When you’re researching how to improve teamwork in the workplace, you’ll come across a lot of the same ideas repeated over and over again. It’s not that consultants aren’t creative, but rather that some collaboration-boosting strategies have been proven to work most of the time.
That said, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to how to improve teamwork in the workplace. The best thing your company can do is try lots of different approaches—both those that tend to get results across industries and those that are more suited to your specific industry.
We all know that two heads are better (and more productive) than one. With that in mind, we created a list of 22 strategies you can employ when your goal is to promote collaboration among employees and between teams, even when your teams are deskless or on the frontline. First, however, let’s take a look at why companies are investing more in teamwork in the workplace than ever before.
Why teamwork in the workplace matters so much
Collaboration has become the backbone of business success. In the modern knowledge economy, being productive often involves working together with people from different backgrounds, with different skillsets, and from different industries. On top of that, one mind alone cannot generate solutions to the kinds of large-scale problems companies now 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 that no one individual would have come up with on their own.
Teamwork is faster
Teams that work together well also tend to work faster because they can draw upon a wider range of opinions, skills, and experiences when making decisions and putting together plans.
Effective teams are more productive
When an entire team is working on a project, that project will move from the design phase into the implementation phase more efficiently—even if you’re working with fewer resources.
Teamwork solves problems
When teams brainstorm, they’re more likely to come up with effective and creative solutions to existing problems—and to anticipate and mitigate future ones.
Team Members Feel Supported
A person who feels like a valuable member of a team will be more willing to share their ideas and to take calculated risks. Should they stumble, there will be someone there to lift them back up.
Teamwork Means Learning Opportunities
Working collaboratively gives all team members an opportunity to learn from the experiences of others. 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.
Most importantly, teamwork is one of the core elements of employee engagement. Nearly all of the factors that have the power to boost or diminish engagement are impacted in some way by how well people at a company work together toward common goals.
22 Proven Ways to Improve Teamwork in the Workplace
You already know how important teamwork in the workplace, but how can you foster an atmosphere of teamwork at your organization? Here are 22 innovative strategies that can help improve teamwork in the workplace.
1. Involve Leaders in Corporate Communication
Leadership is a crucial driver of teamwork. For teams to work effectively, objectives must be clearly defined. People on teams are frequently pulled in different directions, and it is up to team leaders and executives to help employees see the bigger picture so they can set priorities. Make sure that leadership is involved in internal comms planning so that employees at all levels can understand what they’re working toward.
2. Avoid Bad Team Building Experiences
Search for how to improve teamwork in the workplace and you’ll inevitably encounter stories of weird team building experiences like primal scream workshops and outdoor activities that are way too extreme for most employees. Formal (and compulsory) team building events are no longer on trend. What’s in is 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 collaborate more frequently and more effectively— which is especially important for deskless and frontline employees who may sometimes not feel like they are 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 tough when people aren’t sure what their roles are. Ambiguity can lead to resentment and arguments or even situations in which work simply can’t be completed because it’s unclear who has ownership. Make sure roles are clearly documented and that the documentation is accessible to all team members so if questions arise, they’re easy to answer. In Blink, this information can be stored 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, make suggestions, build on the ideas of others, and voice their opinions. Make sure that communication isn’t just flowing from leadership downward, but also upward and between team members, and that you’re using a corporate communication tool that archives conversations so no ideas get 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 to create project workflows and deadline charts. Make sure everyone is present when the discussion happens so that team members can call out unrealistic expectations.
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 that projects undertaken by the team are purpose-driven and valuable, have clearly defined and measurable objectives, and that everyone on the team is moving in the same direction.
8. Set Clear Team Goals
When you’re talking about how to improve teamwork in the workplace, the importance of clearly-defined objectives cannot 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 Communications 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 orders to be issued from on high. As much as possible, let teams set their own deadlines, develop their own workflows, and work out their own 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. Make sure your company culture rewards listeners as much as speakers and set 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 communicate one on one while others feel most comfortable in a chat room or in 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 on a team 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 disputes among team members. Because these disputes can quickly grow into serious issues that interfere with team projects, it’s important that they are addressed proactively. Make sure interpersonal conflicts are clearly documented and bring in mediators as necessary to work through issues between colleagues.
14. Allow Flex Work
Introverts, early risers, night owls, and caregivers can all be valuable members of teams, 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 communications 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. Solicit Feedback from Team Members
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. If your company culture developed more or less organically and isn’t really supporting teamwork initiatives, you can create a culture committee to retool your company culture so that it supports collaboration, openness, and other values you deem important.
19. Create a Mentor Program
Team members will work together more effectively when they feel connected to one another. 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 do have to meet, hold meetings in new locations in the office or in 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 own traditions and inside jokes, they’ll naturally feel a sense of unity. That solidarity will positively impact all of the work they do as a group, 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 Now and Then
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.
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.
Finally, keep in mind that sometimes the steps you’ll take to improve teamwork in your workplace won’t seem to have anything to do with collaboration at all. Promoting better communication, using the most up to date comms tools, increasing engagement in your employees, and streamlining operations can all help make teamwork easier and more effective at your company.