It’s been said if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. But each individual is unique and brings to the workplace his or her own set of ideas, level of motivation and expectations.
To get employees on the same page, so to speak, companies may look to motivational seminars or team-building exercises. But as Dr. Scott Simmerman points out, there is a difference between team building and team bonding.
“While many practices are sold as team building, few have actual impact,” Simmerman, a Taylors-based neurophysiologist, said. “They may be fun, such as playing paintball, but do they change anything? Do they create a viable return on investment for the organization?”
Simmerman specializes in organization performance and is managing partner of Performance Management Co. in Taylors. He is a former Furman University psychology professor and service quality management consultant. He said one thing common in workplaces is that people are “unengaged and unclear about goals and expectations.”
The real key of any team building action is to generate a positive impact or measurable result, which comes from people choosing to do things differently, Simmerman said, adding that there are many ways to approach the issues around teamwork.
“For example, up the road in Lake Lure is Herrmann International, and they sell a wonderful personal inventory that focuses on Thinking Styles,” he said. Another approach works with executives on strategy implementation, with the idea that issues of alignment of measurements and visions and expectations from the tops down will eventually reach the lower levels of the organization, generally a three-year dedicated kind of commitment, Simmerman added.
“There are zillions of different issues in the workplace and for anyone to think that their particular ‘thing’ is the answer is simply foolish,” he said. “The new hot topic seems to be mindfulness. The last hot topic might have been emotional intelligence. Team building is in there somewhere, but it means so many different things to different people.”
Simmerman developed a game of sorts to help develop team building skills. He is co-creator of "The Search for The Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine," a team building exercise he said has been used locally by Fluor Corp. and Michelin. Simmerman also has facilitated workshops through Furman's Center for Corporate and Professional Development.
“Lost Dutchman is focused on the choices people make regarding planning and meeting challenges, with participants making choices about strategy and resource planning and even about collaboration,” he said. “We use Dutchman as a simple, fun tool to engage people in having a serious conversation as to what things might be done differently within their organizations to improve performance and to optimize results.”
According to Simmerman, higher-performing organizations are more likely to consider team building than the ones that do not do so well. He said “leadership is a common issue and some leaders like people to challenge the status quo and look for ways to do things better, faster.” High employee turnover, low customer satisfaction levels, low levels of engagement and innovation are all indications that people might want to choose to do things differently, he added.
Getting employees and management on the same track can also be accomplished by understanding the phrase “engaged employee.”
Clemson University industrial-organizational psychology professor and researcher Thomas Britt said “an engaged employee isn’t necessarily committed to the organization.”
According to Britt, there is a difference between an engaged worker, meaning one who invests himself or herself in superior job performance, and organizational commitment, a worker’s psychological attachment to his or her organization or employer.
Britt’s employee engagement research is published on the website ScienceDaily.com.
“When the economy is experiencing a general downturn, it may be unlikely that engaged employees low in organizational commitment can find another position. But if they do have the opportunity to change jobs they will,” he said. “Managers who fail to position employees to be effective in their roles and provide organizational support may lose their most talented and energetic people.
“The ones who stay behind may well be the ones who just don’t care,” said Britt said, in the report on ScienceDaily.com.
Britt said if workers are not getting the resources they feel they need to perform at their best, their engagement may be diminished.
“Engaged workers are more likely to place importance on being able to perform well because their performance matters to them ahead of corporate loyalty,” Britt said, in the report.