"Collaboration" has become one of the most common words in the workplace; companies of all sizes are encouraging employees to work together. But unless the leaders are committed to developing collaboration, their employees won't ever reap the benefits. A truly collaborative workplace is more than just talk; it's something employees feel. Effective collaboration inspires a sense of community within the workplace while increasing insight, productivity and innovation.
Prevalence of teamwork
Despite the benefits of effective collaboration, teamwork is a major source of frustration in the workplace – so much so, it causes many employees to consider searching for a new job, research has found.
A study from 5 Dynamics, a provider of human performance systems, discovered that nearly 60% of employees either always or sometimes work in teams. Of those, 41% said they have felt friction when collaborating with colleagues, and nearly one-third have thought about looking for new work because of negative team environments.
The research shows that less than 10% of employees would choose to always work in a team setting, and 50% would prefer a mix of team and individual work.
"How well teams work together and communicate can make or break a company's bottom line, not to mention employee satisfaction and retention," the study's authors wrote.
Employees gave a variety of reasons for why they didn't enjoy working in team settings. In the study, 35% said the most frustration came from trying to motivate others, and 27% said the biggest aggravation was making sure everyone executed on plans. In addition, 27% said the planning phase of a team project was their biggest source of irritation. [Read related article: No Trust Among Your Team? How to Fix It]
Company growth and changes at the top of the corporate ladder also cause teamwork frustration. Thirty-five percent of the employees surveyed said they had trouble working in teams during executive changes, and 27% said rapid company growth contributed to a lack of team efficiency.
"Many survey respondents also expressed in open-ended responses that they feel stress and productivity issues when onboarding new staff or when they perceive other team members not to be pulling their weight on a project," the study's authors wrote.
The researchers found that 40% of employers invest resources in trying to understand the working styles and behavioral preferences of their employees. However, the vast majority of employers (85%) only sometimes, at the most, said they use what they learn in their work environments.
The researchers suggested that employers need to do a better job of deciphering how employees can work better together and then actually following through on what they discover.
"In doing this, they'll reap the rewards both from the bottom-line, revenue-generating perspective and in attracting and retaining quality talent," the study's authors wrote.
The study was based on surveys of 500 U.S. workers between the ages of 25 and 64.
Tips to get teams to work together
Here are some tips to help your teams collaborate successfully.
Set measurable goals. To lead a successful team, it's important to set measurable team goals. Use plans, timelines and clearly structured content that defines both current and future goals for the team. As a leader, you should ensure that everyone on the team understands the goals and know the part they play in achieving those goals.
Communicate. Communication is essential for effective collaboration among team members. Your team must be given well-defined individual and collective roles as well as their responsibilities within the team. It's important that you not only be open in voicing your objectives but also willing to listen.
Recognize strengths. To empower your team members, you will need to play to their strengths instead of working around their weaknesses. A personality test is a good way to identify the strengths of each individual on the team and allow the team members to get to know not only themselves but also their team members. When team members know and understand one another's strengths and weaknesses, it connects them, allowing them to demonstrate their strengths and encourage others.
Create a compelling cause. To have cohesion among team members, you must give them a convincing reason to be a part of the mission. Keep in mind that the more compelling the mission is, the easier it will be to inspire the team to be a part of what you want to accomplish. Providing your team members with a clear and exciting cause will encourage them to achieve the goal.
Keep your promises. Your team will remember the promises you make and will hold you to them. Promises are meant to be upheld, and if you fail to do so, it will eventually break the team. If you promise to be there for advice, keep your promise and never offer or promise something you know you will not be able to uphold.
Recognize and reward. When your team members achieve goals, recognize those people. Whether it's one person or the entire team who achieved the goal, it's important to share the information. Teams that work closely together are happy to celebrate not only their achievements but those of others. Offering bonuses or rewards along the way provides encouragement and sends the message that the team is going down the right road.
The most important part of effective teamwork
The most important part of teamwork is effective communication. It is essential for the leader to consistently update each member of the team and never assume that all team members have the same information. Remember that being a good communicator also means being a good listener. Listening to your team means you are showing them respect, which is crucial for your team to trust you. Encourage team members to share information and feelings among themselves as well as with the team leader.
Regardless of the role you play within the team, improving your teamwork skills will encourage collaboration among the entire team. As a team leader, there are several things you can do to improve your teamwork skills. For instance, do not be a complainer; if you focus on the positive instead, your output will also be positive. Do not argue over where credit is due; a win for the team is a win for everyone. Lay down the ground rules, but listen to suggestions.