Team culture is important in any business
Team culture; this is a term which has, in the past often been treated as an almost ethereal concept in business; nice to have but many did not have a firm grasp of it. The fact is many now still do not have a team culture in place that helps serve their business. It is one of the common things seen in business rescue scenarios; poor team culture leading to less productive staff and less engagement overall from employees. So what is this team culture and why is it important for your business?
The Oxford Dictionary defines team culture as; “The attitudes, beliefs, and norms of a team. Team culture is concerned with how the team operates including its selection procedures and power structure; how rewards are given; acceptable behavior; and dress code. Team culture often depends on the traditions, or lack of them, of a team”. The origins of ‘team culture’ may lie in the sporting world but the term is equally relevant to the teams we create within our businesses. So in other words, within your business it is your team culture that will dictate how your employees behave, leading to how they perform for you.
One of the common symptoms of poor team culture is a high employee attrition rate. Where there is no focus on building up the team culture and environment that staff work in, most simply will not care so it is a relatively easy decision for them to leave. High staff turnover means regular expense for your business in marketing for and training new staff, and can lead to a lack of skill or experience within your employees. This of course, has implications for the level of service you are able to provide and the outward impression that your business is generating.
Another symptom of how good (or not!) your team culture is, is how employees behave when management are not around. Do you have productive staff who perform under any circumstances? Or do they need to be closely supervised to ensure the job gets done?
On the flip-side, a strong team culture has some key benefits such as; better working environment, employee satisfaction, better results, flexibility, sharing of information, and better processes. Encouraging employees to be at their best at work has a positive effect on both environment and productivity.
In a study by Peter Schroeder of the University of the Pacific, the example was used of 10 different NCAA sports teams who had previously been unsuccessful. New coaches were able to guide each team to championship levels within five years, the underlying success factor being a change in team culture. Coaches started the change by creating a core set of values for their team and working to ingrain these values. The same tactic works well for businesses; does your business have a clearly defined set of core values? What do you do to reinforce these?
Here are some key factors for building or improving on team culture;
- Develop those core values! Make sure your team knows and understands what these are and put them at the center of what they do. You may like to do exercises in team meetings, such as role plays or discussions around what behaviors model those values.
- Stick to those core values. If employees are blatantly operating outside of your core values, you need to address this swiftly and decisively. Whether this is through disciplinary action or remedial training should depend upon your code of conduct and just how far the breach has gone. Creating the expectation and having employees know exactly what could happen if they don’t follow the rules can also help to weed those out who really don’t want to be there or don’t agree with your core values.
- Be consistent. One of the top complaints of employees in businesses where poor morale is pervasive is that management appear to play favorites, and discipline and accountability are unfair or inconsistent. Make sure you treat all members of your team in the same manner and, if in doubt, see tip 2!
- Be accessible. Another top complaint of employees in low-morale environments is that they feel that managers are out of touch, communication is poor and they aren’t listened to. Create an environment that encourages feedback and allows employees to express their ideas. Another good idea is to stay in touch with what is happening in different areas of the business by spending time with them. Air New Zealand has its executives spend at least a day every year in each section of the airline (including front-line and baggage handling) so that they are in touch with the day to day realities of the job.
- Be supportive. Part of being supportive is how accessible you are as stated above, but you should also be seen to support the work of your employees, particularly where they are trying to do the right thing in difficult situations, for example, when dealing with customer complaints. This again is something complained about by employees in businesses with low morale – they often feel that they are not supported through their decisions by management.
The team culture of your business plays a huge role in whether or not you will be successful. Take the time to determine the core values of your business and figure out how you will encourage these. Be consistent and create an open, supportive environment. The rewards of productive staff who stick around are worth it for any business.