We all know that collaboration plays an essential role in enabling employees and companies to reach goals and milestones, effect change and, in general, step up productivity levels. Yet despite this, collaboration doesn’t come naturally to all. It often takes companies years to establish a culture of collaboration within their organizations, which is often hampered by internal and external factors --choosing the wrong or unstable tool(s), having too many tools, lack of enforcement or leadership on use, tough learning curves and, not to be overlooked: The human factor.

Work styles, habits, and personal preference vastly affect the adoption of collaboration tools. For veteran employees who rely more on existing knowledge of their workplace and established relationships with colleagues or partners, collaboration can feel like an obligation. Often, new employees -- who can benefit the most from the exchange of information -- are left to fend for themselves, navigating through a maze of tools and intricately layered org charts.

The New Workplace: Dependent on Collaboration

Adding to this complexity are work environments that are becoming more dispersed. We live in a world of cyber nomads where physical presence is often a secondary consideration, if at all. Differences in location, time zones, office hours and devices (computers, smart phones, tablets) are everyday realities that are made possible by collaboration technology. Companies are more dependent than ever on this to bridge variables.

Adjusting to this work environment can be especially challenging for new employees who may already be experiencing an intense learning curve. Because we’ve all been there, here’s a quick look at some tips that can help companies get newbies collaborating effectively from the start.

Tips for Increasing Employee Collaboration

1. Foster a culture of collaboration -- If you want to make collaborating a reflex rather than a reaction, place high value on encouraging new employees to share and get involved. This should be backed up by a top-down approach in which collaboration is a company-wide mandate embraced by everyone, from high-level managers to individual contributors.

2. Know thy tools -- Google Docs or Zoho Writer? Yammer or Basecamp? Campfire or Skype? Typepad or Wordpress? Learning about a company requires more than knowing about its products or values,. New employees should also be given a tool "roadmap" so they understand what collaboration technologies are in use and whether these are specific to a particular team or deployed throughout the company.

3. To tweet or not to tweet -- Establish a company-wide strategy around tweeting, blogging, Facebook habits and what is considered "acceptable" content. Many new employees assume that these communication vehicles are reserved for only seasoned employees.

4. Make it part of a routine -- Integrate collaboration into the daily routine by making some tasks dependent upon collaboration. This could be anything from conducting a daily team meeting via chat to having new employees take ownership and contribute to a company wiki.

5. Follow through – Many teams will adopt and drop collaboration tools, leaving information fragmented. Create a collaboration task force that helps teams (and new employees) learn how to use collaboration tools, evangelize their adoption, and evaluate new options.

Whether you’re a new employee or an old-timer, we can all benefit from becoming better collaborators. And, regardless of whether the collaboration tools you currently use are here to stay, the habits developed through their use will endure.