Why Is Focusing On Team Building So Critical to Organisational Success?

In the 2015 – 2016 season of the Premier League, a little-known football team from the East Midlands went on to win the beautiful game’s most prestigious prize – the league title. With no super star names in their squad, a new manager that the fans were sceptical of, and a close encounter with possible relegation the season before, the Foxes stunned everyone by defying the odds (5000 to 1) to clinch the trophy and go down as the biggest longshot championship in sports history. But how did this small-market club beat everyone’s expectations and raise their game to attain the highest level of success? In its simplest terms – teamwork. The club’s manager, Claudio Ranieri, went to great lengths to establish a robust sense of unity and cohesion amongst the team that drove their collective performance to an unstoppable level. In short, he introduced measures that guaranteed the sum total would consistently be greater than the individual parts.

This example from the sports domain is equally relatable to the business world. The loftiest achievements can be attained, and the most formidable obstacles can be overcome if a team is united in the pursuit of a common goal and works harmoniously together to achieve it. By helping employees to understand their role and value within the company, along with that of their teammates, and by creating the right conditions for establishing trust, respect, open communication, and effective collaboration, organisations can achieve astronomical gains across all metrics and realise their largest and most challenging of goals.

The pivotal role that teamwork plays in any organisation can therefore not be stated highly enough. As Andrew Carnegie rightly said, “…It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” By taking time to properly invest in team building, you can expect to see the following benefits returned:

Increase Employee Engagement
It is not enough to simply retain your best employees; the people who work with you need to enjoy their job, feel a sense of connectedness to the business, and have great pride in the organisation. According to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace Report, engaged employees:

  • Are 17 percent more productive
  • Have 41 percent lower absenteeism
  • Have 10 percent higher customer satisfaction metrics than their less engaged counterparts
  • Earn up to 2.5 times more income than competitors whose employees have a low engagement level
  • Are 87% less likely to leave a company than employees with a low engagement level.
  • And companies with engaged employees outperform competitors with less engaged teams by an incredible 202 percent.

Clearly, if you want your business to succeed, you need to keep employee engagement high. And what is one of the best ways to drive engagement? Team building.

When you invest in team building, your employees can not only get to know and understand their fellow team members, but also understand how and where they fit within that team. This can make employees feel more a part of a team and more confident and secure in their roles—which, in turn, can make them feel more engaged with their work. Creating the right circumstances for team bonding can enhance relationships and facilitate the flourishing of friendships. Research has proven that having a friend at work can boost one’s engagement by 50%, and they will become 7 times more engaged in their work. It is also significant determining factor in the decision to remain with an employer.

Team building can also drive employee motivation—which, in turn, further drives engagement. As teams grow stronger through team building, not only do they perform at a higher level, but because they feel more connected to their team members, they also enjoy the work more. And when employees are getting things done—and having a good time doing it, they feel more committed to the workplace and more driven to succeed.

Builds Trust
Trust and respect are essential components to any relationship. In the modern workplace, for individuals and teams to work well together, there has to be a mutual level of trust present – an unflinching belief that if something gets missed, someone else will identify it; if a mistake is made, there will be no accusations, blame or recriminations; a deep-seated understanding that your colleagues have your back, no matter what. Trust also allows for more autonomy and self-governance in the workplace, empowering individuals to fulfil tasks, make decisions, and exercise initiative whilst remaining aligned in the pursuit of a common vision.

When employees trust and rely on each other, they operate with a greater sense of freedom which leads to better results. The very presence of trust makes people feel safe, which allows them to be more open and honest with their own capabilities and limitations. This, in turn, allows for greater team support on projects and better apportioning of tasks based on an individual’s strength areas. Feeling safe also encourages a culture of greater risk taking, more innovative and creative thinking, listening to one another to understand, and democratic decision-making. The outcome of which is a more streamlined and efficient operation, that people want to be part of.

Trust is equally important in the manager to employee relationship, too. Leaders can therefore improve employee engagement by setting individual and company goals in collaboration with employees, being transparent about company progress and conveying the type of company culture that everyone is striving to create.

Improves Communication and Collaboration
Communication is the lifeblood of any organisation. Done well, it can galvanise a team, drive growth and return a healthy bottom line. Done poorly, it can be costly, painful, and deleterious for the company – as evidenced with the BP oil spill in 2010, the VW emissions scandal of 2015, or the KFC Coupon Riots of 2009. It is estimated that over 86% of all workplace failures can be attributed to ineffective communication.

When team spirt is high and connectedness is tight amongst a group, communication is regular, free-flowing, and transparent. Misunderstandings are minimised, action without complete information is avoided, and conflict is successfully navigated. Effective communication allows for a clearer understanding of one another’s role, and how best each person can impart value. On both project work and daily operations, frank conversations on both process and progress can be had, working out where improvements and efficiency gains can be made, without causing offense to those involved.

It is important to recognise though that not every employee communicates the same way. Teams therefore need to practice and make deliberate efforts to better understand what communication style works with each individual. One way of accomplishing this is simply spending time in each other’s company, focused on pursuits that aren’t necessarily work related. According to researchers at MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, “Conversations outside of formal meetings are the most important factor that contributes to team success.” Socialisation between team members has been proven to improve communication patterns by 50%. By opening up, people learn more about one another, find commonality, discover how each other likes to work and communicate, and breaks down the walls of mistrust. Socializing with co-workers leads to shared reference points and allows bonding to happen organically.

Spending time together and learning to communicate more effectively has been proven to drive more effective collaboration, too. This is about knowing who has what knowledge and resources, how to best access other people’s ideas and experience, and where to go for support and advice. Collaborating together also helps to lift the clouds of confusion, as everyone pools knowledge and understanding of the situation in hand, before working together to break the project into manageable tasks and an even distribution of work. This way, team members can fill any voids that exist and uniformly contribute as per their skills and interests, producing better results as they go.

Improve productivity and problem-solving
An unavoidable outcome of strong teamwork is the increase in productivity that is noticed over time. With closer relations and a greater sense of what each person does, during times of peak activity workloads can better be shared amongst team members and output can remain consistent. Individuals are more likely to use colleagues as sounding boards for ideas, seek advice or ask for input on issues and challenges they might be facing. In addition, working together on a common-goal results in decreased duplication of work, less friction and resistance with moving projects forward, and better overall output from each staff member.

Resolves Conflicts
Conflict amongst team members can cause productivity levels to decline quickly, escalating to the point of impasse. Conflict isn’t always a bad thing though. It’s how its handled and what the intention of the involved parties are that determines whether it is negative and destructive, or positive and constructive. Disagreements and opposing viewpoints are a natural part of life. If managed properly, conflict can be a source of valuable new ideas and outcomes. The key to resolving conflict is to create an open and respectful environment where people feel secure to share ideas and perspectives, without judgement, and to receive ideas without prejudice or resentment.

It’s also important to acknowledge that, over time, as relationships strengthen, the frequency and severity of conflicts naturally decrease. Team building helps employees better understand their network of resources, appreciate how their colleagues operate, and feel comfortable and confident airing grievances or taking opposing stances on a topic, respectfully. If there is an internal issue, individuals are better equipped with the skills needed to resolve it without outside counsel intervening.
(See also Internal Conflict Resolution eBook)

Facilitates long-term growth
Retention of an organisation’s best people is fundamental to future growth and success. High turnover is costly and diverts money, time and resources away from key business areas and into a constant cycle of recruitment and training, preventing the organisation from pursuing other growth opportunities. The disruption of constant mobility within the workforce is disorientating and spreads discontent quickly, negatively affecting the internal culture and encouraging other employees to look elsewhere for work. The result is a team of non-engaged or actively disengaged employees, few qualified leaders, critical knowledge seeping out of the business, wasted resources and unnecessary expenses. This can, however, all be avoided by investing in your team and helping them to feel united and with a feeling of belonging. The more time spent deliberately engaging team members and encouraging a collective notion of togetherness will result in higher retention, greater loyalty, and makes it considerably easier to future-plan and future-proof the business.

Fosters Creativity and Learning
Another symptom of a healthy internal culture is that employees get to discover and learn new skills and knowledge from each other (like communication, leadership, or technical capabilities) and allow latent or dormant skills to come to the fore, as colleagues seek help for projects they are working on.  Research shows that employees who get to use their strengths at work every day are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit. Getting to know more about your employees through team activities can help you uncover hidden talents and tap into super strengths.

A successful team building drive will assist employees to develop new ideas, work on innovations, and build on each other’s talents and contributions, too. The old adage of two heads being better than one has never been truer, and through a concerted effort to develop stronger relationships amongst the team, an often-unintended product of this is to discover solutions to issues that hadn’t even been recognised. The coming together of diverse backgrounds and perspectives allows for cross pollination of ideas and the use of imagination in the workplace.

Many of the world’s largest and most forward-thinking companies understand that creativity can boost a company’ bottom line. Google, 3M, Gore Associates all allow time for employees to experiment away from their day job on new ideas and products. Such ‘company creativity time’ has led to some of the most successful products, including Post It Notes and Gmail. Team building thus improves creativity and encourages out of the box thinking, with new ideas representing a serious USP for many businesses.

Improve Culture and Retention
Today’s workforce places a high emphasis on company culture. They want to work for a company they feel proud of. Concerted efforts to drive and shape team building help establish a corporate culture where people want to come to work and enjoy their time whilst there. An enthusiastic workforce who feel they are cared for will demonstrate a positive attitude and the right energy in everything they do, perpetuating an environment that is fun to work in. When employees look forward to going into work, they are more likely to stay, reducing recruitment and onboarding costs. Businesses with a healthy internal culture also attract other potential employees.

Another benefit of teams getting along is the reduction in workplace stress, making more grey matter available to commit to projects and tasks. The bottom line is that feeling supported and secure contributes to positive mental health, which is critical for high performing teams.

Identify and Develop Leadership Skills
Identifying and developing future leaders is essential to long term business growth. Cultivating leaders from within is less expensive and carries significantly less risk. A concentrated commitment to team building can therefore facilitate better succession planning and clear team advancement without adding additional costs or the natural friction and lost productivity that comes from hiring outside of the organisation. As teams work closely on projects and day-to-day tasks, opportunities for natural leaders to shine will occur, whilst enabling others to observe and develop the critical skills needed for more senior positions (such as strategic thinking, problem solving and decision making).

Business owners can observe the type of leadership style someone naturally displays, allowing them to better match future leaders to the right position, and coach and mentor them to develop their capabilities and plug their skill gaps. Witnessing the advancement of peers and colleagues up the corporate ladder sends a hugely positive signal to the rest of the workforce, indicating that the organisation wants to invest in their people and provide a future for those interested.

Team building is the most important investment an organisation will ever make. When teams work together, creativity and innovation take root and flourish. Employees communicate and collaborate more. Performance and efficiency rockets skywards. Conflict and misunderstandings are either mitigated or altogether avoided. Motivation and engagement soar. Team retention becomes a point of pride and new recruits naturally gravitate towards a company with a reputation for a well-adjusted and positive workplace culture. Ultimately the bottom line grows healthier and healthier, and the business goes from strength to strength. To quote Henry Ford, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself”.


If team building and the development of your organisation’s internal culture is an area of interest to you, Dale Carnegie can help. Our new Team Building in a Hybrid World programme is specifically designed to equip organisations with the tools and techniques needed to help them do this. Drawing from over 100 years of experience and expertise in the field of human relations and social intelligence, this comprehensive new programme will help companies of all sizes and in all industries to reconnect with their people and reunite their teams behind a common purpose. By re-establishing a sense of shared culture, reigniting collective passion for the job, and fostering deeper camaraderie between colleagues, we help to create a psychologically safe environment where everyone is pulling together in the same direction, and working productively side-by-side. Click here to learn more about our Team Building solutions.

Pete Burbidge is the General Manager for Dale Carnegie London.