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Refocus on teamwork and collaboration to engage employees

Jun 01, 2020

Written by: Mark Hirschfeld, VP of Research and Strategy, BI WORLDWIDE
(View Author Bio)

Keep business going and employees engaged with research that reinforce how cruicial teamwork is for employees to succeed in times of change.

In the midst of the current pandemic have come problems and challenges in our workplaces that none of us have ever faced. We need to get creative about how to keep our businesses going in spite of these challenges. New ideas and novel approaches will help us take care of our customers and get work done.

Our ability to collaborate, then, is even more important.

In 2010, Leigh Branham and I wrote a book called Re-Engage: How
America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times. Because we were still in recovery from the 2008 financial collapse, we offered advice on how to inspire and engage employees in “turbulent times”.

A decade ago some organizations were building effective teams and in doing so, were thriving. Those organizations rated far higher on this survey item: “My team collaborates, effectively leveraging individual strengths”. Current research reinforces that teamwork is crucial for employees in times of change. According to my colleague Dr. Charlie Heidrick, “those who report having a strong sense of teamwork in their job are twenty-two times more likely to be engaged at work than those who don’t.”

Go with the odds—invest in building a more collaborative workplace.

In review of the advice on teamwork and collaboration we offered a decade ago, our recommendations still hold true, with an exception noted based on the current social distancing recommendations. We need to engage, and re-engage, our teams as we face this pandemic together. Here’s what you can do:

  • Maintain open and honest communication because trust and teamwork go hand in hand. Trust can be the first victim during uncertain times as employees become suspicious about impending layoffs. Keep your team informed and keep meeting with team members one-on-one to clarify roles and expectations. Ask how they are feeling and respond to their questions.
  • Refocus your team on its mission, which may have changed based on economic and market conditions and retooling of internal processes. Eliminate work that may no longer be necessary or critical.
  • Emphasize the setting and achievement of smaller, shorter-term team goals.
  • Recognize and reward the achievement of team goals as soon as they happen. Don’t overlook the need to give special recognition to team members who are making disproportionate contributions.
  • Plan virtual team meetings or team-building activities. Consider starting new team customs, such as “(virtual) pizza Thursdays” or brown-bag book reviews that contribute to team morale and capability.
  • Challenge your team to consider a broader range of strategies for meeting customer needs, creating new revenue sources and cutting costs.
  • Go to bat for your team with more senior leaders, especially with regard to training and resources.
  • Reassess team members’ talents in the light of changing priorities.
  • Rethink team composition and add or remove staff where appropriate. Implement new proactive “guerilla recruiting” tactics if you haven’t already, especially those involving social networking.
  • If team members have been laid off, focus your team on ways to take up the slack, eliminate work that is not critical or reinvent the way the work gets done.
  • Communicate emphatically how much you value the talents and capabilities of remaining team members.

Now more than ever we need to make sure our team members know we’re in this together and are working to create a collaborative work environment.

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Mark Hirschfeld BI WORLDWIDE

Mark Hirschfeld

Vice President, Research and Strategy

Mark Hirschfeld is Vice President of Research and Strategy at BI WORLDWIDE. He’s passionate about helping companies develop more engaged, productive places to work. Mark is the co-author of "Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort In Extraordinary Times", published by McGraw-Hill.

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