The most successful workplace teams don’t happen by magic, but through carefully designed workplace strategies that empower and inspire employees. Great teams grow out of a respect for all team members, a collaborative culture and workplace, and a commitment to working together on common goals.
To stay competitive in an increasingly complex business environment, companies should focus on fostering team collaboration, along with building a work environment that lets everyone thrive.
In this article, we explore how companies can create the most successful workplace teams possible. We also review nine elements shared by all flourishing teams.
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Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do to build a strong team was plan a few days of team building activities? Say, a yearly summer BBQ, or working together on a toy drive for the holidays.
The reality is that team experience is intimately connected to both employee and workplace experience. It’s something that can only be built over time.
In other words, team experience is built through the day-to-day realities of where and how employees interact with each other and with their company culture. Not one-off business days or platitudes about teamwork. That means that companies looking to create successful teams need to think holistically about the complete employee experience they’re offering.
There are so many work environment types now available, along with many new forms of flexible working.
And of course remote and hybrid work adds a new layer of complexity to team building. Virtual teams need to be able to chat and collaborate with their coworkers, from anywhere.
So while building successful workplace teams was never a simple or easy process, it requires more focused effort today. This includes the right combination of technology, culture, and workplace initiatives.
We all know the saying, attributed to American Clergyman John Maxwell: “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Collaboration is what leads to innovation in the workplace. And strong teams are what lead to competitive, productive, and future-proof companies.
A feeling of teamwork and camaraderie is also important to employee wellbeing. So much so that it can boost employee happiness by 80%.
That’s why companies today are also smart to consider the role that teamwork can play in retention, now that we’re smack in the middle of the Great Resignation. At the end of the day, people want to feel like they’re part of a team doing meaningful work.
According to Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield, “the labor market is too competitive now to not be doing what you love. Or to work for a company that you don’t believe in.”
Ultimately, believing in what you’re doing is a hallmark of successful teamwork. And better teamwork leads to better work results overall.
Supporting and fostering collaborative workspaces is the key to the best teamwork. This is also easier said than done, especially in our now often virtual reality.
Like we’ve covered, effective teams don’t happen by magic. They happen deliberately, through careful planning, effective communication, and a shared sense of purpose through all team members.
This will look a little different for each organization. That said, successful teams are only likely to emerge and continue to thrive when the following 9 elements are present.
A successful workplace is one where everyone feels like they’re part of a team. Employees therefore need clearly defined roles and tasks, along with shared goals.
In fact, a recent study from Microsoft found that clear team purpose is a core trait of successful teams, because it “keeps teams focused, aligned, and performing at a peak level.”
Having a benchmark against which to measure team performance can be the difference between team failure or team success. Common goals are important, but for any team to be successful, they also need measurable ones.
Once you have set realistic and actionable goals, team members can come together to create action items for each person, according to their role and abilities.
And with measurable goals, there’s also the onus to both stay accountable yourself, and help keep your coworkers accountable, too.
Whether we’re talking about top-down business communication or chatting around the water cooler, how we communicate at work matters. 99.1% of employees want to work for an organization that nourishes honest communication. Consequently, communication always needs to be clear and concise, but also professional and fair.
Good communication requires ground rules around business etiquette and team communication. Like ones that encourage constructive criticism instead of a more domineering approach to addressing mistakes, for example.
It also requires enabling many channels for communication.
This can come from innovative conference room ideas that build in opportunities for impromptu collab sessions throughout the day. Like coffee tables and comfy chairs in common areas.
As we’ll explore further below, it also relies on cutting edge collaborative tools and technology that make both asynchronous and real-time communication easier.
Remember, communication matters to employees—so much so that effective communication leads to 4.5 times higher talent retention. Getting it right should therefore be a top priority.
Managing groups of people is difficult, so good teams need good team leaders who have the right skill sets, training, and company support to do their jobs well.
For example, hybrid meetings—which are critical to successful hybrid workplace teams—can only happen when there is a committed leader at the helm who is able to ensure everyone gets the same amount of attention, no matter where they are.
“There are best practices and nuances to managing a mixed remote and hybrid team. And there are benefits to having regular training programs,” says Earlywine. “Don’t assume managers don’t need training and that employees know how to not just survive, but thrive in this new model.”
The best leaders are those who stay committed to ensuring everyone on their team feels connected and supported. Companies switching from a traditional model to hybrid may need to reconsider how they want their leaders to do this.
Yes, leaders are critically important to the success of your workplace teams.
But ultimately, your team will only be as connected as your least connected member. Or as engaged as whoever is least engaged.
And the surefire way to boost connection and engagement is to offer more flexibility and autonomy, in as many areas of work life as possible.
This often looks like offering meaningful flexibility to workers.
According to Cushman and Wakefield’s powerful Experience per Square Foot™ surveys, we know that employee experience scores jump from just 45% to a whopping 74% when you give employees choice and freedom about when and where they work.
This is why authentic choice matters. This is about respecting workers, along with the fact that they want to do their best work, and best know how they can do it. It’s also about acknowledging that they have lives outside of work. Employees are human beings, and of course they want to treatment to reflect this.
Recruiters should also be upfront about what their workplace is actually like. This includes how much flexibility they are truly able to offer. This way, they’ll attract people who are well suited to join their existing work team in the first place.
“Employers will have to be clear with their candidates about the way they work,” stresses OfficeSpace CEO David Cocchiara.
Thanks to the pandemic, we can put the long debate to rest… Remote working is no less productive than in-office working.
Simply put, we now know that employees can be trusted to do their work. Even if they’re not physically clocking in or working with a supervisor breathing down their neck.
“You want managers for your hybrid workforce to have empathy and a trust-first mentality,” says Earlywine. “Employee stress levels go down when workers don’t worry about always having the green light on in Teams.”
“If you lead from a trust-first perspective, people will do the right thing.”Angie Earlywine
“If you lead from a trust-first perspective, people will do the right thing.”
When employees waste time nailing down meeting rooms or trying to find the right equipment, that’s time they’re not spending on work, or on all the meaningful activities that connect them to their work.
That’s why an efficient workplace is a requirement for a successful one, whether that’s a physical or a digital one.
Depending on their hybrid workplace model, most companies will still have some type of physical workplace. It needs to be outfitted with the right space utilization, set-up, and technology to make it a good place to partner up to get work done as needed.
Meanwhile, given the amount of work now done online, a digital workspace with all the tools and technology to support it is also a requirement for all workers, and not just your hybrid workforce.
Companies may want to update their conference room strategy, ensuring they’re providing collaborative spaces that serve the actual work that will be done in them. Implementing elements like wayfinding signage and well-integrated meeting room booking software can also make it much easier to navigate the office.
Not surprisingly, collaboration is critical to successful workplace teams. In fact, 86% of leaders and employees cite a lack of collaboration as the top reason for workplace failure.
To create successful workplace teams, facility managers (FMs) and other workplace leaders need to look critically at how they’ve arranged their offices, and whether they’re empowering employees with the tools and spaces they need to collaborate.
This is what Steve Jobs famously did, by breaking down silos at Pixar when he took over as CEO. To encourage collaboration, he moved computer scientists, animators, and executives and editors into one shared building. This move was so successful that Pixar’s chief creative officer John Lasseter said he’d “never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one.”
Collaboration in the workplace is the spark that leads to innovation and new ideas. It’s also what makes people feel like they’re part of a team. A collaborative workspace is an exciting one. Like Jobs illustrated so clearly, it’s also one that functions much better than when employees are siloed and separated.
That’s why employers need to provide collaborative spaces, and employees need to commit to collaborating whenever possible.
For example, collaboration between IT, HR, and Facilities Management teams is often required for a more effective workplace.
In fact, it’s only through collaboration with these other departments, that most FMs will be able to actually fulfill their duties. The most important FM responsibilities center around giving employees the tools they need for best work to happen. Since some of the most important tools in the modern office are related to technology, FMs will need a hand from their IT counterparts to ensure employees have everything they need.
Similarly, when employees understand that the whole really can be greater than the sum of its parts, we can expect work to flourish. And this type of collaboration is much more likely when using workplace strategy to design a more synergistic work environment, such as:
Last but definitely not least, a team is only as successful as its tools. In the modern office, this means digital workplace solutions that integrate with existing collaboration software like Slack and Microsoft Teams. To be maximally beneficial, they’ll also be available via a mobile app.
Work teams need tools that not only improve workflow, but also help them stay connected with their fellow workers in all the formal and equally important informal ways that fuel team development. Since online collaboration tools can scale productivity by 30%, they should be a fundamental component of workplace strategy.
Specifically, all workers need cloud-based software that provides:
The most successful workplace team is one that is employee-centric and highly focused on employee and workplace experience.
Remember that your team will only be as connected as your least connected player. Successful teams are therefore ones that accommodate the real-life needs of each team member. They also give them the support and tools they need to thrive.
Photos: Mohamed_hassan, Canva Studio, Clayton Cardinalli, Kylie Haulk