How to Promote Teamwork and Boost Productivity

 Finding the right employees for an organization is a big challenge these days. The talent pool of quality candidates is limited, and it's impossible to know ahead of time if the person you decide to hire will ultimately prove to be the "right fit."

job site teamwork 40751650 m v2How much more difficult is it, then, to bring individual employees together and transform them into an efficient, high-performing team? While business owners unanimously agree on the value of teamwork within the company, they're sometimes mystified as to how to achieve this elusive goal.

At Baillie Lumber, we work hard to promote teamwork, recognizing it’s the best way to harness the talents and experience of our employees. From green hardwood lumber buyers and kiln drying supervisors to our lumber sales team and service personnel, teamwork is essential. We know from experience that achieving the goal of superior teamwork is a continual work in progress. Here are some guidelines we have found help us reach our goals.

It starts with hiring the right people. It's no longer enough to bring on new hires solely for the individual skills they possess. You're also looking for men and women who are temperamentally inclined to work as part of a team. Incorporate questions in the interview process designed to offer insight into an individual's past history of teamwork, involvement in large-scale projects with co-workers, etc. Military veterans, academic group leaders and prior competitive athletes possess many of these skills.

Give the team clear-cut goals and ground rules. The success of turning a group of individuals into a cohesive team depends on establishing clear-cut objectives for them to work towards. This can be framed as a "team mission," where you draw a clear line between the company's strategic vision and the work you want the team to do. Employees will work harder (and function better as a team) if they understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's long-term growth. We have found this to be extremely effective in the sawmill environment when properly processed hardwood lumber needs everyone to be focused on the same goal. From the forester buying standing timber, to the sawyer maximizing the value of each log through the headrig, to the lumber handler working at the end of the chain, everyone needs to be working towards a common goal.

Keep the lines of communications open. Maintaining respectful communications--and providing information a team needs to do its job--is absolutely essential for promoting teamwork and productivity. A manager should ensure that each team member receives key emails and any other forms of information. It is also important that there's a clear procedure for having questions answered and communicated effectively, so that everyone remains on the same page.

Give the team the chance to solve a big problem. Start with small objectives, but ideally you want to move towards enlisting the team's efforts to solve a major organizational problem or challenge. After all, a cohesive group of smart, talented individuals is a resource too valuable to waste. Look for operational roadblocks or some obstacle standing in the way of enhanced customer service and let the team loose to work on the issue. Again, offering some basic guidelines is fine, but giving the team enough latitude to operate on its own can result in unexpected (and highly welcome) solutions.

Celebrate and have fun. Being part of a team can (and should) be fun, as well as productive. Look for opportunities, both on-site and off-site, to encourage team-building activities. When employees gather in a more informal setting--be it attending a baseball game or engaging in friendly competition in a bowling alley--a sense of camaraderie emerges and bonds are formed. These emotional connections help solidify the sense of everyone "being in this together."

And when your organization achieves your goal be sure to celebrate! That is one step many organizations forget to do.

With the right employees and strong leadership in place, assembling a high-functioning team can make a huge difference in day-to-day productivity within your company.

If you have other suggestions please let us know!

Tony Cimorelli
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