There’s no denying the power of successful collaboration at work.
Teams who work well together are proven to be not only happier and more engaged, but also more productive, creative, and innovative. A Stanford study found that employees working in a collaborative setting are 50% more effective at completing tasks than in highly individualized ones.
Yet collaboration continues to be one of the biggest challenges teams face. In fact, 87% of executives believe that a lack of collaboration is the cause of workplace failures. And staying connected becomes even more complicated as your marketing team grows and works not only across functions, but also locations and time zones.
Thankfully, in recent years, organizations have made big strides when it comes to fostering effective team collaboration — particularly in hybrid and remote workplaces. And the explosion of online collaboration tools has made it even easier to streamline processes, communicate, and join forces with other team members virtually.
With all of this in mind, we were excited to chat with Atlassian’s Head Engineer for Confluence Cloud, Swati Raju for our first episode of our Boundless webinar series.
In it, she shares her firsthand experience of how she supercharges team collaboration, as well as her top tips for marketing teams looking to collaborate better at scale.
Here’s some key takeaways.
Start by establishing a human connection and shared mission
Atlassian – like many companies today – has a remote workforce distributed across the globe, making it tough to establish connections and alignment with team members. This is especially true with cross-functional collaboration on marketing teams.
Because of the unique position in which marketing sits, they’ll find themselves collaborating often within the team, as well as with external teams, such as product, engineering, design, and more.
To mitigate this, Swati says the “most important ritual is a giant kickoff” when launching a marketing project or campaign. This allows the team to get aligned and move in the same direction. During these types of meetings, it’s crucial that a shared mission with clear goals, expectations, and a deep understanding of the customer problem that needs to be solved should be communicated.
In addition to goal-setting, Swati adds that it’s equally important to spend time with team members on a personal level. “Getting to know each other as humans is so critical,” says Swati. “Especially when you have teams that come from very different parts of geography or very different departments —getting them all together to just spend time building that basic trust is really key because that then enables everything else.”
But how do you establish human connections when your team members aren’t in the same room or department, let alone in the same time zone?
The team at Atlassian practices what Swati calls “intentional togetherness.” These are quarterly social and group activities that bring together people who would never normally have the chance to intersect.
“As we move towards this hybrid model or even fully remote model, we have to create situations where people can run into each other and are able to connect. That way, when they're back at their desks or they're working from home, they have something to fall back on, someone to reach out to if they have a question, and this level of comfort with each other.”
A few other tips Swati shared for fostering collaboration in marketing teams:
- Make time to celebrate your team’s wins – big and small.
- Build a culture of transparency and knowledge-sharing where teams know what everyone else is working on, roadblocks, and goals to help break down silos and bottlenecks in delivery.
- Create feedback loops with regular sharing practices, such as brainstorming sessions and demos, where team members have the opportunity to bring their ideas to the table.
Practice empathy for your team’s unique capabilities
Marketing teams are at an advantage because with so many different sub-functions – content, creative, product, engineering, social, etc. – resources, knowledge, and expertise can be pooled and shared to deliver more effective, comprehensive strategies across channels and touchpoints.
Yet because each function on the team works so differently, often with their own tools and systems, it can be difficult to get everyone aligned, leading to friction, lack of clarity, and siloed work.
One way Swati’s team solves this is by having empathy and respect for each others’ craft and the challenges they face. She explains that this helps to create collective alignment, eliminate the “us versus them” mentality, and get everyone speaking the same language.
“I’ve realized that teams who work really well together have this sense of appreciation and empathy for other streams – whether it be marketing, design, or engineering.”
Empathy, however, doesn’t just happen automatically or in a vaccuum– it must be cultivated over time. At Atlassian, team members practice a “cross-pollination of ideas” that allow them to gain a deeper understanding of team members’ respective crafts and work processes. This can be everything from shadowing colleagues in different roles over an extended period of time, or the ability to freely join other departments’ meetings and brainstorming sessions.
Swati’s team also maintains a rhythm of bi-weekly demos where everyone shares their work and has the opportunity to give and receive feedback – a hallmark of an inclusive, collaborative culture.
“We use those regular touchpoints to enrich each other’s work and continuously improve,” Swati adds. “It’s also a chance for everyone to see the progress we’ve made together and the next set of roadblocks. I think it’s super important, especially when you're working on something very innovative and very new.”
Implement the right tools to make more time for creative and collaborative work
While nothing can completely replicate in-person collaboration, the proliferation of online tools has shown us that effective virtual collaboration is possible. In fact, 70% of employees attribute enhanced collaboration to digital technologies.
Yet as Swati points out, it’s critical to invest in the right tools that work best for your team and when building your tech stack, often less is more. Using too many tools can create a lot of digital noise and disjointed work streams, so it’s important to find those that integrate well together to streamline processes.
Looking ahead at the future, Swati and her team are also exploring how some of the more mundane workaround communication and collaboration can be automated with AI. By using AI, Swati’s goal is that more time is freed up for the rich, innovative, collaborative work that makes a difference within teams — as well as within the business at large.
Prioritizing collaboration is a vital
Collaboration is not just a buzzword, but a business necessity for modern marketing teams looking to excel, with proven benefits for the health of the company, as well as for individual employees.
To hear more about how Swati and Atlassian collaborate at scale, and to hear insights from other business leaders in the world of tech, check out the full Boundless webinar episode.