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Teamwork – what is it and how can we make it more effective?

14 April 2023

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Our factsheet on teamwork written by HR expert Liz Willett gives insight into the benefits of teamwork, how to nurture a workplace culture that values teamwork, setting team objectives, the competencies teamwork should comprise and about how teams develop

Teamwork is a crucial element of any organisation, where it’s necessary for employees to work well together. Effective teamwork means being accountable and owning your responsibilities. Team members rely on each other so if one person does not own their responsibilities then the team could fail. Therefore, time needs to be spent developing a collaborative environment that nurtures trust and accountability.

Benefits of effective teamwork

1. Improves employee retention. If employees feel like they are engaged with their practice’s goals, they tend to stay. Low staff turnover, in turn, helps keep recruitment costs down.

2. Improves patient safety. If employees feel comfortable within their team, they feel able to ask for help and support and this can have a positive impact on patient safety.

3. Increased employee morale and wellbeing. Individuals who feel like they have contributed to the practice’s goals feel appreciated and this can result in higher performance.

Creating a collaborative work environment

What do GP practices need to do to achieve this kind of working environment and start to benefit from it?

  • Adopt openness and transparency. Building accountability and trust within the team encourages higher productivity. Acknowledging individuals’ contributions also encourages them participation in future practice goals.
  • Encourage idea sharing. This helps individuals to learn and also helps enable change. Sharing ideas also helps  employees feel valued because their opinions are listened to.
  • Identify individuals’ strengths. Being aware of individual team members’ strengths and exactly what motivates them encourages greater productivity and the building of skills. Delegating work based on these strengths sets up a team for success. Employees also feel engaged and valued when they know their leaders recognise what tasks they can succeed in.
  • Clarify the goals and expectations. Setting goals ensures everyone is on the same page and support the success of the team. Also, when each team member knows and understands their responsibilities – as well as the responsibilities of the rest of the team – they are less likely to feel work has been unfairly distributed.
  • Proper delegation of tasks. Delegation empowers the team, builds trust and assists professional development. It also helps the leaders identify the tasks best suited to each team member.
Setting team objectives

When establishing a team, it is important set objectives so you can draw up a plan of action for the organisation. Objectives ensure that expectations are clear, fair and consistent. Using the SMART technique when setting and agreeing team objectives can be effective. This is:

Specific – Is the objective is clear and unambiguous?

Measurable – Can success metrics can be assigned to it?

Achievable – Is the objective realistically achievable in the time frame and with the resources available?

Relevant – Is it relevant to what the organisation needs to achieve?

Timebound – it’s important that an objective has a date to be completed.

Competencies to use for Teamwork

It is important that managers are able to describe what good teamwork looks like and give team members feedback on the areas they perform well in and where they need to improve.  A competency model of performance is useful not just for describing what you are aiming for but also the attitudes and behaviours that accompany good teamwork.

You can use this model to have a discussion to agree goals and establish your practice values.

For example, you may want your team to focus on communication so you might break this down  as comprising:

Knowledge – examples include how to use email, messaging, the telephone system, the practice’s services, understanding who is responsible for what, how different teams and people work together, whether others have difficulty with specific forms of communication (if they are hearing impaired, vision impaired and so forth)

Skills – listening, having empathy, being able to summarise and keep to the point, able to tailor communication methods to different circumstances, being adaptable to others’ needs

Behaviours – being polite, open to feedback, being respectful of other’s pressures and boundaries, and valuing diversity.

You can also use the above model when recruiting and inducting new employees.  You might want to think about:

  • What teamwork is required to deliver a great service to patients?  (How well does it work?  Where/how can we improve it?)
  • What behaviours and attitudes do we look for in a great colleague?
  • Are our job descriptions up to date and accurate?
  • Does our induction and probation plan ensure that any problems with individuals’ teamwork skills are picked up early?
Team development and Tuckman’s model

If teamwork is to help organisations be more efficient, effective team development is crucial. When employees are given opportunities to build rapport and trust, collaborative working is strengthened.  

With this in mind, the Tuckman model (1965), (see chart below) suggests all teams go through five stages of development. This model is important to note as it acknowledges that teams do not start off as a fully formed entity. They are also fluid, so they can progress and slip back a stage.

Top tips for motivating a team

1.Communicate – high quality communication is key; having shared goals and being able to discuss them will have a positive impact on teams.

2. Acknowledge and recognise achievements – a gesture as simple as a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ can really build people’s confidence, leading to a happier and more productive team.

3.Offer opportunities to develop – this can improve engagement and job satisfaction as individuals will feel valued and want to perform well for the organisation.

Written by Liz Willett Chartered MCIPD, Head of Business Partnership at Kraft HR Consulting Ltd