Promote teamwork

Promoting teamwork despite Work Smart

Under the Work Smart programme, line managers and team-members will not see each other for some weeks in certain cases. Two experts explain what can be done to maintain a sense of team spirit.

Jörg Rothweiler, 16

"Work Smart" offers a great many advantages, but it also provides us with challenges. Such as the issue concerning how we can possibly work as part of a team, if the members of that team are working in geographically separate locations and operating a system of flexible working hours. Dr. Hans Werner, Chief Personnel Officer at Swisscom, believes that the key to success lies in a "consistent and reflective culture consisting of openness, trust and honest feedback." It is essential that (any flexibility in) the scope for each task and the necessary parameters are communicated in unequivocal terms. These must not, however, be imposed upon the workforce by those in management, but should be developed within the team itself. "The rules of Work Smart must apply to everyone. They are based upon performance targets and a distribution of roles – and those are highly individual and can only be developed from within the team itself," said Werner. If the roles are distributed in accordance with the individual strengths of team-members, it will be easier for each member to perform at his or her best. "This creates satisfaction and motivation instead of frustration and the team will pull together and become more efficient."

Utilising the team as the source

Dr. Johann Weichbrodt, an organisational psychologist and member of the academic staff of the Department of Applied Psychology of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland who is researching Work Smart and the processes that are necessary in order to implement it, also takes the view that this "power of self-organisation" offers a great deal of potential: "The employees are the true masters of their job. They have the most knowledge about what can be achieved within a particular space of time – and what is required in order to work in the most efficient possible way and we must therefore put that knowledge to use!"

Dr. Johann Weichbrodt, Organisational psychologist FHNW

Creating psychological security

This, on the other hand, requires the honest feedback called for by Dr. Hans Werner. "Ensuring that the ideal mix and the team culture can be developed jointly and situationally adapted to the organisational structure in the most effective possible way, not only requires a sense of individual responsibility, but also an entrepreneurial mindset and, most of all honesty, on the part of each person involved. Each person must be in a position to state what he/she requires and what is unsuitable for him/her." Dr. Johann Weichbrodt refers to this as "psychological security". The knowledge that it is possible to express criticism or make statements outside the norm, without falling from grace, forms an essential requirement for success. After all, criticism is just as indispensable during processes of positive change as appreciation. For that matter, specialists are unanimous in the view that appreciation is extremely important.

Hans Werner, Chief Personnel Officer at Swisscom

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Conveying honest appreciation

But just how do we convey appreciation, if we only see someone in person from time to time? Dr. Hans Werner: "The types of feedback that are perceived as genuine and honest appreciation differ significantly, depending on the individual and the generation to which he or she belongs. One person may be happy if he or she is praised during a group chat, whereas another person may need an individual pat on the back. It is therefore important that appreciation is shown in a completely individual way" and "that must also be the case within the team," added Dr. Johann Weichbrodt. "Celebrating successes together or a few private words in an e-mail or group chat demonstrate that the other person is valued and is perceived as a human being and not only as a colleague."

« Dependable rules and agreed targets are generated from within the team - not by the management team in isolation»

Encouraging informal exchange

"Informal conversation between colleagues" is especially valuable in this regard. Weichbrodt: "The conversations during the coffee break, on the corridor or at the photocopier are extremely important. Work Smart therefore requires focused opportunities for such informal exchanges to take place." Teams should enjoy the same degree of freedom when selecting the channels for that type of exchange as they do when configuring their own schedules. "Teams are as individual as the people that make up the team. Some want to be able to meet up on a weekly basis, whilst others will be satisfied with one video conference per month, plus a group chat," the psychologist explained.

« Teamwork cannot work without trust and an open feedback culture.»

Defining technology and ethics

To this end, Dr. Weichbrodt gives the following advice regarding meta-communications: "Not only is it a case of establishing within the team who will be doing what and who will be working where, but also how and using what systems team members will communicate with one another. What is needed is almost an agreement regarding the ethics and technology of team communications." An agreement of that type would provide a means of avoiding digital presenteeism, in which each person always puts everyone else in "cc", in order to cover themselves and to demonstrate his or her active involvement. "In addition," said Dr. Hans Werner, "what is needed is a powerful collaboration platform, on which the essential documents are easily accessed by everyone working on the same issue, regardless of their location and on which transparency prevails." After all, openness and honesty when collaborating with others and providing mutual feedback are essential for good, efficient teamwork and therefore form a key factor that will enable the benefits of Work Smart to be utilised effectively.


Internal communications – a new dimension

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