The latest review of our ongoing teamwork survey’s data shows the effect that the last decade, with its backdrop of global recession and increased use of ‘social’ technologies, has had on teams.
Most organizations have changed significantly in that time and have needed to realign their business objectives. Companies are having to do more with less and are calling on teams to operate outside of their usual sphere of operation. Some of this seems to have been lost in translation to the front line: the proportion of people that truly understand the purpose of their team has declined steadily.
When we are busy, we make less time to sit back and look at how the team is performing. While this approach may get the job done, it can affect long-term growth. If ignored, it can lead to stagnation and lack of innovation within an organization. We suspect that people are just getting on with it, without questioning what the ‘it’ is.
The data also shows that there has been a progressive decrease in the number of people that are clear about the objectives of their team, while at the same time, the size of teams has decreased by an average of two people.
This does not seem to have affected how people feel about working together – teams self-rating their teamwork as excellent has shown some improvement, probably because a reduction in numbers means everyone is having to work harder. More team members now state that they see their manager often enough. The increased availability and adoption of communications technologies which allow informal contact and rapid responses has almost certainly helped in this regard.
Some areas have seen little change over the last decade. The number of people within teams who think things are very wrong is around 5% and this has remained consistent. There will always be some within a team who are less engaged than others, yet HR practitioners and team managers could do well to use this as a benchmark to establish just how engaged their team members are.
Key data from the survey includes:
- Team purpose is less clear for many. Only a third of people in large companies truly understand the purpose of the teams they work in, a proportion that has seen a steady decrease since the start of the decade.
- People are doing more with less. The average size of team that people work on has steadily reduced since 2010 from an average of 12.73 to an average of 10.6 – a full two people less to deliver with.
- People are happier that the right mix of people are on their teams. It is likely that the tightening of financial belts has generally meant that the right people are on teams to help them achieve their purpose – we can’t carry any passengers, and no-one wants to lose valuable resource.
- People on teams are working better together. There will always be some who think things are very wrong. Survey data suggests that this remains constant – usually less than 5% (scoring their team just one out of five).
- Managers are more accessible. The percentage of people stating that they saw their manager often enough has steadily increased from 14% in 1999 to 29% in 2013 – probably thanks to the increased availability of tools that allow questions to be answered quickly and informally.
- Share your experience: what changes have you seen over the past decade? Do these results resonate with your own experience?
- Find out about benchmarking your own teams performance
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