In any workplace, there is always an element of competition as employees strive to be the best. But while competition is good, workplaces today are rightly emphasizing the importance of collaboration and teamwork by putting workers into small, agile teams that do not have to be in the same office or even country. Teams improve morale, encourage innovations, and can lead to a better and more productive working environment.
A good team can accomplish more than a single good worker, but a bad team can be far worse than one bad worker. Furthermore, a few good employees can see their overall productivity fall on a team if intraparty squabbles and office politics create negative synergy. HR thus has a duty to assist teams and put them in a position where they can reach their maximum potential. Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish that.
Leadership Training and Team Selection
Teamwork may be collaborative, but there still needs to be someone in charge who people can answer to. Often the leader will play a major role in selecting other team members as well, which is why HR or management should make determining the leader one of its first priorities.
Businesses may consider just picking their best workers, but there is a difference between being a good worker and a good leader. The ideal leader can motivate other team members, lead by example, and encourage a free-flowing stream of ideals instead of just collaborating with those individuals he gets along the best with.
Allow the team leader to have a role in selecting other team members, but your highest priority should be to find workers who complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This does not just mean what they can or cannot do on the job, but their personalities as well.
Diversity Training and Communication
A major benefit of teams compared to individual workers is that teams can incorporate a wider variety of background which offer unique perspectives on how to approach a project. This does not just mean race or gender. For example, millennials may propose a solution which is more technologically based and may prefer a flatter, more democratic leadership style compared to older generations.
But while diversity has benefits, it can also invite conflict under certain circumstances, often fueled by a lack of communication. HR should work with team members to create an open environment where there are no stupid questions and everyone is free to bring up difficult topics. Communication skills training is also recommended to help everyone stay on the same page despite their different backgrounds.
Even with good communication protocols, conflicts can arise between team members. It is important that these conflicts get quashed quickly before team members start taking things personally and the group is harmed.
HR deals with workplace conflict resolution all the time, and so you likely already have procedures in place to handle such matters. Above all else, your goal is to be a neutral mediator, who can help two people with differences openly hash things out instead of suppressing their ill feelings until it blows up.
Conflict is a natural part of humanity, and trying to suppress it entirely is bad in the same way that squelching every small fire in a forest will eventually lead to a great conflagration. But by making conflicts open and providing a neutral ground where people can discuss disputes, HR can help teams form stronger bonds in the long run.
New and Old Members
Teams do not stay static. Old members move on or are reassigned by the company elsewhere, and new hires join the team. This can either give a team a fresh infusion of talent, or disrupt group dynamics.
Departing, skilled team members responsible for business process management should be congratulated by leadership or HR for what they have accomplished on the team, and their accomplishments acknowledged. New members should have their opinions and not belittled, and made to feel as if they are equal to everyone else on the team.
The goal here is to make sure that every team member is engaged. A particular danger with using team is that a small faction or even a majority of members in the team can end up monopolizing how things are done, leaving those outside the in-group feeling disgruntled and disengaged. HR needs to work with the leaders of every team to make sure that all contributions are appreciated and that no one is being left out. This is all about creating the right sort of culture, and a team culture needs an open and welcome culture.
I'm a creative and passionate HR Director with 15 plus years proven experience up to board level in international and world-class organisations.
I have had the privilege of working on a wide range of projects that have enabled me to apply my leadership and technical skills and I have proven expertise in managing change, business integration and outsourcing, including TUPE/ARD. I am currently looking for my next intellectual and professional challenge.