Why Effective Teams Have Even Greater Value in Today’s Workplace

What are businesses learning by focusing on improving the performance and agility of their teams?

Rising geopolitical tension, soaring energy costs, higher inflation, recession forecasts and even war have disrupted the business community since the world emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be an understatement to say we live in a brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible (BANI) environment, and that environment has changed the wants and needs of the workforce.


Before the pandemic, employees rarely questioned the necessity of a daily peak-price commute to and from an airless office. But this seismic, traumatic event altered how we value our time and the meaning we assign to work, making any return-to-the-office mandates appear shockingly out of touch with what people have experienced. Though these experiences vary, many within the workforce are struggling.


A recent global report from Gallup found that 60% of employees feel emotionally detached or isolated at work, while 19% feel ‘miserable’. Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report found that only 23% of employees are actively engaged. For organizations, this is a call for change, not least because businesses with engaged employees enjoy 23% higher profits compared to those with miserable employees, alongside better retention and customer loyalty.


It is too easy to blame the rise in hybrid or remote working for the trends we have seen around disconnectedness and employee disengagement – employees want and expect flexible working to continue. Instead, these trends are a collective response to the social context, as employees and employers contend with never-ending, unpredictable change. There has been an erosion of social capital and, for many organizations, that social capital needs to be rebuilt. How? By creating a sense of belonging within strong, agile, effective teams.


The value of teams is now higher


In this social context, the team climate becomes an important place where any erosion of social capital or sense of meaning can be re-established to the benefit of both individuals and the organization. The value of teams may be higher because people need a safe space where they can forge emotional connections with managers and colleagues to help them navigate a BANI environment.


Organizations need stable teams to thrive, while employees need the sense of purpose and belonging that being in an effective team provides. In a US survey, 70% of employees agree that their sense of purpose is defined by the work they do, and if they are invested in their work, they are more engaged and perform better.


In a safe space, team conversations are the lifeblood of organizations. These conversations build belonging and allow employees to feel more invested in their work, which supports higher engagement, performance and retention. Though a rise in virtual meetings and conversations can frustrate the process of building trust and belonging among members – both of which are essential for team high performance – scheduled in-person events and bonding sessions can help reverse any negative impact.


Our social context demands agility


Teams are characterized as being highly interdependent yet have become more dispersed. This can make communication challenging, especially in oversized teams. Today’s landscape is complex, and teams need efficient ways of working and communicating. In short, they need agility.


Agility is crucial for teams to be able to pivot as the context evolves. Research shows organizations that successfully transitioned to a fully agile approach enjoyed a 30% increase in efficiency, organizational performance, employee engagement and customer satisfaction, and scored highly for innovation. Yet in McKinsey & Company’s The State of Organizations 2023 report, which surveyed over 2,500 leaders in organizations around the world with 1,000+ employees, just 14% of respondents said their organization had a truly agile structure and culture.


Furthermore, only 16% consider their organization ‘very well’ prepared for future disruption and shocks – this is only a slight increase on the 12% who think their organization is ‘a little’ prepared.


Building agile, effective teams


Recent research has revealed three key ingredients of effective teams:


  • Purpose – a clear, defined outcome in what the team is trying to achieve
  • Belonging – a shared investment in achieving that outcome
  • Agility – having the behaviours, capabilities and resources to learn and adapt at speed


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for building agile, effective teams. Every organization is unique, and the approach will be shaped by the organization’s size, hierarchy and strategic objectives.


Organizations can work with a team effectiveness solutions provider like LHH to establish a framework, a methodology and a means of measuring success that align with their strategic objectives.


This framework should be configurable and meet the team where they are. A diagnostics assessment can reveal themes, barriers and areas to focus on, while coaching and development can support teams to adopt and embed the habits, behaviours and agile processes that will underpin their success.


Team effectiveness solutions have evolved to take a more holistic approach to people and teams to reflect the greater need to build connections between leaders and teams, and between team members. Agreeing on and instilling a sense of purpose is an ideal starting point for organizations that want to increase engagement among employees. By doing this, teams have a solid foundation on which to build connections and nurture purpose. They will also be more invested in their work and more adaptable to change to achieve the team’s goals.


Organizations can prioritize building effectiveness in teams that will add the most value. This may be a sales team, a team bringing a new product to market or even a team that was once high performing but has lost its sense of purpose. This team can be a prototype for how to build effectiveness in teams across the organization.


For more information on how LHH can support the development of high performing teams in your organization please contact info.ch@lhh.com or +41 58 233 60 00.