Strong teams enjoy greater productivity and engagement. Meanwhile, the organization they belong to benefits from high performers, greater innovation, and improved output.

That all sounds great, right? However, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional, and 23% of small businesses fail because they don’t assemble strong teams.

Team failure impacts so many businesses because it’s a complex issue. Enforcing change means challenging traditional business models and crafting a new company culture.

But the problem is surmountable with the right guidance.

In this article, we explore:

  • Reasons for team failure and the organizational practices at fault
  • The strategies you can use to overcome team failure

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Reasons for team failure

Before we explain how to overcome team failure, it’s important to understand why it occurs at all. By knowing what practices are detrimental to teams, you’ll have an easier time avoiding them.

Team failure can happen because of:

  • Restricted communicationA 2020 report by discovered that 92% of employees have had to repeat instructions to coworkers, 63% have missed important messages, and 47% find it difficult to get precise information on a project.
  • Lack of engagement – Engaged teams are more profitable and productive, and experience lower turnover rates and fewer accidents. However, studies show that 51% of employees aren’t engaged.
  • The vision, roles, and goals being unclearOnly half of all employees say they understand the expectations of their role.
  • Lack of teamwork – Employees who are more collaborative stick to their tasks 64% longer than those that work alone. When you have a lot of team members that prefer doing everything on their own, on the other hand, workflows get slowed down, and the risk of failure increases.
  • Trust issues – Employees that work in high-trust workplaces are more engaged, more energetic, and less stressed. When there’s a lack of trust, however, team failure is likely to happen.
  • Insufficient training – 81% of employers state that their team performs better after receiving training. Additionally, 68% of workers claim they have left a job due to a lack of job training.

Sometimes, the problem is simply a lack of resources. Get our free team management bundle here to help you keep your team running smoothly. Then, keep reading for nine expert strategies to minimize the risk of failure in your team.

9 strategies to help you avoid team failure

If you recognize any of the causes of team failure above in your own organization, don’t worry. As you can see from the data, most businesses suffer from at least a few of them.

You can avoid most causes of team failure by applying the following strategies.

1. Define company values and goals

Patagonia advocates for environmental causes. Pixar seeks to give its audience an emotional experience. Whole Foods strives to improve people’s nutrition.

All of these companies need to make a profit, but they also have a clear higher purpose. Values define a company’s reason for existence. They act as an anchor for employees to feel passionate about the work they do.

If you don’t already have defined company values, make creating these a priority. Then, communicate the values to your employees.

The best way to do this is to create a culture deck. This is a document that contains a breakdown of your company culture and explains your values and mission.

You can use a culture deck to help existing employees understand your culture and attract new talent to your company. Here’s how to create one:

  • Explain your company’s mission – What are you trying to accomplish and why? Who are your customers, and what kind of value can you provide to them?
  • State your values – How should team members treat each other? How do you want them to approach reaching company goals?
  • Ask team members to contribute – Get your team involved when creating your culture deck. Ask team members what they think should be included in the deck.

Once you create the culture deck, share it with the entire team and make sure it’s easily accessible to newcomers.

2. Build trust

Trust is a big part of any successful team. If team members don’t trust each other, they’ll have a hard time collaborating.

As a manager, the best way to build trust is to start with yourself and show team members that you trust them. This means eliminating micromanagement altogether.

Don’t think you’re a micromanager? Have you ever done any of these things?

  • Asked to be CC’d on every email
  • Requested multiple daily updates from team members
  • Became irritated because a decision was made without your input

If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, you’re likely a micromanager. Here’s how to stop micromanaging your team members:

  • Be clear about expectations – If you tend to correct team members’ work frequently, start by being more clear about what you expect from them. Make sure to explain why you want them to do a particular task and what end goal you’re expecting.
  • Tame your perfectionism – Next, remember that it’s highly unlikely that a task will be done perfectly. Stop expecting perfection.
  • Try to delegate most tasks – Finally, delegate as many tasks as you can to your team. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, focus on the most important tasks that absolutely require your input.

Our remote management bundle includes a team member satisfaction survey that can help you pinpoint specific issues. Get the whole bundle here.

3. Champion flexibility

Studies show that a flexible work schedule can make people happier and more productive. Consider letting your staff work the hours that are best for them.

For instance, one team member might work better in the early hours of the morning. Others will appreciate the job more if they can take a break during the day to look after their children.

Follow these steps to implement a flexible work schedule:

  • Create a policy for your new schedule – Set clear guidelines to let employees know what kind of behavior is acceptable. Do you need them to be available during certain hours of the day or respond to messages within 24 hours? Include that in your policy.
  • Take it slow – When first experimenting with a flexible schedule, it’s a good idea to take it slow. Start by implementing the schedule across a single department first. If things go well, consider rolling out the schedule for your entire company.
  • Measure performance and adapt accordingly – Keep a close eye on how the new schedule affects team members. Look for signs of increased satisfaction, productivity, and engagement.

4. Reward often

As employees want recognition for their work, be generous with praise. This will help to motivate team members and encourage them to put more effort into their work.

Apart from praising team members for good work, you can also reward them with gift cards, more paid time off, and anything else you might think of.

If you want to gain the most out of rewarding your team, formalize it by creating an employee recognition program. This will help you be more consistent with your rewards. Additionally, it will give employees something to look forward to every month.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Set goals – What do you want to accomplish with your employee recognition program? Set specific, measurable goals (e.g., increasing employee productivity by 15%).
  • Create a policy – Formalize your program by creating a policy that explains what kind of behavior should be rewarded and how. Describe the specific rewards and the process of getting a reward.
  • Spread the word – Let your entire team know about your new recognition program by sending out a company-wide email. If your team uses Slack, posting about the program in the team Slack channel is also a great way to make sure everyone knows about it.

5. Encourage open communication

A common reason for team failure is poor communication. If your team can’t communicate well, you’re bound to experience misunderstandings and have inefficient processes.

The most crucial step in improving team communication is encouraging transparency. Everyone on your team should have access to vital team and project information at all times.

They should also feel safe to share ideas and offer advice on improving workflows and processes.

Apart from making team members’ jobs easier, transparent communication will also help them see the big picture and allow them to be more efficient.

Here’s how to make your team’s communication more transparent:

  • Record meetings – How many times per month do you have meetings with one or more people missing? Try to record every meeting or at least write notes so that people who didn’t attend can review and stay up to date on the latest developments.
  • Use public channels for important discussions – Avoid keeping crucial information in private email chains. If you use a tool like Slack, have important discussions in a public channel so that the entire team can chime in or follow along.
  • Keep all your project and team information in one location – With so many software tools available to teams today, it’s easy to end up with important information scattered across multiple tools or locations. Make it easier for your team to access information on your company, product, or projects by keeping it in a single location using tools such as Notion or Almanac.

6. Create and track measurable goals

If you want your team to succeed, it’s crucial to set and track measurable goals. What kind of goals you should set depends on your business, the size of your team, and team members’ specific roles. At the very least, you should set goals for:

  • Performance – These goals should be individualized for each team member and revolve around something a person can directly influence. For example, expecting your sales reps to close at least 10% of deals for the meetings they lead.
  • Communication – How do you want team members to communicate with each other? Do they need to be available during specific hours or respond to messages within a set time frame?

Once you set goals, make sure to let team members know about them. This part is crucial — your team can’t know what’s expected of them if you don’t explicitly tell them.

For example, do you want team members to:

  • Proofread all content before sending it for approval
  • Respond to team messages within 24 hours
  • Provide regular status updates at the end of the day

Let them know about these things and explain how they contribute to achieving company goals. Avoid thinking that some expectations are obvious — they might not be obvious to your team members.

7. Foster relationships

Teams perform better when everyone gets along well. While team members can form genuine friendships naturally, you should also help facilitate this through team-building activities.

One of the best ways to help team members develop meaningful relationships is through company retreats. Have the entire team get together for a few days and organize non-work-related activities where team members can relax and have fun.

If you’re a virtual team or can’t meet for an in-person retreat for whatever reason, you can try hosting a virtual retreat. Remote teams can also try:

  • Getting the team together for a virtual lunch break – Your team might not be able to get together in person, but you can still have lunch together over Zoom.
  • Organizing workshops – Each of your team members is good at something. Have them organize workshops for their hobbies or areas of expertise.
  • Hosting gaming sessions – Consider hosting weekly or monthly gaming sessions where team members can get together and play video games. At Hubstaff, we’ve had a lot of fun playing Apex Legends and Rocket League during our Thursday Night Gaming sessions.

8. Target talent that suits your culture

You can reduce the chances of team failure by hiring people that align with your company culture. Target people who are passionate about your business values and focus on soft skills conducive to your culture.

For example, Netflix hires creative people and gives them enormous amounts of freedom. The company then holds them to account if they produce anything less than the best. Meanwhile, Alibaba promotes shared values and employee well-being above everything else.

Keep in mind that it’s important to balance a person’s traits and skills with their ability to work with your existing team.

The CEO of Pixar says, “[At the company,] there is [a] very high tolerance for eccentricity, very creative, and to the point where some [of our people] are strange…but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative—we get rid of them. If we don’t have a healthy group, then it isn’t going to work.”

If you want to attract the right people to your team, start by creating a document describing your company culture. Outline your company values in the document and describe the type of behavior that’s expected from team members.

Link to this document on your website and in job descriptions to make sure potential candidates see it.

When interviewing candidates, make sure to discuss company culture and try to gauge how each candidate would fit in with the rest of the team. You can ask questions like:

  • Why do you want to work for us?
  • What kind of values are most important to you?
  • Can you describe our company culture based on what you’ve seen so far?

9. Invest in onboarding and ongoing training

As we’ve already mentioned, a lack of training opportunities can be a big reason why people leave a company. To prevent this, you need to both improve your onboarding program and encourage and support ongoing training for team members.

You can get our free onboarding checklist as part of the remote management bundle.

Note that you don’t need to limit training to job-specific skills. Soft skills, such as time management, are also crucial for being a productive team member.

By giving team members a way to improve themselves, you’ll help increase their confidence, engagement, and productivity.

Here’s how to get started training your employees:

  • Document your onboarding process – You need to make it as easy as possible for new hires to ease into their role. A great onboarding document will help them feel more comfortable and get them up to speed faster.
  • Figure out what team members struggle with – Once a team member settles into their new role, you need to look for ways to help them improve. Have a discussion with each member of your team to find out aspects of their role that they find challenging.
  • Find the right training materials – People learn in different ways. Some like to read a book to learn new things, while others learn better by watching a video course series. Find out team members’ learning preferences and then locate or prepare the right training materials for them.

Wrap up

Team failure might be common, but it doesn’t happen on its own. Teams need a great workplace culture and effective leadership to reach their potential.

Give your team the best chance to succeed by being a good leader. Delegate responsibility, encourage employees to enroll in training courses, and give praise often.

Try to improve focus and self-discipline among team members by being flexible. Finally, build a culture of trust and knowledge-sharing by encouraging open communication.

For more management tips and productivity advice, subscribe to the Hubstaff blog. Or check out some other blog posts that might interest you:

This post was originally published in August 2017. It was updated in June 2021.

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Category: Workforce Management