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Collaboration training for more productive teams: A guide for leaders and people managers
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Collaboration training for more productive teams: A guide for leaders and people managers

Want to teach your team how to work together better? Learn about five collaboration training techniques for a more productive and cohesive team.

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If you’ve ever been to an improv show, it can be hard to believe the skits aren’t rehearsed. The scenes change in an instant and the actors never seem to miss a beat—it’s hard to believe they’re coming up with everything on the fly. 

Well, yes and no. 

They may not rehearse lines, but improv actors get plenty of practice with exercises that help them become better listeners and communicators—and work as a team. They know that collaboration is a skill that can be taught. And if you want your team to work together more effectively and productively, you need to be running collaboration training for your people too.

While you probably already invest in ongoing learning and development, you may be overlooking the training that most directly impacts day-to-day work: the ability to work together. Here are five collaboration skills training techniques for a team that works better together and keeps hitting goals.

Want your team to collaborate? Give them the right platform. 
Switchboard provides an interactive, multiplayer experience that lets your whole team get involved and get more done together.  
Learn more

Training activity comparison table 

Before we dive in, here’s a quick overview of the collaboration skills training activities we recommend, as well as how much time you need to plan and run them.

Training activity comparison table

5 collaboration skills training techniques   

Just like improv performers practice with focused exercises, collaboration is a skill you can train your employees on. Here are five collaboration skills training techniques to get your team working and communicating together better. 

1. Group problem-solving activities 

Problem-solving on your own is like a stand-up monologue that doesn’t require any interactions. But problem-solving in a group requires you to communicate really well with your team members, just like improv theater. 

Group problem-solving training helps co-workers build the skills they need to tackle issues in the workplace together. However, running group problem-solving activities shouldn’t feel like a chore. Here are a couple of fun problem-solving activities that can help your team collaborate with the ease an improv group would have.

Virtual Code Break 

Type: Real-time 

Time: 30 minutes to two hours

Prep: <10 minutes

Participants: 4+

Virtual Code Break is an online team-building event that runs groups through a series of activities that require participants to use problem-solving skills. Teams are split into smaller groups that race against each other to complete challenges packed with puzzles, riddles, and trivia. 

By motivating your team to draw on each other’s strengths to solve these tasks, you help them build mutual trust and improve the communication skills that are so important for working together. 

You can choose between a self-hosted format, which costs between $12 and $33 per person depending on group size, or choose to hire a designated virtual event host and dedicated event manager. This brings the cost up to $13 to $55 per person depending on group size. 


Type: Real-time 

Time: 30-60 minutes

Prep: <10 minutes

Participants: 3-600

Loumee offers a bunch of online team-building activities that can help your employees better communicate, negotiate, and solve problems. The activities are fit for remote, hybrid, and in-person teams, meaning just about any group can use them. 

Some of their activities include: 

  • The Chat: Team members solve a series of problems and try to detect which answers were most likely generated by AI. 
  • The Hunt: Your team works together to solve puzzles, riddles, and image and word problems, all under a pressing time crunch. 
  • The Riddle: Players must solve a series of ten individual puzzles, including word games, visual problems, number games, and reasoning. Then, they put them all together to unlock the master riddle. 

Loumee lets you pick from a hosted or on-demand option, so you can be completely hands-off in planning these team-building activities if you want. Hosted-event pricing depends on the size of your group, and there are pricing plans available for on-demand game packages. 

2. Think-Pair-Share (TPS)

Type: Real-time 

Time: 10-20 minutes

Prep: <10 minutes

Participants: 8+

Sometimes, getting started is the hardest part. Improv teaches you how important it is to make a choice and get the ball rolling—if you don’t, the scene will never get started. The same goes for collaboration in the workplace. 

Think-pair-share (TPS) is a great strategy for helping employees get past a decision-making block. But for team members to have this exercise in their toolkit for meetings, first let them practice it in a relaxed setting. 

You can organize TPS in person or as an online training, and it’s incredibly easy to set up. Just choose a prompt and select the teams you’ll divide your employees into. Present an open-ended question or challenge to your group, like “What should we do for our holiday party this year?” Instead of holding this discussion in a large group, follow these steps: 

  1. Think: Give each team member a few minutes to write down their own ideas. 
  2. Pair: Combine employees into pairs or small groups and give them 5 to 10 minutes to discuss their ideas. 
  3. Share: After they’ve discussed their ideas in their small groups, employees discuss what ideas they thought of with the rest of the team. 

You’ll find that when people have time to discuss ideas in a smaller group and bring these insights back to the larger group, the dialogue is much more collaborative. Rather than two or three of the usual suspects dominating the conversation, less outspoken team members feel more comfortable piping up, meaning everyone’s opinions are heard and considered. 

This exercise reinforces the value of collaborating in small groups before meeting to discuss things as a team. To help everyone feel comfortable sharing their opinions, encourage your employees (and especially team leads) to implement this method in real-life meetings, whether they’re completing a design review or brainstorming a new product layout. 

Pro tip: Use an online collaboration platform like Switchboard to set up persistent breakout rooms that you can send your employees into in small groups. Then bring them all back to the permanent main room so they can discuss what they talked about in their breakout sessions. 
Online meeting room in Switchboard with people taking notes
Team members can take notes on what other groups discussed when you bring everyone back together for the “share” portion of the exercise. Source: Switchboard

 3. Jigsaw technique 

Type: Real-time

Time: Depends on the complexity of the topic

Prep: <10 minutes

Participants: 3-5 people per group

In improv, you depend on the rest of your group for a successful show — your performance as a “dentist” won’t make any sense if your fellow actor doesn’t have a convincing toothache. 

For successful collaboration, team members also depend on each other in the workplace. The jigsaw technique demonstrates this idea by showing employees how each person’s knowledge and hard and soft skills contribute to a larger project or whole.  

With this method, you split your team into groups and assign each of them a sub-topic to become an expert on. Then, members of each group get together to produce an in-depth overview of the whole subject matter. 

Here’s a practical example of the jigsaw technique in use: Imagine you’re a software development agency taking on a new client and you want to learn all about their product and market. Break this task down into sub-topics for each of your team members to research, such as: 

  • The client’s industry
  • The client’s target audience
  • The client’s unique selling point 
  • The client’s main competitors

Let’s say you have 12 people on your team. Since there are four sub-topics, you would break your team up into groups of three. On their own, each team member would research the sub-topic assigned to them. Then, they would meet in their sub-topic small group to discuss and consolidate their findings. 

Finally, create three new groups consisting of one expert from each group. In these groups, each team member presents their research and explains their sub-topic, helping everyone on the team get a clear understanding of every aspect of the client, from the nuances of their industry to their main competitors. 

The jigsaw technique is easy to set up and helps you create a more collaborative learning experience in which employees rely on each other to get every piece of the puzzle. 

4. Peer training  

Type: Real-time or async 

Time: Depends on the complexity of the topic

Prep: Depends on the complexity of the topic

Participants: 2+

The jigsaw technique isn’t the only way employees can share their expertise on topics. Organizing peer training sessions is another effective way to reinforce the importance of teamwork, especially when it comes to learning new skills and running employee training. 

Peer training is great for onboarding new employees, but it doesn’t have to be reserved for the most recent hires on your team. Your employees all have unique strengths and areas of expertise, so give each member of your team the opportunity to train their peers. 

Say one of your employees did extensive work on user experience (UX) research at their old company. They can give a training session to their team outlining UX research best practices and industry trends to get everyone up to speed on the topic. 

You can even have them use visual collaboration tools to present their expertise in a way that’s more accessible for visual learners. 

Peer training helps collaboration because when your employees see each other not only as peers but also as sources of knowledge and expertise, you can build a more collaborative culture where they aren’t afraid to ask each other for help. This then enables them to feel more supported and like they have each other’s backs, which leads to better teamwork. 

You obviously want to make sure your employees feel comfortable with leading a peer training session before giving them this task, so you may want to make it voluntary. For those who want to get involved, be sure to help them carve out time in their schedule to prepare the materials and presentation. 

5. Communication exercises 

Type: Real-time 

Time: 10-20 minutes

Prep: <10 minutes

Participants: 2+

Improv doesn’t work if actors lack communication skills. Similarly, successful collaboration relies on employees knowing how to effectively talk to each other and convey their ideas. That’s where communication exercises can help. 

You can run exercises with your team to help foster skills like active listening, negotiation, and open-mindedness. Here are some exercises you can run to help your team thrive at one of the key principles of collaboration: communication. 

  • Labeling: Split your employees into pairs and have them take turns talking about an issue. For example, Maria wants to spend the training budget on an in-person seminar, while Lashan wants to buy online course materials. First, Lashan lays out his case. To encourage participants to actively listen and try to imagine how the speaker feels, Maria responds by starting all her sentences with “It seems like” or “It sounds like” as she summarizes what she’s hearing from Lashan. Then, the employees swap roles. This helps practice a critical active listening technique that helps participants empathize with and better understand colleagues and clients. 
  • Mirroring: Split your employees into pairs and have one of them be the speaker and the other the listener. For example, Lashan (the listener) would be tasked with mirroring everything Maria (the speaker) says. If Lashan asks Maria why she likes in-person training courses, Maria may respond, “I like them because I can focus better.” Lashan could then repeat the last few words with a questioning intonation: “You can focus better?” This makes Maria feel listened to and encourages her to keep talking and expand on her points. Mirroring helps build empathy and active listening among team members and clients as it centers around emphasizing the last part of what a speaker said.
  • Mind melt: This one comes right from the world of improv. The goal of mind melt is for two people to simultaneously say a word until they eventually say the same word. To begin, Lashan and Maria each say a word on the count of three. Suppose they say “cherry” and “flower.” Again, they both say another word that those two words have in common, perhaps “red” and “plant.” This exercise continues until Lashan and Maria simultaneously say the same word, which in this case could be “poppy.” This exercise helps participants learn open-mindedness, active listening, and alignment. 
  • Yes, and: Improv centers around the “yes, and'' approach to communication. Participants must respond to each other with “yes, and” (no buts allowed). So if Lashan says an in-person seminar is the best way to spend the training budget, Maria can respond with “Yes, and we could organize a series of these for ongoing learning,” and so on. This exercise helps participants learn to negotiate and stay open-minded to other opinions. 

These communication exercises take no time to set up, and they can be run with just about any number of participants, though you’ll want to split your team members up into pairs.

How the right environment helps collaboration 

No matter how well your team understands teamwork, the theory won’t do them much good if they’re stuck in an environment that keeps them siloed. That’s why finding the right online platform is essential to creating a team that works together effectively. 

Switchboard is a collaborative digital workspace that lets you and your team work together on documents and browser-based apps inside a virtual room—without having to share your screen. It’s designed to foster team connection, collaboration, and productivity through intuitive meeting rooms. 

Switchboard lets you communicate in real time with video, audio, and chat. You can also work side-by-side allowing everyone to scroll, type, and browse the same document at the same time. 

That way, your team can put the collaboration skills they learn to good use in meetings and project work sessions. Because when they use a platform that makes everyone an active participant and not just a passive listener, your employees always have the chance to be a part of the discussion and contribute their ideas.

Switchboard design room
Switchboard’s multiplayer design lets everyone actively participate in calls, helping your team work together. Source: Switchboard

Collaboration training: Set your people up for better teamwork 

Improv actors may not memorize their lines but, contrary to how it might look, they don’t pull a great show out of thin air. These actors are trained in communication and collaboration techniques that allow them to adapt to any situation, overcome any obstacle, and even make it funny. The same is true for your people: You can’t expect them to work well together if you never give them training on how to do so. 

Use the collaboration training activities we discussed in this post to foster teamwork and communication among employees and create a positive work culture. For example, group problem-solving, think-pair-share, peer training, the jigsaw technique, and communication exercises. 

Most important of all, give your people a digital workspace like Switchboard where they can put their training to good use and get more done together. With Switchboard, everyone can work side-by-side as if they’re in the same room, making them active, productive participants in meetings and project work sessions.  

Want your team to collaborate? Give them the right platform. 
Switchboard provides an interactive, multiplayer experience that lets your whole team get involved and get more done together.  
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about collaboration training 

What is collaboration training?

Collaboration training helps employees learn the skills they need to better work together, communicate, and negotiate. To teach collaboration, you can use various problem-solving activities, peer training methods, and communication exercises. 

What are the benefits of collaboration training?

The biggest benefit of collaboration training is clear: a more collaborative team. But, on top of that, collaboration training also helps you achieve:

  • Improved communication among team members
  • More cooperative decision making
  • More effective and efficient meetings
  • Greater trust among employees
  • Better innovation and problem solving 

Why is collaboration important?

Effective collaboration is important for businesses that rely on teamwork, group problem solving, and effective communication. That’s because it helps teams better work together and solve problems, which leads to improved productivity, innovation, and decision making.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Want your team to collaborate? Give them the right platform.

Switchboard provides an interactive, multiplayer experience that lets your whole team get involved and get more done together.