The state of teams: New research

The state of teams: New research

How much of your average work day do you spend engaging with your team (or, more likely, teams)? New research shows that team interaction accounts for over 60 percent of the average employee’s time.

This is one of the many findings in a new report by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (publishers of The Five Behaviors®) called The State of Teams (PDF). Wiley surveyed over 20,000 employees in early 2020 to investigate the dynamic nature of teams in the workplace.

Today’s teams are more complex, fluid, and dispersed

The study shows that teams are becoming more complex, more fluid, and more dispersed—and that our working lives are becoming more team-oriented than ever before.

Today’s teams are more complex:

  • Employees work on more teams with more people on a daily basis compared to just five years ago.
  • 76 percent of employees are part of at least two teams within their organization.
  • Directors and execs are often on more than five teams.

Today’s teams are more fluid:

  • 73 percent of people are on more than one type of team.
  • 62 percent are on project-based teams, most often lasting just a few months.
  • 41 percent have worked on teams with consultants and temporary contractors.

Today’s teams are more dispersed:

  • In the past year, 28 percent of respondents have worked with at least one member based in another country.
  • 51 percent have worked on teams with at least one member who collaborated virtually.

The teamwork skill gap

The changing nature of teams requires that employees possess a certain interpersonal skillset for effective teamwork, one that they can bring to any team they’re a part of. The problem, though, is that the behaviors within this skillset can be difficult to recognize, let alone adopt.

There is a critical teamwork skill gap in the workforce. This is primarily because employees see teamwork as something that comes naturally, rather than a skill they need to learn. In fact, 99 percent of respondents consider themselves good team members.

Yet when we look at Five Behaviors assessment data from 2019, we see that for the 13,000 participants, the reality of teamwork was not so rosy.

The reality of teamwork:

  • No trust: 79 percent of team members don’t acknowledge their weaknesses to each other.
  • No commitment to decisions: 55 percent of teams leave meetings without collective commitment to agreed-upon decisions.
  • No accountability for poor results: 59 percent of people say their team members don’t take personal responsibility to improve team performance moving forward.

Ineffective teamwork wastes time and money

Not only do inefficient teams and poor teammates hinder organizations’ competitiveness, but they affect productivity and workplace culture, too.

On average, employees spend about seven hours per week—almost an entire workday—dealing with the effects of poor teamwork, whether covering for someone else not pulling their weight, discussing problematic team members with others, or redoing work because of unclear objectives.

This equates to two full months a year of time. In financial terms, that’s $1 trillion dollars per year in the U.S. alone—five percent of GDP!

What’s more, inefficient teams create greater employee turnover due to lower job satisfaction:

  • 71 percent of respondents say they have been on teams where lack of trust created a toxic work environment.
  • 63 percent feel their job satisfaction would improve if their coworkers were better teammates.
  • Half of respondents say working with difficult team members causes them the most stress at work.
  • 42 percent have left jobs in the past due to bad team experiences.

Organizations must address this glaring gap in interpersonal skills to attract and maintain top talent and a competitive edge.

Employees don’t know how to grow teamwork skills

The people surveyed in this study know what a good team member looks like: an effective communicator, a willing collaborator, and a reliable and accountable worker. But how this manifests in day-to-day behaviors and habits is less clear: Should you keep your head down and focus on your own work? Should you prioritize group consensus? Research tells us that the answer to both of these questions is “no.”

The Five Behaviors model shows that successful team members:

  • trust and can be vulnerable with one another,
  • engage in healthy conflict around issues while ultimately committing to decisions, and
  • hold each other accountable.

Developing teamwork skills is worth your time

While respondents were overly confident about their own teamwork skills, they overwhelmingly agreed that teamwork skills can and should be developed at their organizations. In fact, 98 percent of managers, directors, and executives believe skill development is absolutely worth their team’s time.

And there’s no time like the present: 86 percent of respondents stated that effective teamwork is more important to their collective success now than it was just five years ago.

Successful organizations create a working environment that values and promotes the building blocks of collective teamwork and rewards high-performing teams.

Teams and COVID-19

The repercussions of COVID-19 have been vast and consequential, touching each of us and the organizations we work for. Many employees transitioned—almost overnight—from onsite employees to members of teams that work exclusively from home.

New research from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. conducted in March 2020 surveyed learners about their adjustment to virtual collaboration. The results showed that, of the organizations that recommended or mandated remote work, 22 percent of employees identified as not confident that their teams could maintain the same performance levels virtually. And 29 percent indicated they are not confident that their team members will feel personally connected as they continue to collaborate virtually.

The Five Behaviors model

The Five Behaviors® is the result of a partnership between Wiley and bestselling author Patrick Lencioni’s groundbreaking model for developing high-performing teams through five key behaviors: Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability, and Results. This powerful assessment and training tool teaches participants the critical behaviors and interpersonal skills needed to work together effectively by combining Lencioni’s teamwork model with personalized insights into one’s own priorities and personality.

The first training module on trust is possibly the most important. As reported in An Empirical Study on the Instant Adjustment to Virtual Teamwork During COVID-19:

“The replication of trust as an indispensable component for successful teamwork in situations of instant transitions is important as it underlines the need for establishing trust early on. … The results of this study indicate that it is advisable to prepare teams for nonroutine situations by establishing trust, ensuring team communication, and by preparing technology-mediated work procedures that fit the team tasks. “

Organizations have been using Lencioni’s model to improve their teams for nearly two decades. As many more teams have now become physically separated, the need for a strong foundation of teamwork and communication skills among colleagues is more important than ever before.

Learn how you can address the critical teamwork skills gap with The Five Behaviors.


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