Top teamwork tips for SMEs

A recent survey has found that poor teamwork causes owners of small firms in Britain to stay late in the office, wastes valuable time and adds to employee dissatisfaction. But all this could be avoided by encouraging employees to work more effectively as a team.

The research, conducted by Microsoft UK, found that 37 per cent of the 2,200 British people taking part in the study believed that one of the main causes of time-wasting within the workplace was due to a lack of communication between team members.

Clare Barclay, director of small business, Microsoft UK, commented, ‘individual team members are hired for the value they can add to the business – but don’t neglect the team as a whole. An efficient, capable business is a team effort and employers should put procedures in place that help and encourage employees to work together for the benefit of the whole company.’

Here are some top tips on how businesses can help their employees work better together:

Match tasks to skills

It’s good sense to match your employees’ key skills to their role. You might recruit someone for their skills in one area, but if they show potential in another, offer them the opportunity to get involved in that part of the business. They will appreciate the opportunity to succeed and this will motivate them and the rest of the team.

Identify role and responsibilities

Once you’ve matched your employees to their roles it’s important they see the bigger picture. To get the best out of everyone, they should understand how their job impacts the success of the team.

Integration across job roles

There needs to be a level of ‘role integration’ within the business. For example, if your accountant needs to query an invoice, they must understand how the business works just as much as the employee needs to understand the accountant’s role. Things will flow much more smoothly if everyone is aware of their own specific tasks and those of others. Perhaps take some time with your team to discuss what they do day-to-day and where they could support each other.

Ensure information is accessible to all

To help your employees work together, it’s essential that everyone has access to important customer details. Shared information is important, as it will reduce time spent by two or more people on the same task.

Communication is key

Communication between employees at all levels is essential for effective teamwork. Small business owners should look into which tools are best for their company to achieve this. For example, if your employees are always on the move, technology exists to allow you to stay in contact, or even reply to emails when they’re not in the office.

See also: How you can inspire creativity in your small business team

Creating successful teams

Quite often creating a team to solve an organisational or business problem is seen as the best way forward. However, they can become a source of frustration and antagonism rather then promoting ideas and action.

Sean Connolly, director at business consultancy group Egremont, gives an overview of what it means to form part of a team and gives clues on how things can go wrong.

What is a team?

A shared objective and working together towrds that goal defines teamwork. Individual tasks may be carried out but the final objective should always be in sight. Try to remind your team members of the reason for the tasks you give them, so they can see how they fit into the whole project.

Improving your chances of success

A common reason for the failure of teams is the fact that the people in them don’t have the right skills for you to draw on. Try to avoid including people in the team just to make up the numbers. Sit down in advance and select the most appropriate individuals for the task in hand.

You might want to create a list of the problems that you might face and match it to the skills of your staff so you have the best people for the job.

Allocating tasks clearly

Another reason for failure is that tasks are not clearly allocated. If there is confusion over who is responsible for the different parts of the project in hand, an important aspects could be forgotten or work could be repeated.

Make sure everyone understands the purpose of the team and is aware of what is expected of them. Meet with your team to explain this and follow it up with a confirmation email.

If there is a hierarchy to your team, make sure that this is clear and agreed on to avoid any power struggles.

Managing the team

Once the project is underway, make sure that there are individual milestones in place for measuring the success of your team members. This will allow you to manage the team effectively. If someone is falling behind, you may be able to allocate another team member to the task to keep the project afloat.

Giving feedback

Lastly, it is important that you give, receive and share feedback while the project is ongoing and after it has finished. This will let your team members know how they are doing. Don’t be afraid of giving negative feedback but try to follow it with a constructive suggestion.

Adam Wayland

Adam Wayland

Adam was Editor of from 2006 to 2008 and prior to that was staff writer on sister publication BusinessXL Magazine.

Related Topics

Team building

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