromise. Team members will oftentimes have differing opinions on the best way to accomplish something. Coming to a mutually beneficial agreement through compromise is key to making everyone feel respected and listened to.
Brainstorming. Brainstorming is a judgment-free time where there’s no such thing as a bad idea. When you get people together of different backgrounds and levels of expertise, you’ll find that sourcing winning ideas becomes a whole lot easier.
Emotional intelligence. Never dismiss the importance of emotional intelligence for effective collaboration. Emotional intelligence is all about identifying and managing your emotions and those of your coworkers.
Diplomacy. Diplomacy is all about respecting differences of opinion and framing your solutions tactfully and productively. Knowing how to suggest an idea is just as important as the merits of the idea itself.
Improving Your Collaboration Skills
Indeed provides some good suggestions for how you might improve your collaboration skills.
- Set clear goals and objectives. It is essential you start every project by setting measurable goals and clear objectives. Everyone should understand the purpose and vision behind the project, as well as how you’ll be determining success. Establishing transparency builds trust and inspires further collaboration.
- Communicate your intentions. When working with others, always be sure to state your intentions before you begin tackling a task or assignment. Let your teammates know what you’re doing and set realistic expectations regarding your timeline. If something unexpected happens and you won’t be able to deliver results as expected, communicate these changes, too.
- Listen and learn to compromise. When you’re working closely with others, it’s essential you listen closely to each team member’s ideas, feedback and advice—and be considerate and respectful when responding. Often, the best way to approach differing perspectives is to reach a compromise.
- Overcome challenges and solve problems without assigning blame. Analyze the issue as a group without blaming any team member. Instead, focus your energy on working together to find solutions. To enhance collaboration, it’s important you’re willing to forgive mistakes when others make them and take responsibility when you make an error. This helps build trust between team members and ensures everyone feels comfortable communicating, even if they do something wrong.
- Be open-minded. To be a successful collaborator, you must remain open to new ideas. Often, your peers will come to different conclusions than you, or develop a different approach to projects. It’s critical you acknowledge others’ contributions and consider their ideas without judgment.
- Celebrate collaboration and the successes it brings. If you are managing a team, set up performance rewards or bonuses for collaborative efforts to show employees teamwork is just as important as individual achievement. But even if you’re not in a leadership position, it’s crucial you take time to commemorate achievements with your colleagues.
How to Increase Employee Collaboration
Indeed provides suggestions for how to increase employee collaboration.
What is Inclusion in the Workplace?
Inclusion Defined: Giving each employee what they need to thrive at work. Inclusion practices are the efforts that make each person feel as though they are psychologically safe at the organization, on a team, and belong.
An inclusive team is a group of people that recognizes, welcomes, and values each of the diverse perspectives of every member of the team. The term inclusion is often tied to diversity. Yet, inclusion is about more than inviting different groups of people to the table; it’s also creating an environment where all perspectives and experiences are welcomed and valued.
Giving everyone in your organization and on your team a voice, and the right environment to use it, brings about collaboration with improved results.
An Inclusive Work Environment
Many things contribute to establishing an inclusive work environment, but mostly it comes down to a set of specific leadership behaviors. Studies have shown that what leaders say and do makes up to a 70% difference as to whether individuals report feeling included.
Leaders today not only need a thorough understanding of what defines inclusive leadership, but also need to model inclusive behavior to create inclusion, collaboration, and engagement. Inclusive leadership addresses issues such as:
- What makes people feel included in organizations?
- What helps to make them feel that they are treated fairly?
- Do people feel they are valued?
To build a more inclusive environment, consider how you might:
Seek Missing Perspectives. Inclusive leaders seek to integrate many voices into discussions and decisions. They pay attention to whose perspectives are missing from discussions and make sincere and consistent effort to include those viewpoints.
Encourage People to Speak Up. It is uncomfortable when a person says something uninformed or offensive, but letting it slide perpetuates the problem. Inclusive leaders realize when they must speak up because they cannot let such comments go unaddressed, and they encourage others to do the same.
Inclusion at all Levels of the Organization
Mckinsey, a global management consulting firm, discusses in their organizational resilience blog that it is the people – not just the policies – that impact the success of workplace inclusion.
Inclusion is impacted by organizational systems and the behavior of leaders and peers / team members. Inclusive workplaces also rely on leaders to act as role models, translators, and signals of organizational values and priorities. Leaders can shape positive perceptions by employing three practices stemming from research on mentoring, inclusive leadership, and justice. Inclusion is also improved when the organization’s leaders encourage and support:
- Participative decision making: Encouraging and incorporating a broad set of ideas and input from all colleagues.
- Team building: Fostering trust, collaboration, and healthy conflict among team members to build bonds.
- Impartial treatment: Treating all employees fairly when allocating resources and making decisions.
To ensure inclusion at all levels of the organization, the organization should ask each employee to consider the following questions and then share their responses.
- Do I feel included?
- What are my peers / team members doing?
- What are my leaders doing?
- What organizational systems for inclusive practices are included?
Leaders can then ensure that the organization has:
- A Collective Identity. Uniting all employees around an overarching purpose
- Creating objectives and consistent processes for personnel decisions and merit-based awards
- Resource Accessibility. Providing all employees with equal access to information, opportunities, and the relationships they need to be successful.
The Relationship Between Inclusion and Collaboration
How Does Inclusion Contribute to Collaboration?
Inclusion strengthens employees bonds and solidifies team collaboration and partnerships. Collaborations can only occur when people are comfortable enough to step out of their comfort zone. This is encouraged when employees have a voice, feel appreciated and valued.
Organizations that have inclusive and collaborative environments, approach differences, conflict, and even mistakes as opportunities for innovation and excellence.
A Culture of Inclusive Collaboration
Inclusion and collaboration improve organizations in many different ways. When all members of an organization feel a sense of belonging, collaboration becomes more fluid and productive.
Organizations and teams that view inclusivity as a process instead of a program build changes that transform the way the organization works. To build a culture of inclusive collaboration, organizations will need to adopt processes that encourage open communication.
RallyBright, an SaaS organization that uses performance management platforms to help measure, diagnose, and improve business performance, says that it is important to Define Your Collaborative Environment. Deliberately create a culture where each person is encouraged to ask questions and voice ideas that may fall outside traditional thinking. In a collaborative workplace, there are guidelines and modeled behavior from leaders that encourages constructive conversations such as:
- Established processes for handling (and learning from) failures.
- Creating space for new ideas.
- Embracing productive conflict.
To build a culture of inclusive collaboration, consider how you might implement the following suggestions from RSA, a nonprofit organization that has made significant impact for more than 260 years:
- Determine the values and behaviors you want to see demonstrated by everyone in your organization. Ensure that they are visible and recognized.
- Communicate openly and often to everyone what is happening in the organization.
- Welcome new team members, celebrate colleagues’ personal lives, and honor their individual achievements.
- Involve team members in interviewing candidates and onboarding new hires.
- Encourage personal connections – Chief FUN Officer?!?
Inclusive Collaboration and the Remote Workforce
Since 2020, the world has experienced the growth to more of a remote work environment, while at the same time, has seen diversity and inclusion move to the forefront of the expected work experience.
How can you encourage inclusive collaboration throughout your organization with a remote workforce?
Front, a customer communications hub that helps organizations grow, suggests that you can:
- State that anyone can use the chat or some sort of silent indicator when they’d like to speak.
- Institute a round robin so that everyone has a dedicated moment to share.
- When there are brainstorms, leave several minutes of silence to give those who need time to think a moment to process.
“On Zoom you can’t take up physical space, but you can take up air space. In Zoom you have to be much more alert to see the problems.”
In order to combat exclusivity in remote collaboration, there are several tactics you can take to get the whole team involved in the conversation.
Pay attention in meetings. You can hear the conversations happening amongst your team. Ask yourself in regular meetings:
- Who is speaking?
- Who has the power?
- How is it being used?
Spot body language (in-person or on-screen). Team meetings are a great place to start understanding and fixing inclusivity problems.
- Eye rolling
- Constant interruptions
- Taking up physical space at the table
Collaboration is an important skill that helps us achieve various types of accomplishments and is crucial to working in an inclusive setting. No matter what the industry, you will improve not only your own performance, but the performance of your organization, by effectively collaborating with your colleagues in an inclusive manner. Enabling these behaviors will help you to underpin your organization’s resilience strategy and demonstrate how it interacts with itself and with others.
Learn more by viewing ICOR’s webinar “Collaboration & Inclusion – Key Enablers of Resilience” on YouTube.
Past articles in the series include:
- Exploring the Science of Individual Resilience: Understanding the skills, knowledge, and behaviors present in people who are able to thrive in the midst of constant change.
- Adaptability & Flexibility – Key Ingredients in Resilience: Learn how to be more flexible and adaptable and to understand what kind of mechanisms should exist to allow organizations and its people to continuously evolve and to modify their activities rather than seeking solutions based on the status quo.
- Being Resourceful, Creative, and Innovative “Inside” the Box: Learn how organizations that foster creativity and innovation by seeking out and promoting new and innovative ideas are able to not only achieve their objectives, but to survive and prosper.
About the Author
Lynnda M. Nelson is a Founder and the President of The International Consortium for Organizational Resilience (ICOR). She manages the day to day operations of ICOR’s education and credentialing programs.
As a member of the US delegation to the ISO TC 292 and TC 268 Series of Standards, Lynnda is an expert on international standards for business continuity management systems, crisis management and communications, organizational resilience, and community resilience.
She is a frequent speaker on the subject of organizational and community resilience and the capabilities that support building more resilient organizations and communities. She conducts a monthly webinar, writes regularly in the ICORrespondence Newsletter, and shares in podcasts. She can be contacted at Lynnda@theicor.org.
The International Consortium for Organizational Resilience (ICOR) is the global leader in organizational resilience. ICOR is an international nonprofit 501c3 education and credentialing organization created to bring together the many silos, industries, and separate bodies of knowledge that individually support resilience into one profession entitled, “Organizational Resilience.”
ICOR provides education to individuals on how to build more resilient organizations and communities and credentials individuals with the competence to lead and manage risk throughout the organization. The organization participates globally in instructing individuals, organizations, and communities to become more resilient.
For more information about ICOR, credentialing or membership opportunities, visit www.build-resilience.org.