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  • Human Resource Dimensions

Getting Teams to Work

The idea of harnessing the power of teamwork to increase productivity and achieve competitive advantage has long dominated disciplines such as professional sports, manufacturing and the military. For the last 60+ years it’s been a mainstay in education — from elementary through high school, where every team, group, class and club rallies around the cries of team unity to perform successfully, accomplish goals and win.

Today, the vast majority of businesses have a team-based configuration, with companies large and small staking their future competitiveness on teams and teamwork.1 However, though employees are organized into teams, managers and team leaders are still trying to figure out how to lead those groups effectively, understand team dynamics, measure and influence team performance, and derive the fundamental value in a team-based structure.

In this post we examine why teams have become the central production unit within organizations, why so many organizations struggle with creating and managing effective teams, and how the same science-based solutions that have successfully been used to understand individual behaviors can now be applied at the group level to optimize collective performance and improve business results.

Collaborative Workforces

According to management expert Peter Drucker, tomorrow’s organizations

will be flatter, information-based and organized around teams. Four key

developments are driving teamwork in organizations:

  • Complex Distribution Networks

The process of moving a product or service from start to finish demands complex logistical strategies that must seamlessly integrate various aspects of the supply chain, including procurement, inventory, and cash-flow management.

  • Accelerated Place of Business

In an Internet-based economy, companies are operating on a 24/7/365 basis. Customers expect immediate engagement via multiple communication channels, and they are apt to find a competitor if their needs aren’t being met.

  • Knowledge Sharing Critical to Success

To handle the rapid change that is impacting all facets of an organization, employees need to pool their knowledge to generate a complete picture of a situation and take quick action.

  • Millenials Entering the Labor Force

Millennials, those born roughly between 1982-2000, are joining the workforce and are set to become the primary demographic as their Baby Boomer parents retire. According to several studies, this generation has tended to learn in groups rather than by individual study, developing strong collaborative drives best suited to team-based environments. Meanwhile, companies are actively recruiting graduates who can work in this type of collaborative environment; people who can work well with others, share responsibility, and get the job done efficiently.

To keep up with these transformations, organizations across industries are shifting their hierarchical frameworks in favor of cross-functional, collaborative teams. The thinking goes that small teams are better suited to adapt to sudden changes in the marketplace and create innovative solutions in a more streamlined fashion than top-down structures that require approval from multiple levels of management.

Business Impact of Group Dysfunction

Despite the trend toward team-based work cultures and the positive impact on companies’ bottom lines, teams are not functioning as efficiently or effectively as they could be. Creating and managing teams is still:

  • Viewed as an art, not a science

  • Focused on the individual level, not group

  • Conducted haphazardly

  • Hindered by weak team leadership

The U.S. Department of Labor has estimated the average cost of a poor hiring decision

can equal 30% of that hire’s first year’s probable earnings. In addition, employers spend an average of $7,000 to replace a salaried employee, $10,000 to replace a mid-

level employee, and $40,000 to replace a senior executive. The Center for American Progress conducted a series of case studies showing the median cost of turnover was 21% of an employee’s annual salary.

Dysfunctional Scenarios

  • “Ineffectual” Leadership Scenario

The team leader does not know (or care) to decipher team dynamics and does not associate team synergy with successful outcomes.

  • “Subjective” Leadership Scenario

The team leader puts faith in “gut” reactions or subjective methods to make decisions and manage group dynamics.

  • “Limited Use” Leadership Scenario

The team leader has access to behavioral information for individual team members but fails to leverage the results effectively, if at all.

Understanding the Individuals Within Your Team

The key to building productive and harmonious groups is the application and interpretation of the same behavioral assessments that many leading companies already use for individuals. This same behavioral data can be leveraged to analyze individuals within the context of a team.

It is possible to apply the data in aggregate to determine the personality of the team as a holistic unit and to better understand team performance in light of the organization as a whole.14 Academic research suggests that trait similarity, dissimilarity or a mix of complementary traits within a group can enhance performance outcomes depending on the situation.

Team members are thought to be compatible when they share multiple (congruent) traits or when they possess different but mutually supporting (complementary) traits.15 With behavioral data in hand, a team leader can pinpoint these similarities and differences in an objective way to better manage the group.

Defining Team Performance with Group Analytics

The value of data from a scientifically validated assessment such as the Predictive Index® (PI®) is magnified when viewed in aggregate, revealing trends and differences in personalities within the group that may impact productivity. The Group AnalyticsTM diagnostic tool from The Predictive Index is one of the few available instruments that enables managers to capture group behavioral data on a larger scale and thus effectively navigate common management challenges. With PI’s Group Analytics diagnostic tool, a team leader can:

  • Gain additional insight into the individual’s work style and its impact on others to maximize personal and professional

  • Derive insight into the work styles of one team and learn ways to optimize working relationships in another team.

  • Look at jobs and roles on a team and match individuals to those jobs/roles.

  • Enable the mapping of individuals and teams to company goals and strategies and minimize team member adjustments to changing

Whether it’s in the boardroom or on the basketball court, great leaders understand how using a combination of individual and group analytics, along with qualified consulting and coaching, make for winning teams. When team chemistry and harmony cease to be a guessing game, organizations enjoy several obvious benefits over their less enlightened competitors including:

  • Better communication among employees/team members

  • Optimized employee engagement

  • Alignment of individual goals with team and organizational goals

  • Development of future leaders

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