Tag Archives: risk

Teamwork Suffering in Downturn

I have just read a very disturbing, yet unsurprising article reporting that 12% of workers admit to having become more insular during the recession. 

At the very time when companies need greater interaction and greater interdependency (teamwork), individuals are seeking to protect their own workloads and projects and around some 27% admit to working longer hours.

The report quotes Mike Bourne, professor of business performance at Cranfield University School of Management as saying,

“Team collaboration and knowledge sharing is essential to help businesses chart a way through the current climate. However, while some employees are understandably worried about job security, firms with business processes to automate teamwork are able to reconcile both workforce productivity and personal performance.”

See report here.

I’m not sure whether it is part of British DNA or culture, but we seem to really struggle with the concept of working together to achieve a common goal.  Perhaps we’ve had experiences where we’ve been betrayed by those whom we have trusted, or had others leapfrog over us as they take our ideas and use them for personal gain and promotion. 

Unfortunately, these sad characters will always be with us. 

But teamwork is exactly the forum that will help to expose these individuals and it provides the team with a level of security impossible to achieve on an individual level.  Who in their right mind (if they are that way inclined) will take on a group of people, a group which is likely to include members of the management team?

But teamwork isn’t really about sinking these rogue battleships; it’s about achieving an objective more quickly, efficiently and completely than is possible when we work alone.

The proof is in the marketplace.  Look at the most successful companies and see how many of these use teams and creative approaches to problem solving and company direction.  A recent survey suggested that in business cultures which engender trust and co-operation, productivity is around 269% greater than where it is absent.

I guess it’s up to us whether we choose to believe the statistics and give it a go … or continue as we are.  Only time, and possibly company solvency will tell.

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Do We Already Have the Resources In-House?

No matter how much business operators try to convince me, I have never fully bought into the idea of using outside, contract staff.  

Let me explain …

There are times when new people bring a different dynamic to what we do and how we operate and these individuals can play a key role when we don’t have the internal expertise.  However, whilst working in the Pharmaceutical Industry I used to become exasperated when managers declared that ‘we need to hire in external expertise’ before they had taken any steps to determine whether that expertise already existed in-house.

All of us have many talents and abilities which have become latent or hidden over  the years. 

Perhaps we’ve

  • Forgotten about talents we once had or hobbies we once enjoyed
  • Assumed we’ll never need softer, touchy-feely skills so have locked them away and forgotten about them
  • Always wanted to give something a try but haven’t had the chance
  • Been told at school that we’d never succeed in a particular area, even though we really enjoyed it or worse still, were good at it!
  • Been told we’ll never be successful

 … the list goes on and I’m sure you can add your own reasons.

Let’s consider one or two ways in which companies would benefit if they used in-house expertise over hired-in expertise.  Companies would have

  • People working who are already fully conversant with the culture
  • People already established within the social networks of the company, with established relationships across multiple disciplinary areas
  • Chance to develop their people, thereby increasing their sense of belonging and resulting in potentially greater job-satisfaction, commitment and input

I would also suggest that they’d save considerable costs and time delays that inevitably occur when new people are brought into existing structures and cultures.  Contract staff cost more, it’s just that we perceive that they’re easier to get rid of when we know longer need them without worrying about pensions etc and we can often ‘hide’ their costs elsewhere in the figures by keeping them off the headcount!  But what happened if we had people that were so flexible that we didn’t have to adopt or pay homage to the ‘hire and fire’ methods we have become accustomed to? 

The problem is that bringing in people from outside or looking outside of the company is simply too easy.  We don’t have to ask too many questions and we don’t have to worry about changing who we are or what we do.

But coming one step back, wouldn’t it be much healthier for all concerned if companies di take  time to help their staff  discover and develop talents, whether they are forgotten or hidden, so that at least they knew what was in the melting pot.  With information, it is possible to make reasoned decisions.  Making these decisions in the absence of information is dangerous and potentially life-threatening to a company.

Sometimes it is unavoidable that external talent is required to achieve a goal.  My challenge would be, how often could we avoid it and enjoy the benefits by a bit of preparation and enough conviction to take the risk?

The results of ignoring what and whom we have can be very telling and equally catastrophic.  In 1917 Forbes first quoted their top 100 Companies.  When this list was re-visited in 1987, 61 of the original companies were no longer in existence and of remaining 39, only 18 were still on the Top 100 list.  The main reason for dropping off the list or going out of business was that these companies had stayed still and tried to fight what was going on around them.  The 18 companies that stayed in the Top 100 were those that adopted a strategy which embraced change.  And for this, discovery and implementation of creativity within each member of the workforce was key.

We are all creative.  Do our bosses and companies know that?  Have they looked for it or do we perhaps need to find our talents and let those in our place of work know?