Build Teamwork Into Your Company Culture

How to foster positive collaboration at every level of your business

Row of business people holding hands climbing over ascending hurdles
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Fostering teamwork is part of creating a work culture that values collaboration. Rather than encouraging competition, a culture of teamwork creates opportunities for employees to work together and use all available resources and skills to reach business-wide goals.

In a teamwork environment, people understand and believe that thinking, planning, decisions, and actions are better when done cooperatively. This environment doesn't develop in a vacuum. Business owners and executives must work to deliberately build teamwork among their employees.

Why Is It Difficult To Build an Office Culture of Teamwork?

From a young age, many workers have participated in institutions, schools, and hobbies that emphasize winning or being the top achiever. When these employees enter the workforce, the way organizations structure their systems of recognition, compensation, and promotions work against the values of teamwork.

A work culture where employees are compensated and celebrated for their individual performance and contributions can't encourage teamwork. Instead, it fosters a sense of competition.

To build teamwork into your work culture, you must fundamentally rethink how your business is structured, from management styles to down to compensation strategies.

How Generational Norms Impact Teamwork

Teamwork is becoming more frequently found with the entry of millennial employees into the workforce. Millennials grew up participating in settings that encouraged teamwork, such as collaborative schoolwork, sports teams, and political activism. These trends were continued in generation Z, the cohort that followed millennials.

As newer generations join the workforce and move up into management positions, their values start to influence the culture and expectations of the places they work. Generational shifts in the workplace can create an opportunity for executives and managers to change many aspects of workplace environment, including building teamwork into the company culture.

How to Build a Culture of Teamwork

Encouraging a collaborative work environment takes more than just putting employees on teams or telling them to work together. Teamwork needs to become a valued part of your workplace culture, starting in the executive suite and trickling down into everyday interactions with customers.

  • Executive leaders expect collaboration and model teamwork. Leaders model teamwork and collaboration whether a project is going well or facing challenges. No one completely owns a work area or process. Executives and managers are open and receptive to ideas and input from others on the team.
  • The organization talks about and identifies the value of teamwork. Job candidates are assessed for their ability to work collaboratively. After hiring, the value of teamwork is talked about during onboarding and training. If organization values are formally written and shared, teamwork is one of the key five or six values. The stories and folklore of the business emphasize teamwork.
  • Teamwork is rewarded and recognized. Compensation, bonuses, and rewards depend on collaborative practices as much as individual contribution and achievement. Commissions or tips are at least partly shared to encourage employees to work together to serve customers, rather than competing with each other. People who do well and are promoted within the company are team players.
  • The performance management system places emphasis and value on teamwork. During evaluations, 360-degree feedback is integrated into the system. The employees understand that teamwork is the expected interaction in the workplace. If employees or managers struggle to work collaboratively, there are training systems in place to support them.

Tips for Building Teamwork Among Employees

Arranging time for specific team-building activities can improve internal communication and encourage employees to work together more comfortably and successfully. This can be especially important if your employees or managers are coming from a work culture that encouraged competition rather than collaboration.

Team-building shouldn't be limited to a few days at a corporate retreat every year. Instead, think of team building as something that the people in your business do every day.

  • Form teams to solve real work issues and to improve real work processes. If your employees need to spend more time and energy creating relationships with each other than solving the problem presented to them, then your business needs more active training in teamwork and collaboration.
  • Hold department meetings to review projects and progress. If team members are not getting along, examine the work processes they mutually own. Provide training to your managers so they can successfully encourage collaboration within the teams they supervise.
  • Build fun shared occasions into the organization’s agenda. Sponsor dinners at a local restaurant, go hiking, create a sports team, or work together on a charitable project. Hold a monthly company meeting that starts with small icebreakers to help employees develop a sense of comfort with each other. Create opportunities for employees to get to know each other and develop relationships that will support their work.
  • Encourage a culture of open communication. Employees who are comfortable with each other, communicate easily, and feel that management is listening to them are better able to work collaboratively. Make executives and managers available to answer questions, address difficulties, and mentor new employees. Have clear reporting mechanisms and systems in place for addressing employee concerns.
  • Celebrate team successes publicly. Reward teams or groups for their achievements, rather than individuals. Encourage employees to learn from each other by allowing team members to share their success stories at company meetings.

If teamwork is only important at the yearly company retreat, employees will return to competitive work norms as soon as they're back in the office. To get the most out of the time you and your employees spend together during planning sessions, seminars, and team-building activities, collaboration needs to be viewed as a critical part of your everyday business culture.