How to promote teamwork culture in the workplace
Guest Post by Marija Kojic
Teamwork is the driving force of the contemporary workplace. The rise of technology and the introduction of a wide variety of online collaboration tools have ushered in a new era of collaborative work. As our work becomes more complex and roles grow increasingly interdependent, teamwork has become a matter of necessity, not of choice.
And while we all can see the value of teamwork and understand its importance, different organizations achieve varying degrees of success in harnessing the power of teamwork. Simply put, not everyone works together equally well.
The quality of teamwork depends on a variety of factors; of course, human nature and the interpersonal compatibility of team members are the key factors, but there’s also plenty that organizations themselves can do to nurture and encourage a collaborative environment focused on teamwork. Over the following lines, we will focus on some of the key areas organizations can address in order to promote teamwork culture in the workplace.
Teamwork begins with people working together. The first step organizations can take towards fostering a culture of teamwork is bringing people together around shared work. Whether we are talking about a more permanent cross-functional team or a short-term collaboration between members of different departments, or any other model of working together, the goal is to provide structural encouragement for the process of collaboration. In every organization, the tone is set from the top, and a structure that enables teamwork and the management that listens to the employees and encourages their input are the essential prerequisites for the creation and the development of a team-oriented culture.
Some organizations are collaborative by default, through the nature of their work, while others are more reliant on the autonomous work of individual employees. It is important to properly assess the structure and the organization of work in order to see whether it would benefit from a more collaborative set-up, and then identify areas where a higher degree of teamwork is not only possible but also preferable.
Inclusion and openness
One of the key strengths of collaboration and effective teamwork is that it brings a multitude of experiences and perspectives to the table, enabling the team to perform work that could not be handled by a uniform skill set. This quality of teamwork, however, is entirely reliant on the creation of a working environment where all team members feel both safe and welcome to express their opinions and provide their input.
In the context of teamwork, inclusion means that the thoughts of all team members are heard and considered equally. Inclusion in the planning, brainstorming, and decision-making processes provide team members with a greater sense of ownership for the course and the success of the shared work, leading to higher degrees of engagement and motivation to contribute their share to the achievement of team goals.
The necessary other side of the coin to an inclusive team environment is the ability to communicate openly and constructively. On any team, opinions will unavoidably differ from time to time. The ability of team members to communicate and resolve differences plays an enormous role in a professional relationship. It is essential that teams communicate openly and transparently when addressing diverging viewpoints, providing positive and negative feedback, and handling situations of conflict. Organizations can further support inclusion and openness by establishing guidelines and policies for different team processes and training managers on how to develop a safe and inclusive environment.
It is a delicate balancing act to include everyone AND maintain effective decision-making mechanisms, to be open and honest in providing feedback AND be able to handle its negative aspects in a healthy and constructive manner. However, the effort of building a safe, inclusive, and transparent environment leads to increased team performance.
Present-day technology provides never-before-seen opportunities for a greater degree of collaboration and teamwork, both for on-premises teams and a wide variety of distributed teams (remote teams, multiple offices, etc.). The technological tools enable us to communicate effectively across different geographies and time zones, to interact and collaborate in ways that were impossible before.
Communication and collaboration tools benefit and improve teamwork by bringing people closer together, providing a technological platform that answers a number of different professional needs. Modern organizations are required to provide all the necessary technological tools to enable their employees to communicate and collaborate effectively. However, it is necessary to find the right balance of providing the necessary technological platform without overwhelming team members with excessive tools that distract more than they help. An efficient multi-purpose communication and collaboration tool like Pumble can answer a number of different team requirements in a single package. With workplace technology, it is similar to the Goldilocks story - you are not aiming for too little or too much, but for “just enough”.
Teamwork is fueled by the quality of interpersonal relationships among team members. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that strong interpersonal relationships and employee morale lead to increased levels of productivity.
In a traditional work environment, relationships between team members could grow spontaneously, from their physical proximity and regular interaction.
However, the rise of the remote experience, particularly through the ongoing pandemic, has emphasized the necessity of greater organizational involvement in bringing people closer together. Today, more than ever, it is important that organizations invest in helping their members feel involved and engaged with their colleagues, whether they share the physical workspace or not. Team buildings, charitable work, and short-term projects between members of separate departments are only some of the ways organizations can encourage their employees to connect and develop deeper working relationships.
The development of a teamwork culture is always an ongoing process. As much as it is important to establish a strong and healthy foundation for teamwork, it is just as relevant to identify and celebrate good practices and team achievements. Teamwork should not be taken for granted - its value should be recognized and celebrated at all times. From everyday acknowledgments of good collaboration to rewarding individual and collective contributions, organizations and their management need to reinforce the importance of teamwork by highlighting positive practices and their positive outcomes. The only way for teamwork to work is that all team members understand how they are expected to interact with one another, which actions are welcomed and which should be avoided.
The development of the culture of teamwork is a comprehensive effort that involves all areas of the organization’s activities - from the top and all the way down. It is important that organizations set an example, provide the necessary infrastructure, and recognize and celebrate teamwork every step of the way.