3 Ways to Address Team Performance Problems

We are witnessing the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — a true upheaval in the way we work. Collaboration, specifically in problem solving, will be critical to success in this new era. 

“Effective team management really comes down to team support,” says Rachel Cooke, founder of Lead Above Noise. “Leaders should be asking teams for feedback. They should ask not ‘What’s the problem?’ but ‘What solutions do you need?’ And HR can facilitate that.”

Here are three steps you can take to facilitate team performance at your organization.

Declutter and Innovate the Process

When it comes to team performance, the process is everything. Streamlining that process gives your team a better shot at success. More often than not teams are bogged down with constant meetings. “Often, internal HR processes are the way that they are because of history or compliance,” Cooke says. “It’s important to take a look at processes every now and then to strip out the obstructions to performance from one person or step to another.”

Sometimes the best thing HR can do to facilitate team performance is to remove some of the red tape. “We need to empower our employees by giving them the information and permission they need to get the work done,” Cooke says.

Reward Behaviors, Not Just Results

Many organizations reward only results, paying little attention to the behaviors that delivered them. It’s probably not a conscious decision you’ve ever made; it’s just historically the way it’s done. However, simply rewarding outcomes can become problematic, as has been seen in the Wells Fargo scandal.

In addition to giving team members the wrong priorities, a rewards-centric process allows social loafers to get away with minimal work. “When all the organization cares about is performance, one person can submit subpar work and get away with it,” says Sy Islam, vice president of consulting at Talent Metrics. “But if you reward both individuals and teams, and not only outcomes but also processes, then you're starting to see a more holistic view of what teams can do.”

Cooke agrees. “Organizations talk about risk taking, collaborating and other values they want to instill, but at the end of the day continue to reward only the traditional success stories,” she says. “The focus really needs to shift — maybe a product didn’t pan out, but the process was really innovative and something to build on in the future. That should be rewarded.”

Set Some Concrete, Team-Oriented Goals

HR should be instrumental in setting and clarifying team goals. “HR needs to define the outcome and the expected processes, and then let the manager of that team know what those look like,” Islam says. “HR engages in designing and developing job descriptions, but they're not involved in the nitty-gritty where they could offer a lot of insight and a lot of support.”

For example, team member job descriptions have already come from your office; finish assembling the puzzle and the big picture will come into view. “HR has to help the project manager define what the work is, what the work outcomes are, and then maybe define what success looks like,” Islam says. Where performance isn’t defined, it can’t be developed, perfected or rewarded.