‘Teamwork makes the dream work’

Michael Boyd

Successful companies in all industries have one thing in common: strong teamwork. Healthy workplace teams, regardless of the industry, provide a number of benefits to the company, to the individual and to the community.

High-functioning teams have greater productivity, lower turnover, more creativity and positive morale. These teams, however, do not appear on their own. They are the result of an organizational culture that fosters cooperation and collaboration over competition and individual achievement. In other words, strong high-functioning teams are made, not born.

There are several steps that any organization can take to begin to create an organizational culture that increases team cohesiveness.

Improve communication:
Communication can be formal or informal. Formal meetings should be purposeful, regular, frequent and structured. Informal work-related communication should be encouraged. When teammates share their personal successes, as well as their frustrations, with co-workers, they strengthen work relationships and increase trust. They learn the valuable skill of conflict resolution.

Establish common goals: The output of each team on a daily or weekly basis contributes to the long-term corporate goals. High-functioning teams are able to relate their milestone accomplishments to the big picture and take satisfaction from the achievement.

Implement cross-training:
Life happens to each of us, and sometimes we are out or sidelined due to personal circumstances. Healthy teams keep moving forward by stepping in temporarily to cover for a team member. The key is a system for skill training, developed and managed by the company. By creating a cross-trained team, a project will not be stalled due to absences.

Review progress: Progress meetings make a difference. They do two things — they bring the status of a project or report into clear focus, and they provide an opportunity for the team to critique the work. Teammates can question things from all angles. This encourages open communication and ownership of the outcome. By speaking up and providing input, team members become invested in a successful outcome. With skilled facilitation, doing this at the concept stage brings the team into alignment and catches defects that might otherwise get missed.

Celebrate success: Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool. In a corporate culture that promotes strong teamwork, success is celebrated. Milestones along the way to the long-term goal are recognized and individual contributions are recognized by management as well as by peers by providing balance to the setbacks and missed deadlines. Healthy teams need both.

The benefits to developing a culture of teamwork in an organization are many. In addition to increased productivity and profitability and improved morale, there is less conflict. When there are strong teams, members learn to resolve conflict among themselves rather than looking to management. Because each member of a team is working toward a common goal, they learn to resolve disagreements on their own for the sake of the project and their team.

Another indirect benefit to promoting a team culture is talent acquisition. According to the Society of Human Resource Professionals, within the next 10 years, the global workforce is expected to be almost entirely comprised of millennials. Considering how millennials value collaboration over competition, it’s important that companies cater to the needs of their future employees by creating a company culture they want to be part of. By doing so, companies are able to attract — and retain — top talent.

Strong teamwork in any organization is a winning strategy. Sharpening the corporate competitive edge takes time, effort and investment. By dedicating resources to creating a culture of teamwork, companies strengthen their position in the marketplace and increase the chances of achieving their long-term goals.

Michael Boyd is the program manager for Business and Workforce Development at Hagerstown Community College. He can be reached at mdboyd@hagerstowncc.edu.