Influence of Teamwork on Employee Productivity

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Teams can work together to increase productivity.
Teams can work together to increase productivity. (Image: team image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com)

Teamwork is usually an integral part of the workplace. Basic teamwork involves everyone working together to support the organization and complex forms of teamwork could involve “work teams” chosen to complete a project by working closely. There are two sides to the debate over teamwork’s effect on productivity. Some theorize that it helps productivity; others think it hinders productivity. Both philosophies have backing evidence.

Team Productivity and the Hawthorne Effect

The "Hawthorne Effect" describes the phenomenon in which people act differently when they know they are being observed. The “Hawthorne Effect” is named for a set of studies conducted in 1939 at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois. The Hawthorne studies were meant to observe worker behavior under various conditions. The results of the studies showed that workers performed better under all conditions, simply because they are being observed and were expected to report. Teamwork leverages the Hawthorne Effect because team members are observed by each other and are expected to report to the team. This makes teams more productive, but other issues could negate the productivity gained by the Hawthorne Effect.

How Teamwork Increases Productivity

Every team member brings their specific educational and training to a project, which often maximizes the variety of work the team can accomplish as well as the number of tasks completed without additional research. It’s true that more minds can sometimes work better than a single one. Take the recent development in steel mill industry as an example. Many mills operate 24 hours a day, giving them no time to increase yield. Recently, steel mills have been increasing productivity by creating teams who work together on both simple and complex tasks. The result was higher productivity for both the work teams and for other employees because the teams worked together brainstorming effective management plans.

How Teamwork Decreases Productivity

A little conflict can be healthy for team, but too much conflict and unresolved issues can slow or halt an otherwise functional team. The same can be said for team camaraderie. Friendship and humor aren't necessarily bad for a team, but too much leads to inefficiency, lost time and lost productivity. Teams also need a good leader who makes clear choices, otherwise the team members will struggle with confusion.

Measuring Team Productivity

Productivity measurement methods help management determine if their employee work teams are more productive than individual workers. Teams might choose to set productivity goals so that they are aware of their production standings. Team performance reports could include goal-setting, team achievement and time-based objectives.

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