For many of us, the way we work has changed since the start of 2020. We’ve had to adapt to the unexpected, embrace remote working, and learn to keep work going even when we’re not all in the same office space.

But among all the uncertainty, one thing has become clearer than ever: even when we’re apart, we’re all in this together. And teamwork has never been more important.

“Teamwork” as a concept is one of those great intangibles: we all know it’s a good thing, but it can be hard to measure — and hard to know how you can cultivate it.

So at the outset of 2020, we set out to learn how teams really feel about teamwork. We talked to a mix of managers and non-managers across the US and UK & Ireland to learn how their feelings about teamwork — things like whether they feel like their workplace values it, if they experience it within their own team, how it impacts the measurable output of their work — can affect team performance.

The result is The State of Teamwork 2020 Report. Read the full report to find out whether good teamwork really impacts your bottom line (spoiler alert: it does), learn which factors are the most important to focus on, and read advice and insights from industry leaders on how you can improve teamwork in your company.

Get your copy of the State of Teamwork 2020 Report!

How do you measure teamwork?

The tricky thing about teamwork is that it’s often hard to quantify. 

We’ve already looked at the two factors that have the biggest impact on hard measures of team output, such as budgets and deadlines. 

But while those hard measures are helpful — and necessary — for showing the business value of teamwork in a data-driven world, they’re only one piece of the puzzle.

Good teamwork doesn’t just impact project delivery; it impacts team happiness. And while your team’s happiness is an important goal in and of itself, it’s no surprise to hear that happier teams are also more productive teams. (Win-win!)

So to really understand the impact of teamwork, we need to look at the softer measures, too.

The soft measures of teamwork

What are the “soft measures” of teamwork?

The name might make it sound like they’re just fluff with no substance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

We found that the soft measures of team cohesion are in fact directly related to elite performance — they’re just often overlooked and under-measured, meaning their significance often gets missed.

But if you’re a business leader or HR professional trying to improve teamwork at your company, you need to start measuring the unmeasured.

We look at a few different measures in the full report, but one in particular really resonated with us. It’s probably the softest “soft measure” of all: team friendliness.

Friendly teams perform better

Teams where respondents report that they consider all of their teammates to be friends are twice as likely to report beating their deadlines. Friendlier teams are also more likely to report meeting or beating their budgets, and responded that they believe it’s getting easier for them to get work done. On the flip side, the least friendly group is over five times as likely to miss their deadlines.

Out of the whole report, this statistic really stood out to us. Because let’s be honest: as a measure of team performance, “friendliness” seems like the least businesslike, most frothy factor imaginable. 

And as a HR professional or manager, it might even raise alarm bells: how do you measure (or implement) “friendliness”? And where (and how) do you draw the line between friendliness and professionalism?

Why does team friendliness matter?

First, let’s take a guess at why friendly teams perform better.

One, friendly teams are more likely to understand how each team member likes to work in the first place. When you understand what makes people tick, and get a sense of their working rhythms, moods, and personal circumstances, you’re much more equipped to develop constructive working relationships with that person.

Two, when things do start to go off track, you’re more likely to row in to help someone you care about. Ironically, this behavior further perpetuates feelings of friendship: it’s called the Ben Franklin effect, and it basically suggests that doing a favor for someone makes you like them more than if they did a favor for you.

Making friends

The good news is that “friendly” doesn’t have to mean “BFF”, and it certainly doesn’t mean losing sight of professional boundaries.

What the importance of friendliness really highlights is the need for empathy and communication among teams. 

These are things you can measure and improve by asking teams for direct and honest feedback. Try doing your own survey with your team, using questions that help you get to the core of the matter. For example, you could ask respondents to agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • I feel listened to at work.
  • I feel comfortable speaking up in meetings.
  • I can rely on my team members.
  • If a work issue arises, there is someone I can talk to about it.
  • My ideas are taken seriously.
  • My teammates take my feedback on board.

Those are just samples, but the key thing is to root out whether your team members feel valued by their coworkers. Then, you can spot areas for improvement, and redo the survey to measure your progress in those key areas.

And similarly, while you can’t squish a team together and force them to be friends, you can invest in teamwork training and team-building. We’ve already seen the significance of teamwork training elsewhere in the research, so this only reinforces its importance — and highlights why it’s truly an investment worth making.

Want to learn more about how good teamwork affects your employees — and your business? Download your copy of the State of Teamwork 2020 Report