Team Communication: Benefits and Challenges

Introduction

In recent years, teamwork becomes very popular in organizations. Because self-managing members are working on permanent teams, the effort and expense involved in changing compensation structures are often justified. However, in more temporary teams, such as cross-functional or problem-solving teams, other types of HR policy changes (for example, altering an evaluation system to include team behaviors) may be more appropriate to encourage positive behaviors.

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Team communication is one of the main elements which help the organization to create high-performance teams and achieve further growth and development.

Main body

In general, a work team can be defined as a group of individuals working interdependently to solve problems or accomplish tasks. Teams are a powerful design option for organizations that hope to meet the challenges of increased global competition, improve output quality, and address the social needs of the ever-changing global workforce. However, the success or failure of work teams in multinational organizations will depend largely on communication. Effective communication requires that HR practitioners adapt key assumptions about motivation, structure, and accountability. Adapted assumptions must support lateral thinking, collaboration, interdependence, a focus on process, permeable boundaries, and mutual responsibility. Following LaFasto and Larsen (2001) the “key ingredients” for successful teamwork are “openness, supportiveness, action orientation and personal style” (p. 5). Work teams are most effective when there is high task interdependence or a high degree of coordination and collaboration required between team members to accomplish tasks. Thus, a group of insurance sales agents who are geographically dispersed and have little interaction with one another to carry out their tasks would most likely be an inappropriate context in which to implement teams. The agents would probably see such an effort as an empty, poorly developed strategy designed to capitalize on a management fad. Work teams are also more appropriate when the tasks that their members carry out are complex and well designed (Dickson and Hargie 2003).

Teams in individualistic cultures appear to be particularly susceptible to overconfidence. “Effective communication depends at least as much on the ability to use narrative well as on the ability to use argument well” (Jameson 2001, p. 476). Individualists view their team as an entity in and of itself rather than one that is connected to the external context and are therefore even less apt to use external sources of information to make corrections in their behavior and improve their performance. Particularly in individualistic cultures, team-based organizations need to have systems that help teams set realistic expectations. This allows them to stay motivated while at the same time remaining open to learning from feedback and mistakes. Doing so often requires extending team members’ task skills. Task skills and effective performance is impossible without effective communication and a positive climate. “Communication also influences fundamental beliefs, values, and attitudes necessary for employees’ empowerment and commitment to quality and service” (Douglas et al 2006, p. 295). Multi-skilled teamwork involves teams made up of individuals with multiple and overlapping skills that are deployed around the performance of a whole task, which represents a significant part of a larger workflow. Members are multi-skilled so that work can be flexibly allocated among them. In organizing workaround processes, organizational boundaries must often be renegotiated. Increasingly, work teams include external customers and suppliers (Hanlan, 2004).

Team dynamics can be achieved by effective communication which increased the cohesiveness of the team. These types of work structures require a whole new notion of collaboration—a collaboration with external constituencies. A potential impediment to the success of work teams comes from differences in employee preferences and values. Just as some cultures are more individualistic or more collectivistic than others, individuals within cultures also vary on this dimension—even though there is, on average, more variation across cultures than within cultures (Hanlan, 2004). For example, when faced with the prospect of moving to a team-based work environment, some employees in a study conducted in the United States expressed concerns that reflected their individualistic values. “The communication need requirements of team-based management differ dramatically from those of bureaucratic management because many bureaucratic strategies are removed from the communication repertoire” (Douglas et al 2006, p. 295). Numerous impediments will challenge the effective implementation of teams across national contexts, including the inherent time lag between implementation and results, the often tenuous relationships between teams, cultural differences that require adaptations in practices to fit the context, and increasing domestic demographic diversity within nations. As temporary team structures, multicultural teams, and virtual teams proliferate, these team-savvy practitioners will be able to lead their organizations through successful implementation and use of teams in multinational contexts. Following Douglas et al (2006):

Team communication, information shared by team members to conduct daily activities, is important to team development. A positive communication relationship characterized by trust, mutual respect, and openness between superiors and subordinates as well as among coworkers also should be present in a collaborative environment” (295).

To address these potential impediments, HR practitioners can encourage sharing practices within and between organizations, observe and adapt to organizational environmental trends, and maintain awareness of cultural convergence. HR professionals who can change their assumptions and are adept at modifying basic HR practices will be better poised to face future trends in the use of teams that are just on the horizon (Hayes and Kuseski 2001). Effective communication is a critical tool for increasing employees’ awareness of the value of their contribution to the organization’s success and for creating a dialogue with their managers that can enhance the contributions that employees can make. Indeed, change and organizational transformation are unlikely to occur without new values being introduced into the performance management system. Declarations by senior management are insufficient to drive the new behaviors needed for cultural change; rather, these behaviors must be embedded in the performance fabric and woven into daily efforts and priorities. Thus, if an organization’s goal is to increase worker participation, it must not overlook its computer applications. They can facilitate or inhibit information sharing and interaction within an organization, and thereby facilitate or inhibit the maintenance and growth of worker participation in the organization as well (Hayes and Kuseski 2001).

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Conclusion

In sum, despite organizational strategies that call for a flexible, diverse, and situational workforce, many benefit, compensation, and status systems remain grounded in tenure and conformity, with an internal focus. Effective communication is a core of teamwork and performance management bonding together all the elements of organizational success into a single, aligned process that channels employee performance toward the same organizational goals and reinforces and maintains that alignment through reward and recognition programs. If the power of this tool can be harnessed and used to the fullest, then organizations can better their chances of success in a highly competitive business world.

References

Dickson, D., Hargie, O. (2003). Skilled Interpersonal Communication: Research, Theory, and Practice. Routledge.

Hanlan, M. (2004). High Performance Teams: How to Make Them Work. Praeger Publishers.

Hayes,.T., Kuseski, B.K. (2001). The Corporate Communication Culture Project: Studying the Real World of Business. Business Communication Quarterly, 64 (2), 77.

Jameson, D.A. (2001). Narrative Discourse and Management Action. Journal of Business Communication, 38 (4), 476-477.

LaFasto, F., Larsen, C. (2001). When Teams Work Best. Sage Publications.

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