When employees work as a team, everyone wins. As Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, teamwork was the secret to The Beatles’ chart-topping success. “They were four guys who kept each other’s negative tendencies in check. The total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person; they are done by a team of people.”
In today’s increasingly complex workplace, how do you build a teamwork culture that allows your company to attain chart-topping results? Below are strategies for promoting teamwork in your organization, the benefits you will experience, obstacles to avoid along the way, and how to quantify and measure the collaboration.
- Get explicit leadership commitment to collaboration
- Create spaces for conversation
- Provide guidance for collaboration tools
- Foster creativity through camaraderie
- Leverage individual strengths
- Keep communication lines open
- Take risks together
- Empower employees
- Celebrate team successes
- Fuel teamwork with the right resources
What is teamwork in the workplace?
The definition of teamwork is “the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient.” The second half of that is what is critical to businesses and organizations, which are basically systems made up of people and processes. All of the elements of the system have to work well together and perform their intertwined tasks efficiently for a successful output. Workplace teamwork is how each piece interacts with and helps one another to achieve this goal.
Why is teamwork important in the workplace?
The value of effective teamwork comes from generating ideas faster, sharing the workload better, and creating a culture of empowerment that leads to better business results. This means that when employed successfully, it is a win-win situation that reduces stress on workers, while simultaneously improving quality and performance. As Andrew Carnegie, an American industrialist, once said: “Teamwork is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Yet, a recent study found that 39% of employees believe that people within their company do not collaborate often enough. While it may seem like an impossible task to overcome in today’s increasingly dispersed digital workplace, you can avoid this trap by building teams that balance the strengths, skills, and interests of individual employees, while emphasizing the value of collaboration, mutual support, and trust.
Passive vs. active collaboration
While teamwork and collaboration in the digital domain are crucial, it runs the risk of getting stuck in Passive Collaboration, which is:
- Focused on completing specific tasks
- Aimed at finding answers in a finite knowledge pool
- Confined to current thinking and practice
On the flip side, a good old round-the-table meeting done well encourages Active Collaboration, which is:
- Focused on organic conversations
- Aimed at improving and building on knowledge
- Open to new thinking and practices
Benefits of building a teamwork culture
Workplace culture is the foundation of your organization — so building teamwork into a complete, strong base can help you reap huge benefits. While you will likely see positive impacts across the company, here are some of the top advantages:
When teams function effectively, employees feel free to share their creative ideas while enjoying a true sense of belonging. Individuals feel valued, productive, and fulfilled while contributing to the goals of the organization.
Ideas, innovation, & productivity
Team interaction stimulates the free exchange of ideas which can spur innovation. Collaboration also creates a connected workplace culture where sharing the workload gets the job done quickly. According to a Nielsen report, collaboration is a critical factor for innovation success, outranking both leadership and access to financial resources.
Attract & retain top talent
A Gallup survey found that employee well-being — derived from things like recognition, fulfilling work, and supportive co-workers — is key to employee loyalty. Collaborative workplace culture can also help your company attract top talent. According to Forbes, companies such as Uber, Facebook, and Salesforce use “strong corporate culture as a bargaining chip to recruit the best and brightest talent.”
Happy employees = happy customers
When the team brings their best skills and ideas to the table, they are more likely to create better products and services for customers. And what is good for customers is good for the bottom line. A study by the Kenexa Research Institute found that companies with highly-engaged employees achieve twice the net annual income of companies whose employees fall behind on engagement.
Obstacles to collaboration
Many common barriers to employee collaboration are timeless and rooted in human nature, while others stem from the new realities of work. They include:
- Cultural and human obstacles: Collaboration will never thrive in a competitive environment where the leadership team emphasizes hierarchy and protocol. The resulting fear and distrust among employees stifle any impulse towards sharing information and ideas.
- A dispersed workforce: Remote work is becoming the norm for a growing proportion of workers at many organizations. Globalized organizations with far-flung locations also create logistical hurdles to teamwork and collaboration in the workplace.
- Tech obstacles: Without a shared set of powerful collaboration tools — or the necessary knowledge to use them — the best-intentioned collaborators will fail.
- Organizational silos: The increasing specialization of knowledge-based work has intensified the natural tendency for divisions to spring up between departments and teams. These rifts can lead to information hoarding and isolation.
Silo mentality is an outlook that occurs when divisions or departments do not — or cannot — share information, resources, and knowledge with anyone outside their group. Learn how to prevent walls from building up inside your organization.
Solutions to avoid those obstacles
To avoid these barriers, there are a few important steps to take so that success and effectiveness are more likely.
Get explicit leadership commitment to collaboration
The leadership team sets the tone for how collaboration is valued and how it is done. A “Collaboration Constitution,” or a similar but less grand document, make their support for employee collaboration unambiguous. It sends the message that collaboration is integral to the success of the whole organization.
Leaders can also signal their commitment to respectful, equitable collaboration by taking the time every day to respond to high-traffic posts in the digital workplace.
Create spaces for conversation
Sometimes the best workplace conversations happen in private. To bring these conversations into the open and make them productive, encourage every major project or process to have a “naysayer group” that challenges the status quo.
Train people to use clear language in their comments, instead of compressed, confusing Twitter-ese and hashtags. Also, make sure they have dedicated collaboration spaces (such as project rooms and team rooms) in your digital workplace to vent and discuss.
Provide guidance for collaboration tools
From instant messaging apps and file-sharing tools to forums, collaboration tools can help people work better together. But they can also create frustration and confusion among employees who don’t feel equipped to integrate them into their daily work lives. Whenever you introduce new tools, provide training and support to ensure everyone knows how, when, and where to use them.
How to achieve a thriving teamwork culture
So now we know why teamwork matters and potential barriers to avoid, but what can organizations do to achieve it? By building effective teams, you can create a workplace where employees feel motivated, appreciated, and empowered. Here are some building blocks for creating a teamwork culture that benefits the entire company.
Foster creativity through camaraderie
In a collaborative workplace environment, employees are more likely to be motivated, positive, and creative. Boost team spirit by encouraging group activities, celebratory lunches, or even donating time to a charitable cause. When people are comfortable with their team, they are more likely to listen and learn from one another, engaging in discussions that allow them to gain new perspectives. The inspiration and ideas that result can benefit the individual, the team, and the organization as a whole.
Leverage individual strengths
Team members are more creative and productive if they are working on something that fits their strengths and interests, according to Gallup. Consider individual strengths, expertise, and availability to ensure the highest quality output. Perhaps the team itself can decide on the breakdown of responsibilities, rather than having assignments handed to them by management.
Keep communication lines open
A Salesforce study found that 86% of employees and executives cite ineffective communications as a key reason for failures in the workplace. Staying connected allows team members to share what they have achieved, where they are struggling, and new ideas they may have. Booking regular stand-up or review meetings in your team calendar allows plans to come into focus and provides an opportunity for feedback and redirection.
Take risks together
Shared goals go hand in hand with shared risk. Encourage your teams to take calculated risks. Taking on more risk is easier when you are part of a supportive team — and the business benefits are shared by everyone.
To cultivate a workforce that is creative, productive, and full of team spirit, empowerment is key. Reward people for collaborating and contributing. Let them know you value their ideas and efforts. By including employees in every stage of decision-making, they will be more likely to be involved, motivated, and invested in the organization’s success.
Celebrate team successes
Take time to celebrate achievements along the path toward common goals. According to a study published in Nature Human Behavior, team members who have shared past successes have greater odds of future success. Go ahead and recognize significant milestones. Give the team a celebratory lunch or reward individual contributions with gift cards. Or, ask team members to share their success story in the company newsroom or at a quarterly meeting.
Fuel teamwork with the right resources
The right combination of talent and skills is important, but access to the right resources can make the difference between success and failure. Ensure teams have a good meeting space without interference or distractions — so their ideas can flourish — be it a physical or online space. Make sure they have the right tools, resources, and budget to facilitate teamwork.
Monitoring & measuring collaboration
Now that you have implemented strategies to encourage teamwork and collaboration, you need a way to track how successful or useful they are. This is where a digital workplace platform like Igloo comes in. It allows you to track data and trends in usage, user experience, and much more. From analyzing adoption of the new platform to who is sharing information the most (and least), Igloo Analytics gives you all the data you could need at your fingertips.
What to look at
However, having overwhelming amounts of data can be just as confusing and difficult to draw insight from as having no data. You need key performance indicators (KPI’s) to show whether things are working or not and have a high-level picture of what’s happening. The metrics we think are most telling and useful are:
- Usage/engagement: Checking how often employees are using the platform can give you a good idea of either how aware they are of it or how much value it brings them. Both are problems that will prevent effective collaboration and smooth flow of information.
- Employee satisfaction: We said it before and we will say it again: employee happiness and satisfaction is good for everyone from the final customer to the CEO. By using things like polls or virtual town halls, this insight can be tracked and acted upon.
- Productivity: Once you have had a collaboration or knowledge management platform for a little while, you can compare productivity metrics like time spent on specific tasks, revenue per employee, number of errors, etc. to before the change was made. This also ties back to employee satisfaction and asking them whether they feel more productive and how much it helps them.
By taking these steps towards fostering a teamwork culture, you can create an organization where individuals enthusiastically work together to contribute to common goals for the success of the entire company. Once you tap into the power of teamwork, the possibilities are endless. Just ask The Beatles.
Take the next step in creating a teamwork culture
Looking to create a culture of teamwork in your workplace? Igloo can help your organization improve teamwork effectiveness and cultivate a culture of teamwork and collaboration with our digital workplace platform designed to bring people, tools, and information together. Boost collaboration and foster productivity — which benefits both the individual and the organization.
Learn how Igloo can help you improve collaboration in your digital workplace today.