Believe it or not, the overall workplace environment can have a major impact on productivity. Most of us intuitively understand this, but studies prove that having a collaborative, open environment between individuals and departments results in statistically improved outcomes. A study by McKinsey saw companies that improved internal collaboration through social technologies gained increases in productivity from 20% to 25%. When people feel good and are empowered to make decisions and have access to information, it’s easier for them to produce better work. While meaningful change in corporate structures usually takes a significant amount of time and effort, you can take small steps to developing a more collaborative and inclusive workplace culture:

Create An Environment Where Anyone Can Shine

Spend some time thinking of out-of-the-box ways to ensure quieter voices in your group aren’t drowned out or excluded from discussion. Developing an inclusive and supportive environment rarely ever just springs from happenstance; it requires planning and serious intent. If you know the people who will be involved in the project, plan ahead of the first meeting and think of who is more likely to give input and who is more likely to stay quiet. Encouraging questions and contributions through email, direct message, or chat, offers alternate communications channels for team members who might be less likely to voice their opinions in a crowded meeting. Even simple actions, such as using more inclusive language or making eye contact can make sure people are heard.

Make Consensus Part of The Process

Sometimes reaching absolute agreement for every decision is out of the question. This isn’t a bad thing; an effective team will have talented people with vastly different backgrounds and points of view that almost guarantees disagreements. Consensus makes sure everyone has had a chance to be heard, and more importantly, a chance to prove the validity of their ideas. Get rid of knee-jerk reactions and assumptions about people or ideas and make sure every suggestion is given valid consideration before judgment. It also helps to make sure everyone understands and agrees to decision making ground rules well in advance.

Share Knowledge Across Departments

Organizational silos can be a huge hurdle to overcome. This is especially true for businesses that have recently undergone mergers, acquisitions, or have experienced an intense period of growth. Even in companies that start out with a strong culture of collaboration can find that information spreads less organically as the business continues to grow in size and scope. Breakdown silos by encouraging and rewarding behaviors that lead to information sharing. Developing a regular company newsletter can help spread a culture of inclusiveness and making sure important and useful files are easily accessible can ensure everyone has access to data and information from any department.

These two simple steps don’t require major expenditures or multi-step programs; they could easily be applied to businesses of almost any size and or budget. Perhaps the most productive step anyone can take towards building a more collaborative environment is to simply take some sort of action.  Which brings us to the most important takeaway…

Collaboration Isn’t a one-time event.

The best time to start building a collaborative environment is right now. Major projects don’t propel teams into developing collaborative environments, they expose they strength and quality of the communications channels that already exist. Don’t wait until you have a major project before starting to find ways to build communication and openness with your team. Ask someone from another team for their input on a task you normally do on your own or offer to share insights from your department with another team. Building a positive and collaborative environment helps your productivity, and any action you take today is worth the investment.