In any workplace, the strength—or weakness—of a team’s culture can affect not only the overall team environment, but the individual team members as well. And since a team is made up of individuals with different experiences, values, perspectives, knowledge, ages, beliefs, personalities, and so on, these individual aspects can either serve to strengthen or weaken the team, depending on how healthy the team culture is at any given time.
Why is a strong team culture so important?
Think of a rope, which is made up of several individual strands. Separately, these strands are okay strength-wise, and each strand can handle some type of a load, but their strength is limited. But when you twist all those strands together to form a rope, they become strong—strong enough to handle extremely heavy loads. A team is the same way. Separately, members of a team can do good work, even exceptional work. But when you put those team members together in a powerful team culture with all of their individual attributes, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when a team can accomplish exponentially more together than they can separately. Let’s dive deeper into five reasons why team culture is important.
Reason #1. Better morale among team members. People like to feel like they belong, and belonging involves a strong social connection as well as the sharing of successes, struggles, and experiences. When employees are part of a strong team, this feeling of belonging helps to strengthen the connection to the team, and when paired with the social environment of a strong team, morale among team members can increase.
Reason #2. Increased learning and creativity. A strong team environment involves frequent collaboration through brainstorming and the sharing of experiences, perspectives, and knowledge, which typically leads to more creativity and learning than if individuals worked alone, relying on their own ideas, experiences, perspectives, and knowledge. We can learn and create more when we learn from and create with each other.
Reason #3. Higher employee engagement. Employees who are committed to the team and the goals of the team will be more involved in all aspects of the team, and according to Gallup, highly engaged employees have a 17% higher productivity rate and a 21% higher profitability rate.
Reason #4. Better conflict resolution. Conflict can—and most likely will—occur between people with different backgrounds, work habits, values, personalities, perspectives, and so on. In fact, one study found that 34% of employees had clashes with other employees and clashes between managers and employees occurred 24% of the time. However, when a strong team culture exists, team members will be more apt to work together to resolve conflicts more amicably and even work to reduce the occurrence of conflicts.
Reason #5. Increased recruitment and retention of high-quality team members. When it comes to recruiting high-value team members, team culture is crucial. One study found that 46% of potential employees considered team culture when deciding which companies to apply to.
Where retention is concerned, according to a 2022 survey performed in the U.S. by FlexJobs, 25% of surveyed employees had quit their jobs in the past six months, and almost 33% of surveyed employees were considering quitting their jobs, both groups saying that a “toxic company culture” was their #1 reason for quitting or wanting to quit. The stats for employee retention are encouraging where a strong team culture exists, with 71% of employees surveyed saying they would even take a pay cut to stay in a strong team culture environment.
How to build a strong team culture
Many factors can impact the culture and success of a team—both negatively and positively, especially since team members bring a diverse set of skills, beliefs, experiences, personalities, and communication and work styles to the team table. When a strong team culture is built and continually cultivated, not only will the individual team members flourish in their roles and responsibilities, but the entire team will benefit, often in ways that are common between the eight tools we’re sharing below.
Build and nurture trust. Trust between team members is crucial to team success. Trust makes it possible for team members to contribute freely without fear of retribution or scorn and to know that they can count on each other no matter what. When trust is present in a team, that team will be more productive, and the team and individual team members will be more successful. Studies have proven this, especially where a lack of trust is concerned. Of employees surveyed...
- 68% felt that low trust decreased their productivity.
- 55% stated a lack of trust affects their mental health.
- 24% cited not feeling trusted as their reason for leaving a company.
- 22% said they would not refer their company to others due to a lack of trust within their company.
“Trust is like the air we breathe. When it is present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” ~Warren Buffett, American Business Magnate, Investor, and Philanthropist
Focus on recruiting and hiring. Before having a new team member sign on the dotted line, make sure as much as possible that this person will be a great fit for the team. This could include having them work with the team on an experimental basis, then getting feedback from the team about the potential new team member. If a strong team culture is already in place, including that all-important trust, this feedback can be crucial for hiring the right fit for the team.
Create and set clear expectations. Team members want to know what’s expected of them in all of their roles and responsibilities. Clear expectations can go a long way in eliminating confusion and in increasing productivity and engagement, and frequent discussions about expectations can continually strengthen team culture. Gallup found that only half of workers knew what was expected of them, so this aspect of creating a strong team culture cannot be overlooked.
Learn more about how to set clear expectations here.
Focus on unique abilities and talents. Each team member is unique, and this uniqueness is of crucial importance to a team’s success. If everyone was exactly the same, not only would the workplace be stale, but innovation, problem solving, and creativity would suffer. When team members embrace and utilize the unique differences of each person, it can result in better team morale, higher productivity and revenues, increased engagement, and higher employee retention.
Create opportunities for open, often, and vulnerable communication. Communication is key in any relationship, including the team relationship. Communication can be accomplished through team meetings, smaller group meetings, and one-on-one conversations. It’s crucial to ensure that any and all communications are based on trust, mutual respect, and the desire for everyone to learn and grow together, which allows for open and honest feedback and continued growth among all team members.
Communication can be tricky. Learn more about how to become a better communicator here.
Exemplify humility. Humility means valuing others opinions and understanding that others might have a better solution and/or a different opinion or perspective. When team members are humble—especially leaders, the following benefits can be realized: Greater innovation, higher team member satisfaction and engagement, increased productivity, and better retention.
Learn together and teach each other. Team members can learn so much from each other, whether it’s while working together on projects, from sharing knowledge and past experiences, and so on. Learning together can not only speed up the learning process, but it also helps build team unity, a “We’re all in this together” mentality. When team members teach each other, the teachers are 90% more likely to retain the knowledge they’re sharing.
Empower team members. Natalie Baumgartner, Ph.D. and Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers, has a solid explanation for why empowerment can be crucial when building a strong team culture: “It’s important that employees feel their input is taken seriously because employees who feel ‘heard’ by leaders are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work—and an empowered workforce can strengthen and build a more positive company culture.”
Creating a strong team culture is key to recruiting, retaining, building, and continually nurturing quality team members. When a strong team culture exists, team members can help any organization realize increased productivity and profits through the work they create—both individually and as a team.