Practical tips: How to improve your team’s performance

Employees leave their companies for a plethora of different reasons. From offers of more money, career changes to taking time out to travel, the causes for quitting a role are numerous and varied, often leaving employers in the dark about what truly triggered the talent handing in their notice. Whereas a majority of team leaders point the finger at external factors, in fact, the opposite is true: according to a recent study from Gallup, 85 per cent of employees worldwide are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. It comes as no surprise then that more and more employees decide to quit. To improve your team’s performance we must focus not on the individual, but on the team. Technology can help lay this groundwork.

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The importance of effective teamwork and its impact on the growth of a business has been proven time and again; according to Hay Group, happier workplaces achieve 4.5 times the revenue growth of less happy organisations. Yet still, team leaders and managers rarely focus on the correlation between a team’s dynamics and its output, largely because they don’t know where to start.

Work on teamwork

Modern companies typically have a myopic focus on their product or service as it is the very foundation on which organisations are built. When revenues drop or customer attrition rises, founders and management teams are quick to evaluate their product, and this is particularly true of startups. You often hear questions such as ‘is it user-friendly enough’, or ‘is our interface not engaging’. Unfortunately, what you rarely hear are questions such as ‘is our team functioning effectively’. Just as we need to remember to develop a campaign strategy or design a product, we mustn’t forget to work on teamwork.

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Make a habit of team reflection, and move away from toxic measurement practices such as forced rankings and annual performance reviews. Instead, engage in team-based performance management and encourage and reward collaboration. Just as a good teacher focuses on the overall performance of a student rather than the final grade, business leaders, need to apply the same approach. In order to build well functioning teams leaders need to invest time and take a strategic approach.

Teams need a clearly defined purpose & share the same values

The workplace is becoming increasingly diverse and collaborative. Because every individual member of a team is driven by their own incentives and unique set of values, it is important to address these differences and find a mutually agreed foundation. According to CEB (now Gartner), almost half of an employee’s success in the first 18 months on the job can be attributed to how the employee fits in with others in the organisation; the rest of their success depends on whether they can do the job. Hence, it’s the leader’s responsibility to initiate and guide this process.

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A discussion on team purpose for instance, whether conducted openly or anonymously, enables every team member to express their opinion and feel heard by the group. It allows the team to agree on a framework that it abides by, and gives a direction to steer towards. After all, individuals that feel included and supported by their employers tend to be more productive and engaged at work, which will ultimately translate into the success of a company.

Build direct connections between tasks and goals of individuals in the team

According to recent McKinsey research, effective goal-setting can help improve employee engagement and elevate overall performance – also, it can make or break a company. Thus, it is important to keep a team involved from start to finish. Building direct connections between the tasks of individuals and the team’s and company goals not only provides insight into the progress of the team but also motivates individuals to perform well. Paired with a firm shared purpose, goals provide the team with a clear direction which means even when they’re working autonomously they are contributing to the bigger picture. Giving teams a sense of ownership over their tasks and actions enables the team to celebrate successes together, whether small or big, which is one of the most rewarding experiences we can share in the workplace.

Establish team norms

The social norms that govern our behaviour differ from one team to the next. Actively establishing a foundation that reflects the norms of a shared group is essential to establish a foundation of trust. However, these norms shouldn’t be imposed or created top-down by a leader. Leaders should be actively involved in the process to offer guidance, but the whole team must contribute and agree to a set of norms; this not only creates an inclusive environment but provides control and security within the relationships themselves.

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One way to help determine which norms might resonate with a group could be, for instance, to look into what could be the worst thing that an employee could do. Arriving 30 minutes late for a meeting? A chatty coworker that seems to overshare information on a daily basis? These ‘anti norms’ then can help determine the norms that the entire team shares.

Clearly, company culture and the performance of teams can’t be established overnight. It is an ongoing process that demands commitment from all parties involved. Incorporating the basics and building a foundation for teams can give companies a huge advantage in improving their overall success. Hence the development of our teams should be on the top of everyone’s agenda, not near the bottom.

By Alistair Shepherd, co-founder of Saberr

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