Are you researching how to improve teamwork in the workplace? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ll probably come across the same ideas wherever you look — repeated over and over again. Yawn.
It’s not that they’re bad ideas. It’s more that they’re proven to work, so keep being rehashed without much thought.
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to how to improve teamwork in the workplace. The best thing you can do experiment with many different methods until you figure out what works. That’s why we created a list of strategies for you to choose from.
1. Involve leaders in corporate communication
Leadership is a crucial driver of teamwork. For teams to work effectively, objectives need to be clearly defined. Competing projects and responsibilities pull most team members in different directions (see the corporate communications strategy tool). It’s up to leaders to set the bigger picture so they can set priorities. Ensure leadership is involved in internal comms planning so employees at all levels can understand the overarching company goal towards which they’re working.
2. Avoid cringe-worthy team-building exercises
Google search “how to improve teamwork in the workplace” and you’ll inevitably encounter weird team-building experiences. Primal scream workshops, extreme exercise, and trust falls can induce a collective bout of nausea. Formal (and compulsory) events are no longer on-trend. What’s in? Building team spirit via voluntary social events in low-pressure, informal spaces.
The bonds employees form over lunch out on the town will carry over into the workplace. You can use an employee app like Blink to coordinate these types of outings more easily.
3. Create teamwork recognition programs
Rewarding successful collaboration creates an incentive for people to do so more frequently. Collaboration is significant for deskless and frontline employees who mightn’t feel like part of the team. Find ways to publicly acknowledge the hard work of effective teams, whether by giving them an award in front of their peers or by sharing their wins in a writeup. Teams who win together will continue to work well together.
4. Clarify ownership early on
Teamwork is challenging when people aren’t sure what their roles are. Ambiguity can lead to resentment, arguments, or even delayed projects. So, clearly document the scope of each role from the get-go. And make sure that documentation is accessible to everyone, so when questions arise, they’re easy to answer. For example, Blink users can store this information in the Hub.
5. Make communication a two-way Street
Teamwork only works when team members feel like they can speak openly, share ideas without getting shot down (and build on those of others), make suggestions, and voice their opinions. Make sure communication isn’t just flowing downward, but also upward and between team members. Multi-way communication is the goal. Using a corporate communication tool that archives conversations keeps anything crucial from getting lost.
6. Know who does what
Outlining clear roles isn’t enough to keep teams operating smoothly. The next step is figuring out who is responsible for what work (on what timelines). Get the team together to outline skill-sets and create project workflows and deadline charts. Oh, and make sure everyone’s present when the discussion happens. That way, team members can call out unrealistic expectations of them.
7. Have a clear organizational purpose
Every member of a team should be clear on what the long-term goals of the company are. This ensures the team projects are purpose-driven and valuable, have clearly defined and measurable objectives, and that everyone on the team moves in the same direction.
8. Set clear team goals
When you’re talking about improving teamwork in the workplace, the importance of clearly defined objectives can’t be overstated. Teamwork is basically impossible in an environment where no one is sure what the team is working toward. You need to be sure that everyone on every team is on the same page.
9. Identify communication problems
Doing an internal comms assessment may seem like a strange way to bolster teamwork, but remember that effective collaboration can’t happen without effective communication. Addressing communications pain points and sources of strife (e.g., failure to meet deadlines, unresponsiveness, and interpersonal issues) in your organization proactively will make it easier for all of your employees to collaborate in the future.
10. Stop micro-managing
Teams should feel like standalone units even as they contribute to your larger organizational goals. If you don’t give your teams some degree of autonomy, they won’t work as a collective because they’ll always be waiting for management to issue orders from on high. As much as possible, let teams set their deadlines, develop their workflows, and work out their issues.
11. Talk less, listen more
There will always be give and take on teams, but the giving and the taking eventually has to balance out, or resentment will build up, and work will slow down. Ensure your company culture rewards listeners as much as speakers and sets a good example by being a listener yourself. You can also give those whose ideas and opinions would ordinarily be drowned out a voice by encouraging people to share outside of meetings (on an employee app like Blink, during open-door hours, etc.).
12. Let teams use multiple methods of communication
Different employees communicate in different ways. Some, as noted above, will dominate a meeting. Others prefer to speak one-on-one while others feel most comfortable in a chat room or texts.
Deskless and frontline employees may be most efficient when using an employee app or similar communication tool. In any case, letting teams use whatever forms of communication and communication tools they prefer is another way to ensure that everyone can have their say.
13. Mediate disputes
Some companies approach conflict resolution with a wait-and-see approach, but that doesn’t work very well for team members’ disputes. Because these disputes can quickly grow into serious issues that interfere with projects, it’s necessary for team members to address them proactively. Ensure interpersonal conflicts are written and bring in mediators as required to work through issues between colleagues.
14. Allow flex work
Introverts, early risers, night owls, and caregivers can all be valuable team members, so don’t ignore them when you’re considering how to improve teamwork in the workplace. Offering employees flex work options like telecommuting and quiet workspaces ensures that your entire workforce can be as productive as possible and take advantage of opportunities to work collaboratively.
15. Use better collaboration tools
Integrated tools like Blink encourage effective teamwork because they put all of the resources employees need to collaborate in one place. There are information management tools, sharing tools, scheduling tools, project management tools, and admin tools in one place, so teams don’t have to waste a lot of time switching between platforms.
16. Ask team members for feedback
Knowledge is power, so if you want to know where your workforce is when it comes to teamwork, why not just ask them? Soliciting feedback doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. You can create an anonymous poll in an employee app like Blink or do short interviews with team members to see how projects are coming along. Just be sure you’re committed to taking feedback seriously.
17. Hire wisely
It’s so tempting to fill positions with candidates who have the top qualifications but don’t discount the importance of an applicant’s personality. When you know that a new hire will be working as a part of a team, consider involving that team in the hiring process. You may know what kind of skills and experience a hire should have, but they will have more insight into how well potential hires will or won’t fit in with existing team members.
18. Start a culture committee
Did your company’s culture develop intentionally? Probably not. Suppose your company culture grew more or less organically and isn’t really supporting teamwork initiatives. In that case, you can create a culture committee to retool your company culture so that it supports collaboration, openness, and other values you deem necessary.
19. Create a mentor program
Team members will work together more effectively when they feel connected. Creating a mentor program that pairs new team members with company veterans promotes cohesiveness and smoother collaboration.
20. Meet in different locations
You can cut down on the number of meetings teams have to attend by doing more of your communication in an employee app like Blink, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never need to have another meeting. When you have to meet, hold meetings in new locations in the office or local cafes or other public spaces. Talking outside of the office can increase productivity, inspire communication, and make team members more creative.
21. Create team traditions
When teams have their traditions, and inside jokes, they’ll naturally feel a sense of unity. That solidarity will positively impact the work they do, whether in the office or out. Encourage teams to eat lunch or take a coffee break together, or hold a team vs. team board game or video game competition.
22. Mix it up
Teams that have been working together for a long time work better together and may be more productive because of the trust and familiarity that has built up over time. Newly-formed teams, on the other hand, are typically better at coming up with new ideas and making big leaps. Don’t be afraid to shift people around or to form new teams.
You can’t force teamwork. Collaboration is something that happens naturally when conditions are right. Implementing some or all of the ideas above can set the stage for smoother teamwork at your company—resulting in higher productivity (and more profit).
Why teamwork in the workplace matters so much
Collaboration is the backbone of business success. In the modern knowledge economy, productivity often involves working with people from different backgrounds, skillsets, and industries. One mind alone cannot generate solutions to the kinds of large-scale problems companies have to overcome to succeed.
The most successful companies think regularly about how to improve teamwork in the workplace because they know they’ll see a return on their investment. They actively work to create the kinds of conditions that promote collaboration.
Here’s the ROI these organizations see:
Collaboration breeds innovation
When teams work together smoothly, they harness the power of diversity and can come up with ideas an individual might struggle to come up with alone.
Teamwork is faster
Teams that work together also tend to work faster because they can draw upon a wider range of opinions, skills, and experiences, whether they’re making decisions or putting together plans.
More brains = more productivity
When an entire team is working on a project, that project will move from the design phase into the implementation phase more efficiently –– even with fewer resources.
Teamwork solves problems
When teams brainstorm, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions to existing problems (and to anticipate future ones).
Team members feel supported
A person who feels valued will be more willing to share their ideas and take calculated risks. Should they stumble, there will be someone there to lift them back up.
Teamwork leads to learning opportunities
Working collaboratively gives all team members an opportunity to learn others’ experiences. They gain insight from fresh perspectives and learn new ways of doing things.
Collaboration builds confidence
People who work on effective, supportive teams feel valued and appreciated because they know they have something special to offer the team. And as we’ve discussed many times in the past, employees — especially introverted employees — who feel valued are more engaged.
Of course, it’s important to clarify that questions about how to improve teamwork in the workplace aren’t just being asked by employers. Surveys show that most employees consider teamwork very important, even if they’re not sure how to improve collaboration in their workplaces.