In any company or organisation building a sense of ‘team’ can be difficult. There are so many variables such as the location, the sector, the department, the hierarchy, the type of roles and not least of all the individual characters that make up the team. A melting pot of age, experience, skills, personalities and priorities (not just professionally but personally too). You don’t choose your family but sometimes we aren’t in a position to choose our teams either.

There are huge benefits of having a cohesive team that works well together namely, we are much more productive, it’s an effective use of the resources and the team’s likely to be better at solving problems but we cannot underestimate the feeling of belonging and a wider purpose. According to Glassdoor they predict 2019 will see companies striving to get diversity, inclusion and belonging right. We know belonging helps build better performing teams and their research shows a whopping 40% of employees says social exclusion makes them more stressed.

What if we are able to recruit into the teams, there’s always the danger of selecting someone like me. There can be unconscious bias when recruiting within a team. A recent LinkedIn blog about Mike Gamson a LinkedIn exec that hired people exactly like him, people who were ‘driven, ambitious, well-educated, and deeply curious. Just like Mike. They were also nearly all white males. Just like Mike.’ Whilst this article was focused on the diversity conversation it is so relevant to the unconscious bias of the hiring decisions made when building a team. The statistics and common sense behind having a broad diversification of people to make a more effective (and profitable) team is well documented and yet so difficult to do. How often have you seen teams of mini-me’s, all sharing similar attributes to the person that’s hired them?

As a growing company we work across the UK and building a sense of ‘team’ can be a real challenge, particularly when many of the team are involved in different engagements and embedded into other organisations and across different locations. Recently we have been searching the Dutch speaking workforce to find talented professionals that can support us with a high profile, large scale outsourcing project and this brings in a new perspective as globally dispersed teams hold completely different challenges. Not least the language and cultural barriers but having connections from a distance, there is wider scope for things to get lost in translation.

There’s scientific evidence in both the lab and out in the field that the trusted team perform better. Paul J. Zak, a Harvard researcher, professor at Claremont Graduate University and founding director of the Center of Neuroeconomics Studies who initially derived a mathematical relationship between trust and economic performance went further. In a long term research programme his team measured brain activity while people worked, to understand how company culture affects performance. And lo and behold the neuroscience experiments his lab conducted show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.

One of the main features here at Simplify is the fluidity of our team, because we have a mixture of permanent and contracted associates that work alongside each other. This presents an amazing opportunity of new skills, ideas and there is evidence across many organisations that shows cross-boundary teaming within and across organisations are an increasingly popular strategy for innovation too. A recent paper explores this in further detail where it discusses team effectiveness and focuses on the effects of deep-level attributes on teaming, which they term “knowledge diversity”. The other category of attributes in diversity are those we are already familiar with, in the form of surface-level attributes, or readily detectable differences such as gender, age, and ethnicity. And whilst we benefit so much from this collaboration of practitioners, the challenges mean we have to work hard to adapt to the pulsating shape of our team.

So how do we build a sense of team? We are still looking for an answer and that’s ok because striving for it and moving towards the coveted will mean we continue to learn and grow as a team. We need to make sure we are taking that time to build our relationships and nurture our need to belong and have a purpose in life. Succeeding isn’t a ME-thing it’s a WE-thing and I am wholly encouraged that there’s scientific evidence that we perform better if we meet up at the pub once in a while.