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How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Team? Employee Engagement Guide for HR's

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Joan Alavedra
August 4, 2021

If we look around, we will observe that everything that we see is a result of teamwork. Look at the skyscrapers, big companies, sports, automobiles, tourism, and healthcare, etc. Everything is a result of the collaborative efforts of teams. So everything that we do is done in teams.

Ken Blanchard, the famous American author, business consultant, and motivational speaker once said, “None of us is as smart as ALL OF US

The workplace is becoming increasingly more global. Business houses have become a more inclusive place. Workplaces have People of varying gender, age, religion, race, ethnicity, cultural background, sexual orientation, languages, education, abilities, etc. It throws many challenges.

The enterprises must build cohesiveness in the teams to perform. Turning a group of strangers into a team has become a major task for HR professionals and onboarding companies. It's not easy to bring together people with different backgrounds and ask them to be a successful team.

Alexander Graham Bell, said, “Great discoveries and achievements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” Therefore, a team effort is a must for accomplishing bigger objectives and challenging team goals. 

Before we discuss how to turn a group of strangers into a team, let us first see the other aspects of a team including its meaning, characteristics, how to build a team, why a team fails, and the benefits of working in a team. 

What is a team?

A team is a group of two or more people who perform interdependent tasks. A real team ideally works to accomplish a common objective.  The objectives that a team undertakes may have a short life or ongoing work. Enterprises with multiple teams need to establish alignment amongst them for good results.

Characteristics of a Team

Teamwork is very important in today’s competitive world. It is a critical ingredient of successful business organizations.  Each member needs to work productively within a team and with one another. Team members need to exhibit skills in solving problems, decision making, communication, and interpersonal to become successful. However, the most important is cohesiveness which matters the most. Let us look at other characteristics that make a great successful team. 

  1. Interdependence -  Team members should understand that they are dependent on each other. Personal goals should take a back seat. This will help in saving time and effort.
  2. Environment of trust -  Each works as part of a team and he should be encouraged to express himself openly. It develops trust and each member becomes more creative.
  3. Sense of ownership -  Members should feel a sense of ownership for their jobs and team. 
  4. Encouragement -  Members encourage each other to apply their talent and contribute to the organization’s success.
  5. Effective and open communication - It helps members to understand each other better leading to better results.
  6. Encourage developing new skills -  Successful teams encourage members to learn and develop new skills. Teams support members to become more efficient. It affects overall performance. 
  7. Collective Decision-making -  Each member in involved in making a decision but, it is the leader who makes the final decision.
  8. Quick resolution of conflicts -  Good teams resolve conflicts quickly and in a constructive way. 

Types of Teams

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Different team designs have evolved. Different types of teams are formed for different purposes. Three primary types of teams that are used within the business environment are:

  • Process Improvement Teams

Process improvement teams focus on improving or developing specific business processes. These teams work together to achieve a specific goal. They are guided by a well-defined project plan.

  • Work Groups or Natural Teams

Workgroups are sometimes called "natural teams,” They are responsible for a particular process e.g. a department, a product line, or a stage of a business process. Workgroups work together in a participative environment.

  • Self-Managed Teams

Self-managed teams are involved in managing the day-to-day operation. They have the authority to make decisions on a wide range of issues, such assafety, quality, maintenance, scheduling, and personnel. Their responsibilities also include processes such as goal-setting, allocation of assignments, and conflict resolution.

The benefits of teams at the workplace

When teamwork is at the center of work culture, the organization is sure to reap the benefits. Let’s see some of the incredible benefits of teamwork in the workplace:

  • It brings new ideas

Fresh ideas are the fuel for businesses to succeed in the competitive world. Organizations grow when they have a diverse team of people who are capable of contributing new ideas. Teams encourage the development of new and fresh ideas.

  • Teamwork Improves Productivity

Project teams are more productive and motivated toward company goals. Teams communicate better and more often in real-time. It avoids delays and minimizes friction. High-quality input is the result.

  • Teamwork helps solve problems

Team collaboration help solve difficult problems. Brainstorming helps the team to exchange ideas and come up with creative ways of doing things. Teams find the solutions that work best while working together as a unit along with crucial management skill. 

  • It's supportive

Teamwork strives to meet deadlines. High quality of work is maintained and members support each other. If anyone lags, there's another to back him up. The sense of camaraderie develops when team members work toward a common goal.

  • Teamwork builds morale

Teamwork lifts morale when your contribution is valued that produces results.  Working together develops a strong sense of belonging and deep commitment to each other and the common goal. 

  • Greater Synergy

Teams have diverse skill sets, knowledge levels, and backgrounds. This diversity creates a greater sum than the total of individual efforts. Teamwork enhances cooperation among members as they learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. 

  • It Increases Innovation

Sharing of ideas, analysis, suggestions, and concerns at the workplace results in new ideas and different perspectives. It invariably results in innovative methods and ideas.

  • Engages Employees

Teamwork enables employees to socialize, discuss and collaborate beyond work. Working together creates bonds that uplift overall morale. Working as a team builds enthusiasm. Members are ready to help others, and cooperate and work beyond the normal call of duty. This ensures overall success.

  • Builds Trust 

Teamwork creates a strong bond. Members enjoy working together. It develops trust that provides a feeling of safety that enables members to open up and encourage each other. 

Reasons why teams fail

Sometimes teams may not be performing as expected. They may be nearing dysfunction. There could be various reasons for teams becoming ineffective. Let us see some of the major reasons for the team failure:

  • Lack of Vision

A team without a clear and well-communicated vision will never succeed. Team members cannot align themselves for success in absence of a purpose for success. Members will sway in different directions when they are not aware of what they are working for. 

  • Unclear Roles

Nothing is worse than not knowing exactly what you are supposed to do. People struggle to decide when their roles are not clear. This is one of the major reasons for the failure of a team.

  • Poor Decision-Making

Taking quick decisions is as important as making good decisions. Sometimes teams miss out on coming up with a good approach for decision making and fail in their objective. Either they over think decisions or take a bad decision in haste. This way they lose time and bad decisions lead to bad results.

  • Lack of Resources

Lack of enough and appropriate resources is sometimes a good reason for team failure. Either the team fails to organize the resources or the organization charters the team without enough ammunition. 

  • Poor Dynamics

Mutual respect is a must for team cohesion and accomplishes the objective. Effective and productive team communication is very important. To get the team dynamics right is to be an expert in communicating with fellow team members. The feeling of loyalty to the team as well as to each other is one of the main principles of teamwork and is the recipe for success. 

How to develop a team

The biggest challenge any organization has it to develop a team that delivers better performance. 

The process of team-building demands a great deal of effort on the part of the leader. Leaders have to overcome many challenges to create great and stable team.

Flawless teamwork demands conscious efforts from all members within the team. A great team must have the following elements:

  1. Clear objectives – each team member must be clear about the objective. If the purpose of the task is not clear, the team will fail.
  2. Clear roles – Clarity on the roles of the individuals is of utmost importance. Secondly, team members should also be aware of the hierarchy.
  3. Flawless communication – All channels should be open for the members to share their ideas. Moreover, the real challenge is being able to communicate any question freely. Smooth communication within the team is a must.
  4. Cooperation – teamwork about accomplishing the objectives of the team and not of the individuals. 
  5. Clarity on objectives, clear roles, clear communication, cooperation, and opportunities for personal development make a great team. 

How to turn a group of strangers into a team

How to Turn a Group of Strangers into a Team?

Developing emotional connection of employees towards their work is critical to the performance of the organization. This employee engagement not only helps deliver good results but also builds camaraderie amongst the team members. Let us discuss the steps that can turn a group of strangers into a team so essential for a team’s performance. 

1) Employee engagement

Engaging the employee in a meaningful way within a team is one of the best ways to turn a stranger into a team man. Engagement develops a sense of connection and helps in creating a positive difference. A high level of engagement helps members to develop compassion towards other members and towards all other employees. 

2) Know more about strangers

Finding out more information about the new members through personal talks and discussions helps build a relationship. Understanding the interests and passions of the members can establish good relations and develop strong bonds.

The leader should talk to his people to know each team member as a person. He should enquire about their passion, what excites them, their life goals, why are they doing what they are doing. The leader should try to talk to his entire real team in this way to win their trust and make them feel important. While doing this, the leaders should also show their side, their passion, interests, and goals. 

3) Appreciation and recognition

Besides food, the second most important factor for human survival is appreciation. We do everything to get appreciated and recognized.

Appreciating the efforts and recognizing the contribution invariably help the strangers to become an asset to the team. It develops dedication and enthusiasm so important for the team’s performance, developing genuine team spirit and positive outcomes.

The leader should try to understand the expertise of his team members and appreciate them for their contribution to the team. Appreciation helps you gain their respect and bring the members close to each other. 

4) Highlight common goals and interests

Frequent interactions are the key to binding the members of the team. Highlighting how the task of members is connected would initiate the communication amongst the members. More is communication better would be the understanding between the members. Emphasizing common interests will also result in building a strong and effective team delivering good results. 

5) Conduct fun activities in the workplace

Making fun together is the easiest way for people to connect. When they stay together, enjoy, and have fun they develop a better understanding and become friends easily. It is a simple and most effective way to cultivate good relationships with team members.

6) Help your team members first before seeking their help

To make the strangers feel at home and accommodate them in the new environment, the leader should help them with their issues if any. It brings the members closer to you and encourages them to contribute to the team effort.

Helping members build credits for the leader. It makes his job easier to build strong coordination amongst the team members.

7) Involve members when making decisions

Getting input and feedback from the team members in making decisions and developing a strategy helps bring everyone close. More is the communication amongst the members better will be the bonding. 

Teamwork is the most critical factor in the success of any organization. No company can grow and flourish unless well-coordinated teams work in cohesion. Great teamwork is a must. For teams to be great, each member should feel an important asset and unhesitatingly contribute to the common cause. The leaders and HR managers should try to build excellent employee relations. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

1. What is the difference between a team and a group?

A group is a collection of peoples who coordinate their efforts. Each member has the decision-making authority in a group. However, a team is a group of individuals who share a common team purpose. The team leader has the one who takes the decisions. 

2. Can a team have two different objectives?

A team has a single objective to achieve. People with varied skills and competencies join to make a team to accomplish a single goal.

3. Why strangers are taken in a team?

Diversity is crucial for the success of a team. People with diverse backgrounds will provide diverse solutions which lead to a more informed decision-making process and improved results.

4. What is diversity in the workplace?

Diversity at the workplace means hiring of wide range diverse individuals with regards to gender, race, ethnicity, language, education, background, etc. Diversity is important to businesses as it can add huge value to their business.

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Written by
Joan Alavedra
Joan Alavedra is co-founder of Onsite – an end-to-end platform to book, manage and organize team experiences at scale. He is constantly writing about team culture and remote work on his blog.
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