Workplace culture is present in every organisation, whether it is explicitly defined or not. It is the set of values, behaviours, beliefs and systems that people in the workplace share. It is important for any organisation to take deliberate steps to guide and define culture because it affects everything from profitability to morale.
A cooperative culture is one which encourages people to work together to make the most of their abilities in order to achieve organisational goals. It can also be called a culture of collaboration. A major feature of cooperative culture is teamwork that leans on collaboration versus competition. Other features include:
Trust among colleagues and between employees and their managers is an important factor for performance but it is even more so with a cooperative culture.
Teammates need to trust in each other’s abilities, they need to trust that their actions are in service of achieving the common goal. With trust, decisions are made faster, minimal roadblocks arise and even when they do, they are solved quickly because everyone is focused on the end goal.
Meaningful team building is one way managers can encourage mutual trust in order to support a cooperative culture.
Transparency is key
Another feature of cooperative culture is transparency and it is supported by trust. Colleagues are willing to share tasks, progress, information and knowledge. In a more competitive workplace, one might hold on to information if it will help them shine. But because cooperative culture puts the focus on collaboration, this is not the case.
There is also transparency about knowledge gaps and failures. One is able to share what they do not know with the confidence that they will be supported by the team. Remember, the focus is on leveraging everyone’s skills in order to achieve organisational goals. This will in turn support greater learning.
Tools that support collaboration
A third feature of cooperative culture is tools and systems that support it. Employees are not left to drive the culture on their own. There is technology that allows for knowledge sharing, communication and team bonding.
That’s not all, other factors like the office layout and how people sit or how and where they eat are all designed to support cooperation.
Advantages of a cooperative culture
Better problem solving
Valuing the input of all team members can give rise to unique perspectives that can result in better solutions. When a cooperative culture is cultivated, team members are more likely to openly share their ideas, engage in constructive discussions, and collaborate effectively to find innovative and comprehensive solutions to complex problems.
Collaboration allows for creative ideas. The result of a group effort can be superior to an idea from one or only a few team members. This is because instead of having one, there can be a hybrid idea that incorporates the strengths of several ideas and minimises the weaknesses.
It encourages growth
People grow by exposing themselves to new ideas. There is a lot to be learnt from collaboration especially if colleagues at different levels of experience come together. It is not only the junior colleagues who can learn from this set up. They too can impart new ways of doing things and new perspectives to their more seasoned colleagues.
Disadvantages of a cooperative culture
If not properly managed, cooperative culture can lead to groupthink which can result in poor quality solutions. To manage this, make room for differences and create an environment where colleagues can challenge each other in a constructive way.
Delayed decision making
The solution to groupthink can have a downside of its own. Trying to listen to everyone’s idea and weigh the pros and cons of every idea can result in slow decision making.
It can waste time
Some projects might not need input from the entire group, but because cooperative culture supports this, it may be done even when unnecessary. This can have 2 downsides, wasting of precious time and secondly, lessening employee engagement. When their input is disregarded (because it wasn’t necessary in the first place) employees may become less engaged with the collaborative process.
How to establish a cooperative culture
If you are interested in establishing a cooperative culture, here are some steps that you can follow.
Start at the on boarding stage
As with any other corporate culture, start at the beginning. Your onboarding practices should have the culture of cooperativeness in built. Indeed it is worth it to include elements right from the interview stage.
During onboarding, do not only tell new hires how important the culture is, demonstrate it and have employees do the same. You could for instance pair the new employee with a group of employees to help them assimilate. Observing and being a part of the cooperative culture from day one will help cement it for both new and existing employees.
Recognise and reward collaboration
When conducting performance reviews, organisations often look at metrics like productivity, customer satisfaction and return on investment. Collaboration should be added to that list if you want to establish a cooperative culture.
Reward teams that work together to achieve goals. To further reinforce this culture, have those who excelled share with other teams how they managed to succeed in working together to achieve the objectives. Their experiences can be of value to other colleagues.
Lead by example
It is one thing to tell employees to have a cooperative culture and another thing for them to observe their bosses doing the opposite. Collaboration, knowledge sharing, kindness, consultation and teamwork should be seen amongst senior management as well.
Train people for collaboration
Just like with any skill you want employees to be good at, train employees for collaboration. One affordable way to do this while also fostering knowledge sharing is to have teams train teams.
A department can work together to train another department on a given topic. In doing this, they will improve their collaboration skills while at the same time sharing their experiences and knowledge with colleagues. In the next round, another department can do the same.
With a cooperative culture, there are common goals and teams are focused on achieving them together. This can result in improved productivity, creativity and efficiency.
By eliminating competition, employees are focused on the problem and not on beating one another. A cooperative culture can be financially rewarding to the organisation while also creating a positive work experience for employees.
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