It’s obvious to see that an organization benefits when its employees are working together synergistically.
Good teamwork helps to build morale in the workplace, which makes workers more productive and ultimately improves profits. For organizations that have excellent teamwork, problem-solving is easier – since people with different skills and knowledge will work together to produce a creative solution.
Without good teamwork in the workplace, it’s difficult to progress as a business – which can result in stagnation and loss of market share. In fact, 86% of employees and executives state that workplace failures are a direct result of a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.
If you want your employees to work together and produce great results, here are some tips to improve teamwork within your organization.
1. Encourage Informal Social Events
Although formal team building events are encouraged in certain HR manuals (even virtual team building activities), a simple Google search for “bad team building experiences” will provide you with a litany of horrors.
From bathing naked with managers to nearly being trampled to death by horses, there are limitless stories online of employees being coerced into doing things they don’t want to do.
There are some great ways to overcome team building challenges. But, forcing people to participate in compulsory team building activities is, ironically, detrimental to good teamwork. What’s fun for an HR manager might be degrading for an employee, and the last thing you should want is for resentment to grow among your staff.
Instead of imposing team building from the top down like a ruthless dictator, it’s more effective to allow teams to build organically. Plenty of people would have a problem with being forced to perform a humiliating haka in imitation of the New Zealand rugby team, but most people are okay with a glass of wine and a nice meal at a restaurant.
In low-pressure, informal surroundings, team members can get to know each other and form bonds which will carry over into the office.
Instead of budgeting for elaborate team building events, you can budget for low key social meet ups. This will save you a lot of money and will produce better results in terms of teamwork and morale.
2. Clarify Roles
If there is any ambiguity regarding roles and responsibilities, it’s impossible for people to work together effectively. Even worse, you may end up with situations where workers are unfairly delegating their work to others – which creates resentment.
To combat this, it’s important for roles and responsibilities to be clearly documented. This documentation should be available for all to see via the organization’s intranet, so people can refer back to it if there is a clash of opinions regarding obligations.
To avoid confusion, each new employee should be referred to this document as part of their onboarding process. This is especially important when onboarding remote workers, since they won’t have the option of face-to-face communication to clear up any immediate questions regarding responsibilities.
While it’s not essential for workers to know the exact responsibilities of every person in the organization, workers should be crystal clear about the responsibilities of their immediate team mates.
You may wish to create a handbook for each team in the organization, detailing objectives, roles, and projects. For common tasks which involve multiple team members, workflow images help greatly in clarifying how and when each individual should contribute.
For example, this workflow image from the internal handbook of an infographic design agency describes the process involved in creating an infographic. It clearly indicates when the content writer, editor, and designer should contribute to the project.
3. Specify Goals
All employees should be clear on the long-term goals of the organization. This should be covered during the onboarding process for new employees and regular updates should be made via company meetings.
If the organization doesn’t have clearly defined, measurable goals – then it’s hard to keep everyone on the same page. If everyone knows that the organization’s goal is to generate 10 million USD in revenue for the year, this will influence all team communications and keep everyone moving in the same direction.
With goals for the organization clearly stated, you can now set goals for individual teams.
Your content team might have the goal of doubling website traffic and producing two blog posts per week (which equates to 104 blog posts per year). Because the goals are specific and measurable, it’s obvious if the team is on track or not.
When you have clear goals to work towards, communications become streamlined and teamwork becomes purposeful.
4. Reward Excellent Teamwork
One of the best ways to build camaraderie in the workplace is to give formal recognition for employee achievements. One of the best things to praise your employees for is excellent teamwork.
If an individual goes above and beyond their role to help the organization as a whole, ensure that they feel appreciated for their efforts. Also remember to appreciate employees who go out of their way to help others in need, even if this doesn’t correlate with business goals.
Showing gratitude for altruistic behavior is an excellent way to create an awesome, friendly culture. When you have a workplace where people are rewarded for helping one another, teamwork will naturally improve.
Recognition can come in the form of kind words from a direct manager, or perhaps a photo in the company’s internal newsletter with a description of the achievement.
5. Don’t Micro-manage
If you treat your employees like children who can’t be expected to work like unsupervised adults, don’t expect them to work together like an effective team! In order for teamwork to flourish, respect is required.
It’s important to specify goals, set deadlines and give employees all the tools they need to perform to the best of their abilities, but when you micro manage, employees will be less inclined to work effectively and more inclined to do what’s required to please their direct manager.
Even if an employee is fully committed to the organization, they will never perform to the best of their abilities if they have someone breathing down their neck.
As an alternative to micromanaging, build a culture of trust, respect and honesty. If you create a wonderful culture, teamwork will naturally flourish.
6. Establish Effective Communications
Your workers don’t have to become best friends in order to work effectively with one another, but practicing good communication is important.
From a practical perspective, you can improve workplace communications by publishing an official communications policy and introducing new employees to it during their onboarding process. This policy should mention ideal channels of communication for specific scenarios, how to communicate with people who’re not native English speakers, why you should avoid technical jargon and so forth.
From a cultural perspective, the management team should lead by example and demonstrate good communication. A great way to do this is to encourage managers to listen carefully to their subordinates and solicit honest feedback.
If managers are behaving in ways that make life difficult for their teams, but people are too scared to speak up due to the risk of being fired – this will create a problem. In order for a team to work together, communications need to be open and genuine.
In a survey of workers in the United Kingdom, 42% stated they have left a job in the past because of a bad manager. Encouraging feedback helps to improve communications but also reduces employee turnover.
If your managers can’t take honest criticisms without feeling personally attacked, they may not be suitable for managerial roles!
7. Celebrate Individuality
Remember the saying: “there is no “I” in team”? This philosophy would be appropriate in the industrial era when workers were replaceable and all processes were systemized.
Denying the individuality of your workers is a bad idea if you want to keep them engaged. People have different personality types, skills and preferred ways of working.
In a study by Aachen University in Germany, it was found that 10% of people are early risers, 20% of people are true night owls and the other 70% fall somewhere in the middle. Despite evidence that genetics play a significant role in our body clocks, most organizations are tailored to early risers.
Similarly, ask any introverted employee what they think about working in an open-plan office and you’re likely to get a brutal response.
Ironically, forcing everyone to work in the same open-plan office environment, on the same time schedule is not going to improve teamwork. When you allow employees to work in the ways that make them the most productive, teamwork will naturally improve.
Encouraging flexible working practices such as remote work, creating quiet workspaces within your office and respecting the individuality of each worker will help to boost engagement, teamwork and employee retention.
8. Use Project Management Tools
Embracing flexible working practices can dramatically improve teamwork, but only if you use the right tools.
Fortunately, with tools such as Zoho Projects, Basecamp, Asana, Hubgets, Slack and LiquidPlanner, your team members can communicate and collaborate effectively without the need for face-to-face interactions.
While email and instant messaging can be great for keeping people on the same page, you might want to host a weekly video conference so that team members can communicate via a more intimate channel.
Check out our comprehensive list of project management tools.
9. Get Feedback From Everyone
Oftentimes, great ideas can come from unexpected places. In order to achieve the long-term goals of the business, it’s wise to solicit ideas and feedback from all roles within the organization – from the receptionist to the CEO.
Brainstorming sessions can be great for generating ideas, but there are some disadvantages. Sometimes, the people who provide the most contribution are the ones who’re naturally outgoing and talkative – rather than the ones with the best ideas!
To solve this, open as many feedback channels as possible. Some employees will deliver excellent insights during one-to-one meetings with their managers, whereas others may prefer to voice their opinions using an anonymous feedback box.
If everyone within the organization can deliver meaningful feedback using their preferred channel, and it’s obvious that management takes this feedback seriously and makes appropriate changes – this creates an excellent workplace culture where everyone feels valued.
When people feel valued, they work together more effectively.
10. Hire Wisely
Most organizations suffer from terrible, ineffective hiring processes. Ultimately, your hiring process should be used to predict how well a new recruit will help your business to achieve its long-term vision.
Instead, interviews usually accomplish very little other than making the interviewer feel superior by asking ridiculous questions such as: “If you were to get rid of one state in the U.S., which would it be and why?”
While it’s time most organizations completely overhauled their hiring process, one incremental improvement would be to involve more team members that the new hire is set to work with.
Your HR manager may be looking for very different criteria than the new recruit’s team members. If a person ticks all the boxes in terms of skills and culture, but there are potential personality clashes with team members, this will do more harm than good when the new employee arrives.
Every person that a new hire works with on a daily basis should be able to voice their opinion regarding the hiring process – not just the recruit’s direct manager.
Teamwork isn’t something that we can forcefully impose upon our workers. Instead, good teamwork will naturally occur when there is a healthy workplace culture, where employees are treated as individuals and open communication is celebrated.
There’s no need to be dogmatic and stick to management principles that were effective 100 years ago. By taking whatever steps are necessary to get the most out of each employee as an individual, you will also get the best performance from your teams.
Amara writes for TimeDoctor.com, a software designed for tracking hours and optimizing productivity for remote workers and remote teams.