In an organization, employees’ performance is very vital because it affects the output of the organization. Teamwork is an important ingredient of high performance in an organization (Baker 1999). Over the years, it has been believed that teamwork intensifies the work performance of employees in an organization. Researchers differ in their views about what the term ‘teamwork’ means due to existence of various working conditions in organizations, and different levels of autonomy in teams. In organizations, there exist different types of teams such as virtual teams, quality circles, self-managing teams and cross-functional teams. It is obvious that different types of teams operate differently. For example, a team of experts from different departments of a capital-intensive organization functions differently compared to a group of manual labourers from an organization, which operates in a labour intensive industry/sector.
Nonetheless, from the proposed definition of what is a team, it is possible to understand the meaning of the term ‘teamwork’. According to Delarue, a team is “a group of employees who have at least some collective tasks and where the team members are authorized to regulate mutually the execution of these collective tasks” (2003). From the definition, it is clear that one of the features of teamwork is collective work actions towards achievement of a common goal. From the employees’ point of view, teamwork is any form of collaboration, where decisions of various courses of action are jointly made, and efforts are directed towards achievement of a common goal and cooperation of employees in undertaking different organizational activities (Baker 1999).
Studies, conducted by specialists in different fields of management, indicate that in organizations, teamwork is usually expected to result into improved performance and increased employees’ well-being (Teamwork and High Performance Organizations 2007, p.7). Actually, this is true and it happens whenever members of a work team are given autonomous decision-making powers as well as full responsibilities, concerning execution of a given task. While working in a team, where there are autonomous powers in decision-making as well as autonomous responsibilities, employees feel motivated and their interests towards their jobs increase (Bacon & Blyton 2005). These in return strengthen their work performance not only in the specific assignment but also in the context of organizational activities as a whole.
Teamwork has also been found to intensify employees’ work performance because it reduces work-related stress among the employees (Bacon & Blyton 2005). While working in a team, every member contributes his/her knowledge towards execution of a specific assignment. Therefore, while an employee is not good in one aspect of the given task, the other employees supplement his/her weak point. If such an employee was to execute the group assignment individually, he/she is likely to experience work-related stress as he/she tries to figure out to perform the specific aspects of the task that he/she is not good or talented. However, this does not happen because team members contribute their various expertises towards achievement of a common goal in the assigned task. This way, the performance of every employee in the team intensifies because the collective efforts and expertises provide assurance that the ultimate goal(s) of the assigned task will be achieved.
Besides, team members spend less time incapacitated for work, when they encounter a problem. This is because, in a team setting, it is easy to come up with new ideas and methods of improving a given area of work compared to individual setting (Frobel & Marchington 2005). This also contributes to intensification of employees’ work performance because the members are assured of timely completion and achievement of the goals of their assigned task.
According to a survey, conducted in the year 2007 by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, it was found that teamwork intensified employees’ work performance, when greater autonomy was present in a team. In the study, organizations in fifteen members of the European Union were examined, where the degrees of autonomy in decision-making were assessed. Here, autonomy of individual team members to take part in decision-making process in relations to tasks, organizing working time, assessing the quality of one’s work, and working methods was assessed.
The results of the study indicated that where greater decision-making autonomy in the aforementioned areas was present, employees indicated greater performance. In Austria, Finland and the UK, where employees had greater decision-making autonomy in their teams, the level of employees’ performance was higher by 13 percentage points compare to the performance of employees in Germany, Sweden, Portugal, France, and Netherlands, where employees had relatively lower levels of decision-making autonomy in their work groups (Teamwork and High Performance Work Organizations 2007). This study provides clear evidence that teamwork intensifies employees’ work performance, where relatively higher degree of decision-making autonomy is present.
It is believed that a positive correlation exists between teamwork and job satisfaction. That is teamwork results into increased job satisfaction among employees. Theorists of teamwork believe that teamwork is valuable to employees, when team members relate well with each other, and work together towards achievement of a common goal. According to Frobel and Marchington (2005), a team empowers and develops autonomy of its members, which are important sources of job satisfaction of employees. Frobel and Marchington refer to the Herzberg’s theory, which provides that there are two classes of factors, which influence job satisfaction: satisfactors and dissatisfactors. The satisfactors are those factors, which correspond with an employee’s need to develop or advance his/her career and personality. On the other hand, dissatisfactors are those factors that correspond with working conditions, amount of remuneration, and management style.
In the 2007 study by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, it was found that 85 percent of employees working in teams in all the fifteen countries were satisfied with their jobs. This implies that the work teams of these employees enabled them to achieve their career and personality development needs, and the working conditions, management style and remuneration were satisfactory. Due to the high level of job satisfaction among the employees, working in team in the selected fifteen countries, it was found out that their work performance was higher with 24 percentage points that the performance of the employees who had no working teams. The results of this study again proved that teamwork intensifies employees’ work performance.
According to Delarue et al. (2003), in the modern era of globalization, many organizations both in the public and the private sector are searching for work methods and concepts to help them meet the increased demand for efficiency in production of goods and in delivery of services. The old structures are no longer effective as the global demand for efficiency continues to increase. In this context, teamwork has become a universal concept in the current management practices. Nowadays, business organizations are adopting management concepts such as lean production, human resource management, and business process reengineering, which all require team-based work approach. Delarue and colleagues state that the increased adoption of the managerial concepts, which require team-based work approach is due to the increased association of teamwork and productivity (2003).
Upon reviewing various studies, Delarue found that work teams played a great role in strengthening the productivity of their members. They, therefore, decided to undertake a study to determine how the team structure relates to the performance of the employees. In their study, Delarue and colleagues examined 113 organizations from the public and private sectors. 54.9 percent of the organizations applied teamwork with no form of restriction. 73.1 percent of these organizations practiced autonomy, where team members were responsible for making decisions concerning the methods to use in undertaking the assigned tasks as well as preparing and supporting actions of their own activities. In addition, 78.7 percent of the teams had team leaders, who were a working member of their teams. The rest of the team had leaders who were not working members of their groups.
Upon evaluating the employees’ performance in these organizations, Delarue and colleagues (2003) found that generally, organization that utilized team-based work approach had high performance levels among their employees compared to organization, which utilized individual-based work approach. This implies employees’ productivity in organizations that utilize teamwork was higher than in organization that do not utilize teamwork. However, in organizations, where high levels of autonomy in decision-making and execution of group activities were high, employees depicted higher levels of performance. In such organizations, employees were found to be more satisfied with their jobs. This is because by working in teams, they were able to meet their needs, which entail development or advancement of their careers and personalities. Besides, they were satisfied by the management style present in their groups (team leader, who is a working team member), working conditions (the autonomy aspect), and remuneration. The results of this study are consistent with the result of the previously mentioned study by the European Foundation for Improvement of Living and working Conditions. It is, therefore, clear that teamwork intensifies the work performance of employees in an organization.
From the aforementioned studies, it is clear that for teamwork to intensify the performance of employees in an organization, some aspects about working of teams must be met. Therefore, for an organization manager to be able to build high performing teams, where team members not only do their work but also do it well, while supporting and respecting one another, he/she must work towards fostering teamwork as well as collaboration of all organizational members (Teamwork Tips for Managers 2005). Fostering teamwork entails selecting and placing the right people for the right job roles. This means that all organizational members should have the right skills for their jobs. This allows easy formation of teams. However, if some members of a team do not possess the right skills to perform their jobs, skills gaps exist in teams, therefore, making it difficult for the team to execute its activities effectively. Presence of the right mix of employees in a team helps a team to thrive, thus, intensifying the performance of individual employee in a team.
Fostering teamwork also entails taking time to know the needs, interest, and values of every individual in a team (Teamwork Tips for Managers 2005). This is a responsibility of organization managers as well as the individual employees. This allows relaxation of working environment, which also contributes to strengthening of employees’ work performance. Team members can also foster teamwork by collectively agreeing on the goals and objectives of their teams. A team’s goals and objectives should be in line with the overall goals and objectives of their organization. Collective goal setting allows team members to recognize and understand the importance of their contributions to the success of their organization (West 2012). Besides, employees can foster teamwork by focusing on people’s strengths in executing teamwork. That is, every team member works on a specific activity, which utilizes his/her skills and talents.
Successful teams, which are associated with intensification of employees’ work performance, ensure that ground rules are always set before commencement of an activity. This involves making sure that the team agrees on how and when decisions will be made and who will report to whom. A successful team also ensures that tasks and individual roles are clearly defined. This entails deciding how tasks will be shared and by whom, who will attend which meetings, and who will be responsible for what? Intensification of employees’ work performance in teamwork also entails practicing fairness, constant feedback among team members, and rewarding team efforts as well as efforts of individual team members.
Teamwork entails collective execution of tasks by a group of employees, where all members of the group mutually regulate the execution of their group’s tasks. Studies indicate that teamwork intensifies work performance of employees, when team members are given autonomy to make decisions, concerning their group’s activities as well as full responsibility of executing the assigned task(s). This increases the interest of employees’ towards performing their jobs, which in return strengthens their work performance. Teamwork also contributes to intensification of work performance of employees because it helps in reduction of work-related stress. Presence of collective efforts, expertises, and skills provides team members with assurance that the assigned task will be effectively completed, hence, reducing work-related stress. Besides, teamwork helps employees to spend less time in incapacitated work due to the collaborative nature of teamwork in deciding the best courses of actions. Moreover, teamwork results into greater job satisfaction, which directly affects the performance of employees in an organization. The effectiveness of a team towards intensifying employees’ work performance depends on organizations’ managers and employees’ contributions towards fostering teamwork in their organizations.