By Rich Williams, Senior Vice President of Growth Markets, Colonial Life.
If you’ve noticed your employees taking more and more personal days off or there’s a general lack of interest in office work, this may be a sign that your corporate culture is beginning to depreciate.
Research from Queens University of Charlotte states almost 40% of employees believe people in their own organization don’t collaborate enough. When communication breaks down we start to see a lot of redundant or duplicate work, decreasing quality and aggravation amongst team members. Teamwork is like shining a light on all the nooks and crannies in which such problems can linger, but how can we ensure we give teams the skills they need to grow? I’ve compiled some tips on how to build successful and happy teams in the workplace.
Make your team accountable
Continuously check the ‘pulse’ of your organization and that your own team is aligned with its overall goals and values. This is also an opportunity to reflect on what’s going well, identify what’s not working and the obstacles facing your team.
Ask yourself the question; has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision and strategies to accomplish this? If not, you should encourage your team to meet these objectives together. Teams work better when they feel invested in their work and its outcomes and play a part in overall decision-making. Introducing more accountability empowers employees, boosts their confidence and makes them more eager to excel.
Allowing your team members to take accountability is all good and well, but this will only work if leaders support the team’s decisions as well. In short, you must show willing to boost responsibility amongst team members, but also be aware you may need to oversee this and gently steer them, if you think they may be going off course.
Successful team management comes with emotional intelligence
Employees today are much more aware of whether or not they are a good fit in their workplace culture. Beyond career advancement opportunities, people want their supervisors and leaders to ensure their career track is in proper alignment with their personal and professional goals.
Team leaders need to show maturity along with their passion, and be more empathetic to combine the job requirements with human spirit. For the most part, employees don’t need a boss that holds their hand; they just need to be reminded of what is expected of them. If this is done with proper tact and good heartedness, employees will excel within their teams.
Pick the right activities to enhance team bonding
In light of the lackluster reputation of team building, you probably won’t be astonished to hear that research from Citrix has shown a third of office workers say they dislike team-building activities.
This negative association is a shame, because team building activities can have huge psychological benefits, by making employees feel more valued, according to research from the American Psychological Association. Team building exercises also allow staff to forget about hierarchies and socialize informally.
The best activities for boosting team relationships are those the entire team feels proud to participate in. Volunteering can be a highly rewarding experience both personally and professionally and sports make for excellent outings, allowing staff to work together and get physical exercise. However, pick your sport carefully as milder, non-contact options (e.g., bowling, ice skating) are often more well-received. Quality workshops give teams the opportunity to develop professional relationships in new settings—all without the stigma or the awkwardness of solo networking.
Encourage every skillset
A 2006 Harvard study discovered the work of heart surgeons improved over time when they were able to consistently work with their usual team at the main hospital they performed in. Findings such as this highlight that perhaps your star employee, who seems to flourish off natural talent may be more dependent on your team than you think. Managers must prioritize all unique skillsets for their team to thrive as a whole– it’s our differences that fuel our unique outlooks and nurture both originality and opportunity.
Learn how to incorporate and leverage those differences when people bring their unique talents and abilities to certain situations. For example: having an analytical thinker on the team is a must to balance out big-picture strategists, and your quieter, more detailed-oriented employee is a great complement to the broad thinkers who concentrate on executing overall strategy.
Company ‘microcosms’ should be kept in check
If you thought cliques were something from your school years—think again. 43% of workers say their office is populated by cliques—which are tightly knit groups of co-workers who socialize in and outside the office, often excluding others.
Varying degrees of friendship are bound to form within teams and it’s often common for closer bonds to be formed among team members who share similarities based on their social identity and by the department they work in. While private friendships are obviously fine, office cliques and inter-departmental rivalries aren’t ideal for a positive, goal-minded environment.
When you as the manager need to assign team members to work together, you should aim to avoid putting the naturally clique-prone together and giving them a reason to separate from the rest of the team. Watch for ‘clique creators’ too. Sometimes these are people, but they’re often events or trends happening in your company. Intense changes in your work situation can shake the team’s foundations enough to create cliques, which can be detrimental to both team productivity and wellbeing.
No resource is more powerful in an organization than a high performing team. There are challenges every day in any workplace, and a strong team environment is the support mechanism needed for staff members to foster a fulfilling, meaningful way of working together. These bonds increase trust and productivity and give teams the confidence to tackle difficult challenges in the future.