Collaboration is crucial to organizational success. Companies that support collaboration are 30% more innovative, 36% more productive, and 5x more likely to be high performing. That’s because collaboration brings people together in a way that allows them to accomplish something they couldn’t achieve on their own.
But fostering a collaborative environment can feel daunting. Relying only on the latest project management tool or messaging platform doesn’t work. Genuine collaboration is created through ongoing and meaningful exchanges between people who respect and understand one another. Innovation, agility, and critical problem solving—key outcomes of effective collaboration—ultimately come down to building strong interpersonal connections.
The three main drivers of collaboration
Based on decades of experience working with Fortune 100 organizations and leading academic research, our behavioral science team has identified three main drivers of collaboration: trust, clarity, and purpose. Without investing in these relationship building blocks, teams will struggle to effectively work together.
Trust is a conviction that’s built slowly and through repeated interactions. In trusting cultures, employees have insight into why and how decisions are made, feel safe taking risks, and know their opinions are heard and valued.
Clarity is achieved when individuals understand their roles and responsibilities, effectively exchange information, and follow through on commitments. When teams, processes, and projects are clearly organized, employees have more time and motivation to work together.
Teams focused on solving the right—or most pressing—problems build camaraderie through a shared sense of purpose. They recognize the impact of their work, rally around a clear vision, and celebrate the contributions of others.
How trust, clarity, and purpose nudges improve collaboration
Nobel-prize winning research demonstrates that people often make decisions based on what’s easiest rather than what’s wisest. Powered by nudges*—gentle, timely suggestions—Humu steers individuals towards productive choices in the flow of their day-to-day work. Nudges inspire employees to capitalize on the seemingly small, daily opportunities to develop trust, clarity, and purpose that have a big impact on team collaboration.
Everything in an ecosystem is connected. Take nature as an example: a change in the temperature affects how plants grow, which in turn impacts grazing animals. The same is true for workplace environments. If a manager forgets to explain why decisions are made, they may lose the trust of their team. Their reports might then start to guard their own information, creating a space in which ideas and innovation are stifled.
With Humu, managers and their teams receive complementary, yet personalized, nudges that encourage everyone to build successful habits. The incremental changes that occur in each and every corner of the organization come together to cultivate a collaborative environment.
A key step managers can take to increase trust across their team is to help employees reframe mistakes as learning opportunities. Nudges offer easy-to-act-on suggestions for how to do exactly that. One nudge, for example, prompts managers to ask their team if anyone is willing to share a recent mistake or failure. If someone decides to share, managers are encouraged to thank them. Even though publicly opening up about a mistake is risky, sharing these vulnerable moments gives everyone the opportunity to grow—and that should be celebrated.
As every scientist knows, some experiments fail. But knowing what doesn’t work can actually unlock progress and help teams succeed more quickly. Another nudge asks individual contributors to identify a current project that may be at risk of failure. Once they have one in mind, they are tasked with seeing how quickly they can identify the root problem and course-correct. By the time the employee flags the misstep to their manager, Humu has already nudged their manager towards helping their team reframe mistakes as opportunities for growth. This allows managers to support their people in the moments that matter by engaging in collaborative interactions that build trust.
Institutional or interpersonal barriers can quickly tank collaboration. Research suggests that managers who clearly chart a path forward by removing blockers see a boost in team performance. One way Humu helps teams achieve clarity is by encouraging everyone to investigate what stands between them and success. For example, one nudge prompts managers to ask their reports, “What’s blocking your work?” Asking this question gives room for employees to say, “Help, I’m stuck!” And while it may feel like a simple gesture, asking about and then removing barriers goes a long way towards helping employees follow through on commitments and reach shared goals.
Another nudge encourages individual contributors to reflect on, “What barriers are preventing me from making progress on important tasks?” Maybe they lack resources, need input from another team, or just need the green light on a big decision. Equipped with the answer, employees can proactively ask their manager to help remove them—even when their manager forgets to ask.
Most of the obstacles that employees face are unstructured—the problem’s starting point and endpoint is complex and ambiguous. This leaves teams vulnerable to inaccurate assumptions about the problem and how to solve it. When teams can create clarity around how they will reach their goals and who is responsible for what, they are better able to get work done, together.
Employees are more likely to experience camaraderie with their colleagues when they feel a shared sense of meaning and understand how their individual tasks fit into a bigger, more cohesive picture. To foster that feeling managers can try to surface any misunderstandings.
One nudge, for example, prompts managers to have each person on their team summarize what they see as the future direction of the team and company. In the proceeding 1:1’s—when the summaries are shared—managers can iron out any misunderstandings or reassure their people that their understanding aligns with their own.
Even when a team is on the same page about their future direction, making meaningful progress towards it is hard work. Another nudge motivates employees to notice who is going above and beyond to make the team’s mission a reality. When someone stands out, the employee can send them a short email letting them know that their actions embody the mission and have a positive impact on the people around them. Uncovering a shared sense of purpose not only improves connections between employees, but helps the team perform better as a whole.
A collaboration case-study
By enhancing trust, clarity, and purpose, nudges help companies unlock more effective collaboration. When a large bank experienced a decline in employee sentiment scores, their team turned to Humu. Humu nudged the bank’s managers to understand team members’ goals (i.e., purpose) and help them see how their individual work aligned to bigger-picture projects (i.e, trust and clarity). As a result, employee sentiment stabilized and employees felt more connected to the company's mission.
In fact, after receiving nudges, employees’ passion for the work they do increased by 11%, a sense of belonging grew by 9%, and 5% more reported that their opinions are considered. These outcomes helped the bank create a culture of rich, genuine collaboration.
Take the first step towards building a more collaborative team, request a demo!
*Nudge: A small, personalized suggestion—delivered via email, slack, or teams—that steers people towards incremental change in the areas they care about. In a world with endless decisions, nudges gently influence the every-day choices that accumulate to make a big difference. Most managers, for example, would benefit from a regular reminder to thank team members who ask important questions, or to connect with their team members on a personal level.