What does it mean?
Teamwork and Collaboration are soft skills that are highly sought after by employers.
No matter which industry you work in or what your job title is, teamwork skills are essential to your success. They’ll help you to work well with clients, colleagues, managers and other people at your workplace.
While it’s great that you can get on and do your job independently, being able to work effectively with your colleagues and people outside your organisation can help you to:
- complete tasks efficiently;
- boost workplace productivity; and
- contribute to an enjoyable working environment for yourself and others.
How are they different?
Both skills are similar in that the ability to work together can make businesses more efficient by sharing information and workloads to complete tasks and reach goals faster.
Let’s take a closer look.
Teamwork is when a bunch of people, who might work in different departments and perform very different roles, all come together to work towards a common goal.
The workload is divided up based on team members’ skills and strengths. Sometimes a team leader is appointed to delegate roles and be a central point of contact for help or questions. Team leaders are also usually tasked with keeping track of progress, chasing things up if necessary, and reporting to colleagues outside of the team.
By working in this way with everyone pulling together, the effectiveness and profitability of a business can be increased. Good teamwork can also:
- build morale at work;
- motivate employees;
- make problem solving easier;
- improve the flow of knowledge and information at work; and
- prepare you for leadership roles.
By being a great team-worker, you’ll be an asset to your employer.
This type of working still requires that people work together towards an end goal that benefits all the teams or businesses involved. A team leader may not be required, as participants work as equals providing specialised skills or information. Contributors might be from different organisations.
Someone might be appointed or volunteer to undertake specific tasks, such as:
- coordinating team members;
- taking notes and sharing information;
- sending out collective emails to keep everyone updated; or
- organising meetings.
To be a successful collaborator, you’ll need excellent interpersonal skills and be able to see the value in other people’s ideas over your own. Working collaboratively is proven to keep people more focused and engaged, as well as boosting success rates for ventures.
Examples of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace
You might need teamwork in order to:
- Complete projects;
- Solve complex problems;
- Achieve targets;
- Deliver or receive effective training and development.
You’ll need to work collaboratively to:
- Brainstorm ideas;
- Come up with innovative solutions;
- Have meaningful and productive group discussions;
- Create partnerships;
- Reach a consensus about processes;
- Analyse problems and find solutions.
The skills you’ll need
To be great at teamworking or collaborating you’ll need, as Liam Neeson once said, “a specific set of skills”. They include:
- Communication – written, verbal and non-verbal
- Active listening (also part of communication, but worthy of its own bullet point)
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Independent working
- Being open minded and non-judgemental
- Social awareness and inclusivity
Gain or practise these skills at school
These are the kinds of skills that you can build and work on your whole life, but if you’d like to work on them while you’re still at school, here are a few ideas:
- Take any opportunity to work on group projects in or out of the classroom.
- Make sure you participate wholeheartedly in discussions and activities (even if this means getting outside of your comfort zone).
- Be inclusive; helping others in your team to contribute will make your team stronger and could improve your project outcome.
- Ask for honest feedback about your contribution from other members and any team leaders.
- Focus on areas or skills that you (or others) highlight as needing more work.
- Set goals to help you achieve results.
- Pay attention to your teamworking and collaborative skills when you get the chance to put them into action, and practise the specific skills you’re trying to build on.
- Identify and take note of people who are great team workers, then copy their qualities when you’re working with others.
Demonstrate your skills on applications and in interviews
When you think you’ve accomplished some of the skills that make you a great team worker or collaborator, be sure to list these qualities on your resume. Because before they take you on, any employers will want to know that you:
- Are easy to get along with;
- Can work well with different personality types; and
- Will contribute your ideas and actively listen to others.
It’s easy to say on applications and in interviews that you’re a great team worker or that you’ve got collaboration skills. That’s not going to cut it though; you’ll be expected to demonstrate examples of times you’ve used these skills effectively.
We recommend that you use the STAR interview technique:
- Situation – provide some context, describe the team environment or make up.
- Task – state the goal you were working towards as a team.
- Action – describe your role, talk about your strengths, and highlight any team leadership skills.
- Result – use an example where it went well and emphasise the outcome of your team’s work. If possible, link it directly to your own contribution, without sounding big headed; remember, it’s about team building.