From Silicon Valley to South Australia, the power of a unified workforce and supportive team culture is widely known. When managers encourage collaboration, open communication and innovation, staff are more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to their team. As teams continue to become increasingly diverse, dispersed, digital and dynamic, it’s now more important than ever that companies and leaders invest in teamwork initiatives.
Below, we take a look at how some of the largest and most innovative companies of the last decade promote teamwork and empower their staff.
1. Configure offices to encourage collaboration
In 1999, Steve Jobs was the CEO of Pixar. Long before open concept offices were commonplace, Jobs transformed the office space which consisted of cubicle farms divided into different disciplines. Animators were in one building, computer scientists in a second, administration staff in a third. Realising the potential of an open floor plan, Jobs brought in a designer to change the layout. They created a huge central atrium with gathering spaces, theatres and break rooms so that people from each discipline would mingle and form collaborative groups. It worked. Pixar’s chief creative officer credited the space for the rise in creativity and collaboration in the company.
Opening up silos and allowing staff to share ideas across disciplines is a hallmark of startups, and it certainly seems to help the innovation and agility of a company by encouraging teamwork. Bear in mind, though, that if you’re working in an industry that requires long periods of solo concentration, an open office might be impeding your staff’s ability to produce. In this case, consider incorporating some private spaces but maintain shared spaces too.
2. Reward displays of teamwork and camaraderie
At PepsiCo, 40% of an employee’s annual bonus is based not on their own KPIs, but on how well they’ve helped other promising employees improve their own careers. It’s a great example of a company using personal rewards to encourage teamwork.
To foster this level of support, encourage knowledge sharing among team members, build in shared processes and responsibilities, and offer rewards for collaborative problem solving. Variety in incentives is important, and not every reward needs to be financial - singling out an employee for praise in front of their peers can be an equally effective form of recognition. People like to know that they’ve been noticed and appreciated, and a sincere note of thanks or a public statement of appreciation can go a long way.
3. Flatten the team hierarchy
At startup publishing company Medium, one of the key tenets has been to distribute decision-making power and discourage consensus seeking. Their approach meant that even the newest intern could feel comfortable taking an idea to the CEO and ideas flowed freely throughout the company.
Your company may have a more formal hierarchy, but consider flattening that out within your own team. As a manager, keep an open door, emphasise collaboration and make sure everyone feels as if they’re in it together. As well as fostering innovation, you’ll promote engagement within your team, ensuring that everyone does their best.
4. Unite dispersed teams through technology
British Airways began using workplace social network Yammer to unite the workforce, encourage staff engagement and sharing of ideas. It was particularly successful for the airline, who previously hadn’t had a process in place for employee knowledge sharing. Yammer facilitated spontaneous conversations, sparking innovative ideas that helped the company improve customer service and operate more efficiently.
For companies with offices across continents or frequently travelling teams, leaders must pay particular attention to company culture and teamwork. Platforms like Yammer, Workplace by Facebook and Chatter by Salesforce facilitate open discussion and innovation when a team, group of teams or entire company can’t be in the same place.
How does your company facilitate collaboration and innovation through great teamwork?
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Entrepreneur, Office Snapshots, First Round Review, Fortune, Forbes, HelpScout, Microsoft.