Effective teamwork in the workplace is much more than simply putting together a group of individuals to carry out a task or function. Rather, teamwork should be seen by employers as the process of uniting employees with compatible and complimentary skills to work together to a common goal.
Why is teamwork in the workplace important?
Constructive teamwork, where a set of employees work together in a way that is productive and efficient, can offer many benefits to an employer.
Create strong and healthy bonds
When a team of employees work together towards a common goal and succeed together, strong and healthy bonds of friendship and of trust are formed.
A team that trusts each other and enjoys working together will be more productive and more open to discussing their common goal.
Learning as a group
Team members learn from each other, and in turn can help and inform other team members, by working together.
The team therefore develops skills that would otherwise have been lacking and may have only been gained through a training course at the employer’s expense.
Working as a team brings fresh eyes and new ways of thinking to a problem or process. Teamwork can therefore increase the level of innovation by allowing each member to contribute.
Teamwork allows each element of the process or function that is being worked on to be carried out by the most suitable member or members of the team, making it possible to speed up the work and thereby increase the efficiency of the team.
When a team work together, they can each see what other members are doing, and offer help and checks when needed. Where one lone worker might miss a mistake or be unaware of a more efficient way to do something, a fellow team member is more likely to pick up on the mistake and be able to offer solutions or alternatives.
Promote healthy competition
Working together, and seeing fellow members’ progress, can promote healthy competition as team members strive to progress their careers and seek promotion.
What can employers do to help improve teamwork in the workplace?
So if constructive teamwork is such a valuable commodity at work, how can employers assist in improving how their teams work together and operate?
Clarify the purpose of the team and set clear goals
For a team to work well as a unit, the members must be made aware of the purpose of the team, for instance, to provide course information on a particular career path, and of the specific goals that have been set for the team.
By knowing the purpose of the team and the goals they are working to achieve, each member can see how the tasks they and their colleagues are working on contribute and are of value.
Work with team managers
A manager may be a perfect fit for the function that their team fulfils, with a wealth of relevant experience and knowledge, but they may not be as skilled at managing people.
It is important that the employer supports their managers by providing them with relevant training so that they may successfully handle their team as a whole and on a one-to-one basis.
It is the manager who will reinforce the team’s purpose, set the team goals and review their performance individually and as a unit.
Recruit the tight people
HR should assist the manager when it is necessary to recruit new members to the team by working together to create a set of selection criteria, for instance:
- the skills and experience needed to fill a vacancy in the team
- the skills and experience needed to for a completely new role in the team
- skills and expertise missing from the team
- skills and expertise needed to develop the team towards a goal
- the personality or mindset that would fit with the current team dynamic
- the skills, experience, expertise, personality or mindset that would fit with the culture of the business
Clear roles and responsibilities
Setting a clear role for each team member and making sure that individual members knows the role of their team colleagues should:
- reduce the possibility of conflict
- reduce the possibility of duplication
- prevent incorrect delegation or unfair delegation
- acknowledge the responsibility and value of each member of the team and thereby recognise them for their individual skills and experience
Team building exercises
Beyond working with each team manager to improve their people management skills, it may be necessary to work with a team, especially an underperforming team.
Team building exercises could include:
- encouraging communication within the team through regular meetings where each member is encouraged to contribute their ideas – these could be on-site meetings or more casual meet-ups outside work
- holding a team building activity day as a way to demonstrate how the team can work together towards a common goal
- encouraging the team to socialise together
Review the team composition
Even in the most productive team, the dynamics between the group may change over time, perhaps because of the introduction of new employees, the growing skill and experience of certain members of the team, or a wish to move on.
The team manager may be able to carry out this review themselves but where it is necessary to review the team as a whole including the manager, HR may be better placed to carry out the process.
This is not only a review of efficiency and productivity, but also how each member feels about the way the team is performing. Are they happy, feeling left out or demotivated? Is it necessary to re-assess the dynamics of the team to decide whether it is necessary to re-assign responsibilities?
The information gained from the review of one team may also be useful in assessing other teams in the workplace.
Conflict resolution procedure
Help the team manager to handle any conflict within the group by putting a conflict resolution procedure in place. The procedure should include:
- how a team member can raise a complaint or concern
- how an investigation will be carried out
- how a decision will be made and resulting actions put in place
The procedure, just like any other employment policy or procedure, should be made available to all members of the team.
Having an obvious and clear path to resolving conflict in the team can reassure each employee that they are valued and never trapped in an unsatisfactory situation. Having a conflict resolution procedure in place can mean the difference between retaining a usually productive team in its entirety or losing valuable members.
Incentives for good teamwork
Offer incentives for good teamwork to encourage teams to work together more productively. Incentives could include:
- publicity of the team’s success, such as a mention in the company newsletter
- financial incentives, such as a bonus or profit-sharing
- non financial incentives, such as paid time off or access to company services
Introduce a buddy system
Often the biggest challenge of starting a new job as part of a team is fitting into the dynamic of the existing team.
In a buddy system, an existing member of staff is assigned to a new employee to:
- guide them through the initial period of working in their new role
- introduce them to the existing team members
- act as a go-to should the new employee have concerns or question
Cross-function team building
Each team may work as an individual unit, but they should also reflect the culture of the business as a whole.
So how can an employer promote cross company team building?
- Create a culture committee: The committee is made up of a representative from each team. The committee meets on a regular basis to promote company culture throughout their teams. This could be by way of events, publications or competitions.
- Hold a yearly company conference: Once a year, bring all the employees together at an event held away from the work site to celebrate the success of the business and its teams, and re-establish their common goals.
- Cross company communications: A company newsletter sharing not only the business’ news but also team success and accomplishments, and more personal news such as births or new appointments can promote the feeling that each employee and team is part of a larger whole.
Teamwork and culture
Teamwork is critical to the effective functioning and performance of organisation’s workforce, and how your employer promotes and facilitates teamwork is a defining feature in organisational culture.