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Beer on tap is out. Tap these 3 distinct collaboration styles to retain employees

The CMO of Lucid Software says that once embraced and supported, each collaboration style can help create teams that contribute to organizational stability.

Beer on tap is out. Tap these 3 distinct collaboration styles to retain employees
[Photo: Maskot/Getty Images]

It’s hard to predict the future. It’s impossible, really. In the last few years, the winds of a new unprecedented crisis repeatedly hit businesses without warning. Some companies were able to stand strong, while others were blown away thanks to an inability to adjust. If COVID-19, accelerated digital transformation, hybrid work, the Great Resignation, supply chain issues, and recent widespread layoffs are any indication, the next unforeseen hurdle may be just over the horizon.

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The good news is that surviving the next industry-shifting event doesn’t require an ability to predict the future. It does, however, require a strong foundation built on business agility and innovation. The key to unlocking both is a culture of collaboration—an environment where teamwork is both enjoyable and productive.

Due to the nature of how the world now works, waiting for in-person team bonding exercises to rebuild a collaborative environment is no longer a viable option. According to a Gallup report, 53% of respondents believe they’ll work in a hybrid model in 2022 and beyond, while 24% believe they’ll be fully remote.

Therefore, the time is now to establish practices that strengthen company-wide collaboration. Leaders can begin this process by first understanding how their workers best collaborate and then providing them with the solutions they need to excel in today’s hybrid working environment.

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Research from Lucid Software’s “2022 The Way We Collaborate Report” shows that more than 50% of knowledge workers self-identify with one or more of three collaboration styles: expressive, relational, and introspective. Once embraced and supported, each collaboration style can be an asset to companies and help create teams that contribute to organizational stability.

The expressive collaborator

The expressive collaborator prefers to see ideas sketched out during working sessions. They may enjoy collaborating with drawings, graphics, visual presentations of data, and sticky notes. These collaborators tend to have active social lives, prefer to work in teams, and are more likely to express themselves with GIFs and emojis.

How can you give them what they need?

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Avoid meetings that are dominated by talking heads or text-heavy documents. Instead, enhance meetings and working sessions with charts, diagrams, images, and emojis to help them express their ideas. Also provide spaces for unstructured discussion, which allows for a natural flow of ideas and creative freedom.

The relational collaborator

Hybrid meetings are here to stay. However, to relational collaborators hybrid meetings aren’t very collaborative—usually due to technical limitations. As far as they’re concerned, meaningful, human connection with coworkers brings great value to the work environment. As a result, hybrid meetings can be energy draining for relational collaborators and they tend to avoid meetings more than the average employee.

How can you give them what they need?

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Fast-paced virtual meetings may be leaving relational collaborators behind. Catering to these collaborators is about creating time during meetings when team members can pause to make the more meaningful connections on which these collaborators thrive.

To bring out the best in these workers and allow them to contribute to work sessions, try meeting activities such as team bonding exercises or breakout sessions that facilitate more intimate discussions. In these settings, you’ll find that relational collaborators feel valued and more willing to open up about relevant topics.

The introspective collaborator

Introspective collaborators are more naturally introverted and prefer to collect their thoughts before offering a suggestion. These collaborators gravitate toward a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to collaboration. Therefore, they’ll take their time to plan and consider their contributions. Additionally, they are more inclined to express frustration with hybrid meetings, believing they don’t generate enough progress.

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How can you give them what they need?

Introspective collaborators desire tools and practices that enable them to hone their ideas before sharing them with a larger group. Because of the nature of many virtual meetings today, they may be fuming silently about how ineffectively these meetings play out due to poor collaboration solutions—or poor facilitation.

Alternatively, approach each meeting or work session with a clear agenda, a way to provide feedback asynchronously, and a formalized process for documenting follow-up and action items.

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Collaboration enhances culture

Building a strong collaborative culture must be a constant focus whether hybrid, remote, or in person. According to our report, there’s still work to do. While 80% of respondents rated existing collaboration technologies as essential to their job success, they’re still asking for additional features and capabilities that drive productivity and engagement. This means companies must invest in resources that will adequately supplement the way they prefer to work.

By enabling the collaboration styles above, teams can create an environment that minimizes worker frustration but maximizes contribution. With this in mind, the key to serving the various collaboration styles of your employees will be flexibility in both digital solutions and meeting practices.

Each meeting may include various configurations of collaboration styles. Also, due to potential changes in company talent, the meeting structure and work environment that is working currently may need ongoing reexamination and adjustments to remain successful.

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Once you understand your employees and build a culture that enables and celebrates their specific collaboration styles, you’ll create a workplace where employees feel they can add value, and your company will remain grounded and stable regardless of what comes.


Nathan Rawlins is the chief marketing officer of Lucid Software.

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