The two factors that influence team output more than anything else
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.
The data behind teamwork
When we started looking into the state of teamwork in 2020, we wanted to uncover how something that’s often seen as light and frothy (“go team!”) can have real, tangible effects on your business.
As a manager, it’s important to make data-driven decisions, and for that, you need to have the numbers.
So we wanted to drill down into “hard measures” of team performance and outputs, to see whether teams that reported higher feelings of teamwork also reported higher success rates on their projects.
The two factors with the biggest impact
To understand the impact of teamworking, we used criteria such as staying within budget and delivering projects on time as our “hard measures” of success.
Then, we looked at that data in relation to things like:
The technology teams use to communicate with each other
The data-driven measures they use to evaluate their output
How often they interact with each other
Whether their organization conducts regular training dedicated to teamwork
What we found is that two of those factors had more of an influence on team performance against budget and deadlines than all of the others combined: interaction frequency and training dedicated to improving teamwork.
Factor #1: Interaction frequency
Finding the sweet spot for interaction frequency for your team is essential. We found that for teams who are delivering on time and on budget, there’s little difference in whether they communicate daily or hourly.
But for teams who are struggling? There was a noticeable jump to hourly communication.
Whether hourly communication is a cause of projects going wrong or a symptom of it remains unclear, but it makes one thing very apparent: an unexpected increase in communication is a good indication that you need to step back and take a good look at the big picture to make sure everything is on track.
Factor #2: Teamwork training
Our research also found that businesses that invested in teamwork training saw significant benefits.
What is “teamwork training”? We defined it as things like workshops, team building days, and other events or ongoing work that helps to bring teams together and build relationships.
Teamwork training had the biggest impact on missing deadlines, with those who reported missing deadlines being twice as likely to say their organization did no dedicated teamwork training.
On the other hand, teams that report meeting or beating their deadlines were six times more likely to report that their company does lots of dedicated teamwork training.
But we also found that teamwork training seems to be an all or nothing deal. Doing it every now and then — once-a-year company get-togethers, for example, or reactive workshops to try and bring teams together only after problems have cropped up — doesn’t lead to the same performance gains.
Is investing in teamwork really worth it?
What does all of this mean for you and your team?
As a manager, it’s a clear signal that team cohesion is worth the effort, but — as with most positive cultural factors — it requires regular reinforcement through consistent behaviours to actually be effective. Whether that’s through teamwork training or defining communication best practices, you need to invest in processes and relationships that bring your team together.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be costly, but you do have to be committed to it. Our results indicate that investing little and often — whether that’s time, money, or both — is more likely to drive higher performance.