Are we losing our team cohesion?

By James Smith

As the pandemic changes our working practices, and many of us adapt to a home working environment, just how affected is the way in which we communicate and collaborate with our teams?

As organisational structures become flatter and flatter, increasing numbers of employees will find themselves working within teams. This more modern focus on teams has represented a move away from a Taylorist perception of employees as a cost, switching instead to a more dynamic approach that views people as a resource.

Teams are given clear, collaborative goals, must be well-organised and in line with an overall strategic business goal. This means that, when individuals are making decisions, they must take into account the needs of their teams, contemplating the strengths and weaknesses of each member. No strategic plan will succeed unless you have your teams on board.

Teams are a resource of the organisation. In fact, Kelly (2015) suggests that the organisation allocates teams much like we do computers and other hardware. “Resource allocation (also called resource management) is the process of assigning team members and assets (like hardware) to balance the competing needs and priorities of a team. Management then determines the most effective course of action to maximise the effective use of limited resources and gain the best return on investment.”

Humans, of course, are not like hardware; they have personal needs, they have individual skills and abilities, and they have a willingness to change. We can allocate teams to tasks and offer goals and rewards, but we cannot expect a one-size-fits-all result.

The very difficult task of ensuring that the individual or team goals are lined up with the organisational strategy is further explained by Hutchinson (2013). “Performance management is most effective when it aligns individual and team contribution with organisational priorities to provide a ‘line of sight’ between what an individual does and the organisation’s goals.” To gain an understanding of the team contribution, the organisation should have a clear communication and appraisal method allowing for 360-degree feedback.

Examples of poorly aligned team/individual goals could be an IT engineer working in the canteen whilst the organisation is attempting to recruit a new IT engineer to join the IT team. An understanding of the individual or team goals and aspirations will only further support the organisation’s strategic plans. This understanding of the individual needs within the team means being aware of individual desires, conflicts and aspirations within the team. It is important that each individual feels as though they belong to a team. As Burkus (2012) explains, there are a number of ways to ensure the individual in the team is supported:

Golden rules of teams
1. Make expectations clear
2. Provide continuous feedback
3. Correct or admonish in private
4. Believe in your employees
5. Praise publicly

Individual rewards vs team rewards
Team-driven rewards are intended to foster a collaborative environment in which team members are focused on helping one another. Synthesise and critically support arguments on how a system of team rewards may be developed and how team incentives may be different from individual reward schemes.

The Business Dictionary defines the ‘team’ as “a group of individuals that come together to complete a task, job, or project.” (BusinessDictionary.com, 2018) Team members share a collective responsibility to achieve a goal, motivated to achieve through individual and collective reward. Team rewards have been popular for many years; these can take the form of monetary rewards based on team performance right through to collective rewards, for example, cinema tickets. These rewards encourage team cohesion and a vision of the current goal (Hutchinson 2013).

An individual reward differs by the simple fact that the individual, not the team, benefit from the reward. Therefore, it could be argued that an individual reward may be detrimental in a team environment.

This can be countered as Ladley, Wilkinson and Young describe in the Journal of Business Research that a “group-based evaluation and reward systems outperform individual-based or mixed reward systems for a large number of group situations. Individual-based systems outperform group and mixed systems only when individual and group interests are aligned, that is when the action that benefits an individual also benefits the group.” Each organisation needs to understand how any rewards systems will affect team morale and performance.

Therefore, performance-based rewards that are developed in a team environment must ensure that all individuals within that team understand the reward and that any individual reward is aligned with the team goals.

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