Implementing teamwork in the workplace requires a lot of thought and careful execution to get right. From facilitating interpersonal conflict that is constructive among team members to ensuring teams aren’t wasting time in meetings, the tough tasks related to building successful teams are enough to make most managers question if the effort is even worth it.
Don’t write off teamwork just yet. When done correctly, research shows that high functioning teams have a number of strategic benefits. Here are three ways that teamwork in the workplace can lead to stellar results.
1. Teamwork Creates Efficiency
Imagine that you’re tasked with overhauling your department’s employee review process. Employees have long expressed dissatisfaction with the current system of midyear and annual reviews, and it’s time for a change.
Where do you start? With researching your options, surveying employees to find out exactly what they’re dissatisfied with, figuring out HR guidelines, creating a budget? It’s a lot to tackle alone!
Now imagine that you assembled a team to help you work on this project, with a diverse set of experiences & skills. There’s a team member from HR, a team member who is a department head, a team member who’s a data whiz, etc. Instead of seeking answers and deciding the direction of your project all on your own, you can now easily access the opinions of employees who represent key segments of your department. In addition to offering up opinions and ideas, they can also answer your practical questions—and if they don’t know the answer to your questions, they’ll probably know whom to ask. Knowing where and how to find information—instead of your information request being endlessly passed along the information chain—is one way that teamwork in the workplace maximizes efficiency.
Plus, studies have shown that teams that work together on a frequent basis perform tasks with greater efficiency and accuracy. Fostering team familiarity, according to researchers writing in Harvard Business Review, takes advantage of the team learning curve. It takes time to learn how to work well together, but once the team members learn each other’s intricacies and idiosyncrasies, they will be firing on all cylinders. For even greater efficiency in the workplace, managers should resist the urge to constantly “shake things up” and keep some teams intact.
2. Teamwork Sparks Innovation
It’s a simple concept, two (or 10 or more) heads are better than one. Teamwork in the workplace brings together diverse individuals with different skill sets, knowledge, and ways of approaching problems. The result is innovative approaches to a company’s toughest challenges.
The amount (and quality) of innovation you can garner from your teams depends on how you put your teams together and how you define “diversity.” According to Scientific American, building teams with members who have not only a diversity of experience but a diversity of social backgrounds causes groups to be more creative, harder-working, and better at making decisions. When team members know they will be working in diverse groups, they anticipate having to consider alternate viewpoints and work harder to come to a consensus. That anticipation causes team members to prepare more and be especially articulate in presenting their own viewpoints, and—most importantly—it primes them to be more open-minded to opinions they disagree with. That’s when impressive innovation happens.
3. Teamwork Improves Employee Morale
Employee engagement is pitifully low in the U.S.—Gallup claims that a full 70% of American workers are not engaged at work. But teamwork in the workplace can combat this unsettling statistic. According to Gallup, employee engagement is partly measured by factors such as if an employee feels that their opinion at work counts, if they have workplace friendships, and if they have the opportunity to do what they do best at work.
Working in smaller groups—a.k.a. teams—where an employee’s opinions and expertise are more relied upon can make an employee feel more engaged and essential to the company. Plus, working in more intimate teams gives employees the opportunity to form more meaningful relationships with one another. In fact, teams where members get to know one another as people, and not just coworkers, work far better than teams that treat working together as just another workplace task to schlep through.
Teamwork in the workplace shouldn’t be viewed as a “fad” solution to all the companies problems, rather when implemented smartly it can be an important part of the long term strategy. When teamwork becomes a natural part of your culture and people system it allows all the members of your organization to contribute more than they could on their own.
How have your company's teams instituted change or ushered in innovation?