The Purpose of a Team in the Workplace (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Teamwork is essential in many industries, but not all teamwork is equally effective. Considering the purpose of a team can help you understand what makes certain teams more successful or productive. If you work in a group setting, you may want to know more about how teams in the workplace function. In this article, we discuss the purpose of teams at work, discuss some benefits and characteristics of teams, and present steps on how to assemble a more purposeful team.

Related: What Are Team Effectiveness Models for Workplaces?

What is the purpose of a team at work?

The defining purpose of a team is to bring together colleagues with different skills and ideas to work on an objective or solve a specific problem. Creating a team can help you use each member's unique perspectives, experiences, and ideas to create innovative solutions to challenges. Group work allows the participants to debate ideas, collaborate, and inspire each other to complete objectives in a different way than if each person was working alone. Teams that are designed to align with the organization's culture and goals may be more likely to work together more cohesively.

While a team, by definition, refers to a group of people working together, a team with a thoughtfully established purpose is more likely to have a positive impact. Team members that understand and identify with their purpose can use their time more productively, focus their efforts, and may be able to obtain their goals sooner. They can also benefit from the support of their colleagues and leader, and may feel more accountable for their work when they belong to a collaborative team.

Related: Examples of Team-Building Activities to Unify Your Team

Benefits of workplace teams

Teamwork can sometimes present unique challenges. These can be logistical ones, such as trying to schedule meetings everyone can attend. Group work may also involve the potential for interpersonal conflicts. Along with some potential challenges, teamwork can also offer many benefits for the participants, management, and organization as a whole. Here are some of the ways forming a team can help you meet your work goals:

  • Increased problem-solving capability: The exchange of ideas inherent to teamwork and discussion often encourages more creative thinking. The ability to comment and build on each other's ideas can make it easier for teams to solve problems than if each person were working alone.

  • Increased productivity through accountability: Since team members often work interdependently, they may be more motivated to contribute what's expected of them when they know other members are relying on them. Since team members are accountable to each other, productivity may increase.

  • Enhanced innovation: Since teams often form to complete specific objectives, or find solutions to a problem, they often bring together colleagues from different departments or with different skill sets and knowledge. The resulting exchange of perspectives and experience can often inspire new ways of thinking about the issues the team wants to explore.

  • Increased flexibility: Since team members often collaborate on their work, it can be easier to redistribute the workload if a participant becomes unavailable or unable to complete their assigned task. Teams can more flexibly respond to unexpected events, like illness or sudden changes to a deadline.

  • Higher levels of employee engagement: The collaborative nature of group work can help members to feel more engaged with their work and more involved in decision-making processes that can affect them. Participants in work teams may have a greater sense of ownership and responsibility for their work if they consider it as part of a greater whole and know that the rest of the team relies on them.

Related:

  • Teamwork in the Workplace (With Benefits and Challenges)

  • What Is a Virtual Team? (Types, Benefits and Drawbacks)

Characteristics of effective teams

The success of a team depends on many different factors, but there are some common characteristics that help to define higher-performing work teams. Regardless of what kind of team you want to put together, thinking in advance about what makes a team more effective can help guide the decisions you make while you're assembling your team. Here are some attributes that can define a highly functional team:

  • Purpose-driven: Teams that have a well-defined purpose and structure can focus their efforts more precisely and use their time more effectively. If every member knows what they are responsible for and what the rest of the team expects of them, they can spend their work time in a more targeted way and keep their personal work process aligned with the team's goal.

  • Limited: The work of a team ideally limits objective, scope, and time, so members can focus on achieving concrete goals. For example, rather than assembling a team with the stated goal of increasing sales, you may want to create a task force with the goal of increasing sales revenue by 5% within six months.

  • Stable: Although making modifications to the group's structure may sometimes be beneficial or even necessary, maintaining stability can often help build trust and cohesiveness within work teams. Teams, where participants have had time to build interpersonal relationships, can benefit from better communication, increased empathy, and a mutually supportive environment.

  • Clear leadership: While collaboration is the guiding principle of all teamwork, the most effective teams have established leadership. This can help keep the group focused, accountable, and productive, while facilitating the exchange of ideas and minimizing the possibility of personal conflicts related to the power dynamics of the group.

  • Able to take risks: Since team members ideally work in a supportive and collaborative environment, they can share the rewards and the responsibilities of the work. The support of the group can make it easier for participants to express innovative, potentially risky ideas they might otherwise be hesitant to present as an individual.

Related: 13 Areas of Improvement for You and Your Team

How to assemble a more purposeful team

Here are some steps you can follow to help guide you in creating more purpose-driven and impactful teams:

1. Choose a leader

You may want to establish leadership right away when creating a work team. This can make it easier to build a group around them as you consider which skills, personalities, and levels of experience might combine effectively to meet the team's objective. Since the leader is responsible for keeping the team's work focused, you may want to choose someone with a clear understanding of the team's purpose who's comfortable overseeing and organizing a group of colleagues.

2. Establish a clear goal

Teams who set specific goals and develop clear plans of action for achieving them are more likely to stay focused and target their work towards the group's objective. This is particularly important in teams, as the many different opinions and perspectives involved can sometimes be a cause for distraction. Making sure that all team members understand exactly what the team wants to achieve and how they intend to do it is an important early step when you're planning team projects.

3. Decide on a timeframe, distribute workload, and set milestones

Once you've identified the purpose and goals of the team, and selected the leader and the other participants, you can develop a plan of action. Establishing time targets or deadlines for certain objectives can help to establish a sense of urgency and help team members plan out their work in advance. Setting milestones for certain objectives can serve as a roadmap for group members to look ahead and visualize the workflow from the inception to the completion of the project.

4. Create a team charter

A team charter is a document which outlines the core purpose of the group, expresses its guiding values, and presents the objectives the team hopes to achieve. It can serve as a source of inspiration, guidance, or instruction for team members if they become unsure of their roles or responsibilities within the group. You can include as much detail as you feel is necessary to describe the group's activities and goals. The charter can also outline important project specifications, such as budget or deadlines for deliverables, so each group member can refer to it while they plan their individual workflow.

5. Track the team's progress

You can establish a system for tracking the progress of the team according to the milestones you chose. You may want to schedule regular meetings at those points in the project's life cycle to ensure that every group member stays updated with the group's progress. This kind of regular tracking and communication can help ensure that you address any issues promptly, and can make timely changes to the schedule or redistribute workload as needed.

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