Time for a reset on managing teams – Part 2

In the second part of an article on teamwork, Steve Macaulay and Sarah Cook look at HR and L&D’s role in ensuring managers are ready for these new ways of working

In the first part of this two-part article we considered today’s changed team environment: in a typical hybrid work environment, functional teams are no longer the single norm. Virtual working is commonplace, and cross functional project or task force teams with diverse members from different countries and cultures are becoming increasingly widespread. In this second part we examine the implications for HR and L&D: HR and L&D professionals need to practise methods which encourage managers to build and maintain teams for enhanced performance across different types of teams and environments.

Company examples

Organisations which are renowned for innovation such as Apple, Tesla and Google, share common beliefs around the power of collaboration and teamwork and have put these into regular working practices. Apple, for example, develops new products with the input and collaboration of hundreds of its employees. Google makes enhancements to its products by encouraging teams to collaborate cross-functionally and to openly share ideas. Tesla encourages all its engineers to participate in brainstorming and innovation sessions.

 By focusing on the interpersonal aspects of the team, the project was successfully brought back on track and was achieved on time and within budget.

HR and L&D enhancing team performance

Targeted HR support
HR can provide valuable support and advice to managers in recruiting for professional talent, and how best to put in place systems for recognising and rewarding resilience and agility.

HR and L&D professionals need to be conscious of providing targeted support to different teams rather than just drawing on a team development menu. Typical interventions can focus on understanding personal preferences and diversity, building resilience and agility in teams as well as encouraging methods for collaboration and sharing ideas.

Coaching in live teams
Coaching in live teams can help build awareness and skills through working on live issues.

Virtual business simulations
Also, getting teams used to virtual environments can be speeded up by the use of online virtual business simulations which replicate current issues of working together remotely. They can also build in use of technologies, such as Zoom and Teams and measurement tools for business performance.

Agile methods and team performance
Agile team methods such as scrum have gained considerable ground in deploying teamwork and collaboration to deliver projects in a tight and disciplined way.  They are a good example of utilising the power of teams, combined with an agreed structure and objectives. They are usually cross-functional and small to encourage coordination and self-management, with clear roles and responsibilities. Scrum teams are adaptive, taking on board feedback and requirements as they emerge. Such teams operate in a collective way, with shared goals.

A case study of diverse teams failing to work together

In the first part of this exploration we described a case of Pan-European teams in an integration project experiencing considerable cultural and diversity difficulties. HR and L&D initiated a whole-team intervention. This brought all project team members together to collaborate to define common goals. They also encouraged all team members to be aware of the importance of taking time to build personal relationships and trust within and outside the team and to better understand how to work with the different personalities and preferences in the team. By focusing on the interpersonal aspects of the team, the project was successfully brought back on track and was achieved on time and within budget.

As this case shows, HR and L&D must be proactive if teams are to continue to work well. Teamwork has always been an essential aspect of organisational effectiveness, so in this new context how should HR and L&D be proactive? There are key areas to enhance teamwork under conditions of change and with a variety of team membership and purpose and the following checklist for action should be helpful.

Teamworking checklist for action by HR and L&D

Individual and team skills
Heightened emphasis on team skills is required, include collaborating and communicating inside and outside the team and dealing with different cultures and diversity. HR should encourage virtual team building activities and regular video conferences, coupled with coaching and training in virtual collaboration and relationship building.

Development of a learning culture
With so much change going on, knowledge sharing of expertise and best practices and lessons learnt becomes vital.

Investing in digital technology
Investing in digital technology becomes a must and should be accompanied by ongoing employee development in such areas as remote communication tools and virtual collaboration platforms.

Applying agile principles
Development and application of understanding of agile principles help deal with continuous change, harnessing the power of task teams working together.

Make communications a priority
In this more fluid, changing and overlapping environment, clear and frequent communications become an essential component of teamwork.

Ready access to online learning
Investment in online learning and the encouragement and support for such learning fits neatly into meeting regular demands for updating and professional growth.


By emphasising teams, the multi-team organisation can draw on a diversity of strengths and expertise which drive innovation and productivity. Teams in today’s work environment are taking many forms. By providing effective and focussed interventions, HR and L&D professionals can help create the necessary agile organisations, which are fully capable of thriving amid the fast-paced and unpredictable work environment of today.

HR & L&D professionals should be at the forefront of applying knowledge and skills necessary to adapt to multi-layered and overlapping teams and the different needs of hybrid, cross-functional, project and task teams.

Read part 1 of this article here

Steve Macaulay and Sarah Cook are development specialists who focus on helping managers and organisations to develop high performing teams. Steve is an associate at Cranfield Executive Development, s.macaulay@cranfield.ac.uk Sarah is MD of The Stairway Consultancy Sarah at sarah@thestairway.co.uk

Steve Macaulay

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