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Performance Driven Team Definition Essay

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This report provides a comparative overview of teamwork, based on the European Working Conditions Surveys and 16 national contributions to a questionnaire. It considers how teamwork has developed as a new form of work organisation and takes into account the context at national and company level. The study assesses the positive and negative influence of teamwork on diverse aspects of working conditions, such as job autonomy, job satisfaction, work intensity, productivity and the learning environment. It also investigates the prevalence of teamwork according to various factors including sex, sector and occupation. The national contributions from the following 16 countries are available (as PDF files): Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, SpainSweden and the United Kingdom.


Defining teamwork

High performance workplace organisation

Scope of study

Incidence of teamwork

Teamwork and autonomy

Impact of teamwork on learning environment

Job satisfaction

Negative consequences of teamwork

Organisational environment



Annex 1: Sample survey questions

Annex 2: Survey sources


This study maps the issue of teamwork, as covered by research into working conditions in European countries. First, the report briefly outlines how teamwork has developed and tries to take into account both the national context of individual countries and the context at company level in these countries. It thus addresses how teamwork has been incorporated into companies’ overall organisational strategy. Teamwork in this case is regarded merely as one element of the new forms of work organisation and as an important component of ‘high performance work organisation’ (HPWO).

The study then focuses on certain specific aspects of teamwork. Besides looking at the overall incidence of this type of work organisation in different European countries, the study examines the prevalence of specific forms of teamwork. It considers whether teamwork helps to give workers greater autonomy and higher job satisfaction. Moreover, it ascertains whether the presence of teamwork influences the learning environment in an enterprise. Attention is also paid to the possible negative impacts of teamwork, such as higher work intensity and work overload.

The study draws from the contributions of 16 national correspondents reporting to the European Working Condition Observatory (EWCO) . The national reports are also available: Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The information on quantitative and qualitative research from the national correspondents is combined with statistical analysis of data from the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) of 2000/2001, which makes it possible to compare the individual participating countries. The third EWCS, from 2000, provides data for the EU15 countries, and the same survey was applied to the 10 new Member States (NMS) and Bulgaria and Romania in 2001, while they were all still acceding and candidate countries (ACC12) for membership to the European Union.

Defining teamwork

It is difficult to arrive at a single definition of teamwork. Several concepts exist and researchers in the field of working conditions differ in their view of what teamwork actually means. Work organisation using teamwork can refer to a wide range of possibilities, such as quality circles, cross-functional teams, self-managing teams or virtual teams. Many employers provide teamwork with varying degrees of autonomy.

The form of teamwork depends on task specificity. According to the definition proposed by Hacker (see below), a distinctive feature of teamwork at the assembly line is successive work actions to assemble different parts of a product. On the other hand, where the goal is to improve the production process, group teamwork is much more about complexity, communication and integrative work (O’Leary-Kelly, 1994). For the purposes of this study, teamwork is understood in a broader context without drawing a distinction between teams and work groups; it thus encompasses the following definitions:

  • team: ‘Groups of employees who have at least some collective tasks and where the team members are authorised to regulate mutually the execution of these collective tasks’ (Delarue, 2003);
  • group work: ‘Group work is defined by a common task requiring interdependent work and successive or integrative action’ (Hacker, 1998).

Cultural differences

The varying cultural context in countries may influence understanding of the term ‘teamwork’, due to different experiences in using the term in everyday language, experiences from a person’s own work, and the influence of the media and public debate. When analysing quantitative surveys in particular, it is not possible to be certain what respondents understand teamwork to mean, especially if the question does not offer a precise definition. Qualitative surveys may then complement this information.

Primarily, different historical experiences emerge in countries of the former western and eastern European country groups. In western European countries, and in particular northern European countries like Sweden, Denmark and also the Netherlands, the concept of teamwork has been in place for decades, experiencing a surge in the 1980s and 1990s. Conversely, in eastern European countries, new forms of work organisation and their influence on company efficiency have only been considered since the start of the 1990s, so their development has thus far been brief. In view of the transformation in key areas of the economy that these countries had to undergo, the implementation of new forms of work organisation was not a central topic for debate: rather, it was and still is a question of implementation at individual company level.

How employees understand the term ‘teamwork’ is linked to the popularity of the topic itself in the country in question. Employees may regard teamwork as any kind of cooperation with colleagues or have a clearer idea of a team that works on a common goal, makes joint decisions on what action to take and takes responsibility for the task.

In Bulgaria, a very broad concept of teamwork exists, which is underlined by the relatively high incidence of teamwork noted within the employee population, at 67%. According to a 2005 qualitative survey on the subject, ‘teamwork is understood as interdependent work in general by both employees and employers. For example, if people are grouped in departments or just work in the same premises, it is reported as teamwork.’

The national correspondent explained that it is also fashionable in Bulgaria nowadays ‘to put in all job advertisements "ability to work in a team" as a requirement for potential job candidates. In this sense, the ability to work in a team is mostly understood as the ability to cooperate and to be friendly and polite, which is an important but insufficient precondition for teamworking.’

Romania is another example of a country where teamwork has a relatively brief history. The interest of specialists and of well-established companies in these issues started to increase only in recent years, as the economy became more stable and developed. Such companies have carried out case studies on teamwork but have not published this information.

Conversely, in countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Finland, teamwork has a relatively long tradition and, at the height of its expansion, numerous studies were conducted. The development of new forms of work organisation, including teamwork, was even supported by government initiatives. This raises the question of whether teamwork has already found its place in the majority of existing companies, at least in part, and whether the trend of organisational restructuring in the form of teamwork is stable. In Denmark, the evidence of trend data supports this hypothesis, showing a decreasing number of companies in which teamwork has been implemented in the last three years. According to the national contribution, ‘in the 2000 survey (SARA - see Annex 2 for an outline of all surveys cited in this report), approximately 34% of the companies surveyed responded that teamwork had been introduced within the previous three years. In 2004, this figure was approximately 26%.’

Similarly, in Sweden the subject of teamwork is much less current and relevant than in the last two decades of the twentieth century, and few new studies focus on teamwork in companies. At least two reasons for this declining interest are possible, according to the national correspondent.

One report talks about Swedish industry not believing in the ‘Swedish model’ (or sociotechnical theory) any more (Engström et al, 2004) and gives examples of several Swedish car production plants going back to regular assembly line production. Another report by Wallace (2003) confirms that workplaces that earlier were pointed out as good examples are now moving away from this way of working.

The second reason proposed by the Swedish national correspondent seems more likely: ‘Teamwork has become a common way of organising and working in Sweden, hence it is nothing new so not as many researchers study it.’

Another methodological question arises as to whether teamwork even exists in small companies. The Dutch report emphasises that ‘about half of the employers/organisations with 10 or fewer employees indicate that teamwork is not applicable’. However, other expert opinions confirm the possibility of teamwork in small companies (Pexová, 2004). The question of whether teamwork exists in small organisations remains open for possible further research.

High performance workplace organisation

The challenge for companies nowadays is to deliver quickly and flexibly new quality products and services, in order to be able to respond to greater and changing demands from clients. Standardisation and specialisation characterise traditional work organisation; the work is divided into different segments, from preparation to support roles, in which workers specialise in order to maximise productivity. Specialisation, control and routine are suitable when a constant demand for standardised products applies. However, for a fast changing demand, this method does not seem to work as well, and may lead to coordination problems and rigidities. Thus, companies started to look for new forms of work organisation (Delarue and De Prins, 2004).

A high performance workplace focuses on increasing people’s influence on the business as well as the impact of processes, methods, the physical environment, and the technology and tools that enhance their work (Burton et al, 2005). HPWO also implements a so-called holistic organisational approach which means featuring flat hierarchical structures, job rotation, self-responsible teams, multi-tasking and a greater involvement of lower-level employees in decision-making. A high performance workplace invests in its human resources and supports both their technical and innovation skills and their social skills; this promotes good interpersonal relationships in the workplace from which the company can also benefit. This type of organisation is different from the Taylorist work organisation, which is characterised by task specialisation, a pyramid hierarchical structure and a centralisation of responsibilities.

The need for new forms of work organisation as a good base for a high performance workplace is considered to be a key element and integral part of the Lisbon Strategy, which set its goal to make the EU economy the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion by 2010. Since then, this objective has been underlined in several European Council meetings. In 2005, the Presidency conclusions of the Spring Council stated that ‘new forms of work organisation … will contribute to adaptability’ and, in September of that year, the UK European Presidency organised a conference on the theme of high performance workplace organisations.

A core element in new forms of work organisation

While teamwork is considered to be one of the core elements of this new work organisation, different forms can be distinguished, and not all with the same consequences. In fact, wide differences emerge between the forms of new work organisation developed in different countries (Lorenz and Valeyre, 2003). A good overview of these can be found in the report Partners at work? A report to Europe’s policymakers and social partners (Totterdill, Dhondt and Milsome, 2002).

Under the traditional system - the Taylorist model - the work was divided into narrow functions with short, repetitive work cycles and the work method is prescribed in detail. However, as noted, this system does not offer sufficient scope for a process of upgrading and innovation, which is essential for quick change and adaptation. The slowness and relative rigidity of the traditional organisational scheme often earns it the name ‘dinosaur syndrome’. Thus, it was felt important to involve the workers themselves and, in order to be involved, they must have the possibility of exercising judgement, developing social contacts and learning (Green Paper on Partnership for a new organisation of work , European Commission, 1997 - see below under Policy documents). A paper of the European Work Organisation Network (EWON , 1998) also considers that enterprises should use the principles of HPWO - such as self-development and higher commitment of employees - as a competitive advantage.

From the point of view of the dynamics of company organisation, teamwork can be regarded as just one of many elements of organisational change. From the perspective of this study, however, teamwork is a very important HPWO factor, as it directly affects employees and the quality of their working life. It is perhaps for that very reason that it is regarded as one of the most progressive instruments of current company organisational practice.

The work performance of the team is higher than individual performance when the work requires a broader scope of knowledge, judgement and opinion. The advantage of teamwork is significant productivity growth in the spheres that require creative solving of different tasks, a high degree of adaptability and operational management. Teamwork also creates an environment that facilitates knowledge and information exchange and so-called knowledge sharing. Other advantages are the ability of new forms of work organisation to increase the potential for innovation that may add value to products or services, moving them into less price-sensitive markets. Moreover, the ability of new forms of work organisation to increase the employability of workers through multi-skilling and the acquisition of higher competencies in problem solving, communication and teamworking will help labour market adaptation, and also support new forms of local and regional economic growth and regeneration (Totterdill, Dhondt and Milsome, 2002; OECD , 2000). Teamwork could lead to more job autonomy, greater responsibility and higher job satisfaction. Most of the latest studies refer to the positive impact of teamwork on work productivity and company efficiency (Cohen and Ledford, 1994; Employee direct participation in organisational change [ EPOC ] survey, 1998).

Role in organisational change

New forms of work organisation are used by companies to implement strategic decisions that are taken in response to a range of business challenges and pressures (EWON, 1998).

A company’s attitude to the introduction of teamwork is important in the process of implementing and transforming the work organisation into a HPWO. Teamwork is not an answer to all company problems and organisational changes usually require interventions at all levels within an enterprise (Guest, 1995). If a company decides to introduce teamwork, this needs to be integrated into the entire organisational structure of the enterprise and this structure needs to be adapted to the new model; otherwise the effectiveness of teamwork is lost. If certain conditions are upheld, making organisational changes can be expected to have positive impacts, namely improved innovative capacity and operating efficiency, higher quality of output, better mutual relations at the workplace and higher productivity in general.

The principal conditions are sufficient autonomy for teams and direct participation by team members. As Ingrid Dackert (2004) comments, a team must have the right team climate to be innovative and beneficial in its work. Participation in accountability among individual team members and multi-skilling are important preconditions of team effectiveness. In multi-skilled teams, the borders between different job categories are broken down, thereby encouraging employees to broaden their skills and knowledge. There is also a considerable slimming down of the structure and a reduction of functions, which may make it hard for managers to accept some loss of power. Reorganising management functions in a way that creates room for autonomous teams is also an important precondition of increasing productivity.

These assumptions are confirmed by German research conducted by the Sociological Research Institute at the University of Göttingen, which also emphasises the importance of correct and comprehensive implementation of teamwork (Kuhlmann, Sperling and Balzert, 2004). The German study proposes a ‘coherence thesis’, founded on making close links between an organisation’s various dimensions. ‘The key issues are the integration of work organisation and teamwork with the overall company organisation and payment system. Pay and performance determination and different aspects of reorganisation promote a process optimisation that is actively supported by the employees.’

Impact on efficiency and productivity

The primary aim of this study is to measure a company’s productivity in connection with introducing new forms of work organisation through ‘soft indicators’ such as work autonomy, job satisfaction, opportunities for personal and professional development, and level of communication (Campion, Medsker and Higgs, 1993). Therefore, it will try to give an overall picture of the aforementioned trends on the basis of both theoretical and empirical surveys, by means of relevant experiences and studies cited in the contributions by the EWCO national correspondents.

For example, a Spanish study (Galve Górriz and Ortega Lapiedra, 2000) examined the efficiency of two plants of a company in the steel sector which practised two different approaches to teamwork. In Plant A, which did not register any increase in work efficiency, the organisation of work around a production line made the establishment of informal contacts in the workplace impossible. Secondly, teamwork training was only given to senior managers and did not take into consideration the specific needs of each production plant, failing therefore to customise the teamwork structures to the specific characteristics of each plant. Finally, hierarchical organisation within the company tended to weaken the information flow among the different business process levels, and thus diminish performance.

Conversely, Plant B had developed a teamwork structure that showed a high work performance. This result was possible due to use of a combination of Japanese and Swedish production models. Japanese production models are characterised by developing economic and technological aspects based on a flat, flexible and decentralised organisation that enhances a quicker adaptation to market changes. In the case of Swedish models, informal and open communication among workers is used to improve the communication flow within and between the different levels of the company.

A Portuguese study investigating the efficiency of teams in services sector companies emphasises the need for what is known as participation security so that the team functions well and proposes innovative ideas. The study examined 26 teams accounting for 70 individuals in total, who work for seven publicity agencies in the Lisbon region (Curral and Chambel, 1999). It considered both the quality and quantity of teams’ innovative benefits when tackling individual tasks. According to the national correspondent, the results show that:

the innovation in work groups depends on the type of interaction processes occurring. When using the quality and quantity of products and ideas produced by groups as measures of innovation, one may see that the groups which produce innovations of higher quality define their objectives clearly and try to achieve common agreement among all members of the group; they also have means of innovative performance control, processes of evaluation and reformulation of ideas and critical appreciation of opinions and suggestions from the team members. Moreover, these groups also have a climate of high participation security, which allows them to introduce more information necessary to the development of good ideas.

As a further example, it is worth considering the difference in productivity between workplaces where employees are organised in teams and workplaces where employees do not work in teams. In a national Dutch representative survey of labour relations, conducted by TNO Work and Employment, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (Nederlandse Organisatie voor toegepast-natuurwetenschappelijk onderzoek, TNO ) in 2005, managers appraised the performance of the work organisation using several parameters, including the ability to keep costs low, achieve identified goals within budget, customer satisfaction and product quality. It was found that overall productivity, based on an aggregate productivity scale, did not depend on whether the manager organised the work according to teams. Nevertheless, an assessment of selected performance characteristics does demonstrate certain aspects of teamwork:

Supervisors of teams with a minimum of four and a maximum of 20 persons who work on a product or service together, report more positively about the degree of flexibility of their employees than other supervisors. Flexibility was measured by the extent to which workers can be deployed in different tasks. The supervisors of teams also report somewhat more positively about the extent to which the team develops new products or services, although the association is very weak.

Policy documents

The Green Paper on Partnership for a new organisation of work , issued by the European Commission in 1997, emphasises the need for implementing new work organisation with the aim of increasing work flexibility and the social responsibility of organisations towards employees by enhancing their professional and personal development. New forms of work organisation are also regarded as an essential part of the Lisbon Strategy.

In the European countries under study, teamwork is not currently a topic of wide debate in government documents, as the Dutch contribution mentions.

The topic of implementing new forms of work organisation is hardly a policy issue in the Netherlands today. The standpoint of the government, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment are that this is the responsibility of the social partners, companies and workers … The last governmental initiative in this field of new forms of work organisation and teamwork dates from the mid 1990s. Since then, work organisation and teamwork have had a decentralised, indirect policy interest, mainly through policy on working conditions.

Enterprise-level collective agreements and higher-level collective agreements do not usually address new forms of work organisation or teamwork, nor are new forms of work organisation a priority interest for the vast majority of social partners. The Finnish contribution cites one of the few statements of the social partners on the issue of teamwork. In Finland, it is possible to conclude agreements enabling local workplaces to regulate ways in which teamwork can be established in the enterprise.

The Danish correspondent mentions the concept of ‘developmental work’ (Det Udviklende Arbejde), advanced by the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisationen i Danmark, LO ) at the beginning of the 1990s.

The concept can be described as a strategy for securing the work environment standards and opportunities for skills and personal development in times of change. Team-based working arrangements were central in the discussion of developmental work. Recently, however, the concept was altered to focus on environmental sustainability and teamwork, in itself, seems to have receded into the background.

Overall, the national contributions cite few references to governmental documents, policies, programmes or social partner agreements discussing the implementation of new forms of work organisation and, in particular, teamwork. This absence of attention to teamwork in official government literature and other documents is most likely because the issue has been sidelined in countries where it was a topical concept in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Scope of study

Perspective of individual employee

According to the majority opinion of specialists in various fields, teamwork should help both to improve company performance and also to boost employees’ well-being (Gulowsen, 1972; Hayes, 2005). Provided that the conditions of autonomous decision-making are in place, with the corresponding powers and responsibilities for assigned tasks, teamwork enhances employees’ interest and motivation, not just in the context of the employee’s work task but also in the context of the corporate strategy as a whole. The key to increased company productivity should be increased employee satisfaction (Moldaschl and Weber, 1998). According to Nicky Hayes (2005), teamwork reduces fluctuations in performance and improves work morale. Leading researchers in the field of work organisation, Katzenbach and Smith (1993), are convinced that people working in a team function more efficiently, are less prone to stress and make a greater effort in their work. Furthermore, they spend less time incapacitated for work, come up with new ideas and try to improve their work.

This comparative analytical report intends to contribute to both specialist and public debate by looking at how teamwork, as one instrument of the modern form of work organisation, could contribute to quality of work and employment, how it is associated with the learning environment in enterprises and how it increases empowerment of workers. As noted above, it will measure the relationship of work productivity and new forms of work organisation indirectly through selected ‘soft indicators’ associated with higher productivity (Figure 1).

In addition, the report considers a subjective appraisal of the effectiveness of teamwork and its impact on the quality of working life of the employees themselves. Employees do not always welcome the introduction of teamwork, as was shown by the following case study of a UK company in the steel industry.

A UK paper, Worker responses to teamworking: Exploring employee attributions of managerial motives (Bacon and Blyton, 2005), revealed, after two years of investigation, that managers benefited disproportionately from teamworking in comparison with other employees. Employees perceived the introduction of teamwork merely as a means for furthering the careers of managers who were successful in its implementation. Many employees also adopted an even more negative view, complaining that teamwork was only introduced for effect, as a result of the company prioritising the claims of shareholders over the interests of employees or as a way of reducing the number of workers in the enterprise.

On the other hand, data from the Quality of Work Life survey in Finland show the opposite trend, whereby the employees themselves believe that productivity improves when work is completed in groups. This belief is stronger in the private sector and in the public sector at local government level than in the public sector at central government level.

For the purposes of this study, internal group dynamics are not examined. The interest is rather focused on the overall impact of teamwork on organisational performance and quality of individual working life. Therefore, issues such as leadership style, leader elections and work organisation within the team and task distribution will not be considered.

Figure 1: Themes and characteristics related to work group effectiveness

Source: Campion, Medsker and Higgs, 1993

National working condition surveys and teamwork

The study also examines teamwork as a subject of research in working conditions in EU Member States. The contributions of the EWCO national correspondents, compiled on the basis of available national research, covered the various topics relating to teamwork in very different ways. Table 1 indicates the aspects of teamwork on which the different national studies focused.

CountryTeam typologyAutonomyJob satisfactionWork intensityLearning environmentWork productivityGood practiceGovernmental documents and initiatives
Austria - - - -
Bulgaria - - -
Czech Republic - -
Denmark - - - - - - -
Estonia - - - - - - -
Finland - -
France - - - - - - -
Germany - - - -
Hungary - - - - - -
Italy - -
Netherlands -
Portugal - - - - - - -
Romania - - - -
Sweden - - - - - - -
UK - -

Note: A plus ( ) sign was allocated where the topic was at least partly investigated in quantitative or qualitative research, or more fully within a purely qualitative study. The absence of a topic or only a passing mention that the problem was registered in a study is denoted by a minus (-) sign.

Source: EWCO correspondents’ national contributions

The individual aspects of teamwork were often outlined on the basis of both quantitative and qualitative research and case studies. A large volume of information about individual surveys came from secondary sources, as the authors often had no access to primary data and were thus unable to prepare the required data.

Annex 1 outlines numerous sample questions from national surveys, recommending useful questions to gather information about teamwork and its relation to autonomy, work intensity, job satisfaction, the learning environment and work productivity.

Incidence of teamwork

Data from the EWCS 2000/2001, which surveyed the employee population only, provided employees’ subjective assessments of their involvement in teamwork. However, it should be emphasised that, due to a hazily defined and understood concept of teamwork, the data do not give precise information on the extent of this kind of work organisation in each country in question.

The analysis of the incidence of teamwork derives from questions Q.27b.2 (EU15) and Q.24b.2 (ACC12): ‘Does your job involve, or not…? Doing all or part of your work in a team.’

The data are broken down by sex, size of enterprise, occupational activity and sector. The results reveal that the incidence and scope of teamwork cannot be differentiated according to the traditional scheme of old and new EU Member States. Pronounced regional differences emerge between countries; however, unifying criteria such as geographical location or similar political and socioeconomic conditions cannot be determined. The scale of teamwork thus depends more on other characteristics; it may be assumed that the internal company environment is key.

Overall, in the EU15, teamwork is most common in the UK and Ireland, at 80.6% and 76% respectively, while Estonia and Malta are the NMS where employees most commonly work in teams, at 81% and 80.1% respectively. While among the NMS, the lowest incidence of teamwork is found in northern regions, i.e. in Lithuania and Poland, at 38.3% and 54.3% respectively, among the EU15, the southern Member States of Spain and Italy - at 53.9% and 40.9% respectively - are the least likely to use teamwork (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Teamwork incidence in EU (%)

Figure 3: Job rotation incidence in EU (%)

Gender gap

Although it might seem that teamwork should not be gender specific, Figure 4 shows that more men work in teams in most of the countries under study. One major exception in this respect is Romania, where the gender gap in terms of more women being involved in teamwork reached 15.7 percentage points. Women also more commonly worked in teams in countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark, although the difference between men and women was not statistically significant. Fundamental differences between the sexes and their work organisation were found in Poland (a difference of 15 percentage points), Portugal, Greece and Austria, with more men than women working in teams. It is likely that these countries have more traditional work organisational parameters, particularly in sectors employing mainly women.

Figure 4: Teamwork incidence, by extent of gender gap

The results and indications provided by the national studies make it possible to state that teamwork is equally divided between men and women in countries where there is generally greater gender equality in employment, such as in Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Conversely, southern European Member States, such as Spain and Portugal, have more pronounced differences in terms of teamwork.

The main explanation for the gender differeces in teamwork most likely pertains to sectoral aspects, where women are more concentrated in certain sectors of the economy. Another less likely explanation might consist of the actual composition of teams, where women may be disadvantaged in this regard. Nevertheless, according to a Swedish study (Sandberg, 2004), a mixed gender team composition is considered to only contribute positively to the overall working climate.

Company size

Analysis of teamwork by company size reveals some differentiation according to the ACC12 and EU15 country clusters. While in the majority of the EU15 countries, a statistical correlation was found between company size and teamwork, in the ACC12 the situation was the exact opposite. Among the EU15, the incidence of teamwork did not depend on company size in Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the UK, and Sweden, while in the other nine countries, a correlating effect was found. In the majority of cases, large enterprises with 250 employees or more have a relatively higher proportion of employees working in teams than small companies have (Table 2). Luxembourg and Italy are exceptions: in these countries, an increased incidence of teamwork was found in medium-sized companies, with 50-249 employees.

Conversely, significant statistical differences in teamwork by company size were not found in the majority of the ACC12. Where a statistical correlation was registered, the tendency was similar to that in the EU15: teamwork was more characteristic of large companies.

Company size
0-49 employees50-249 employees250 employees
Austria 65.0 70.1 72.3
Belgium* 49.8 60.6 64.6
Denmark* 58.5 67.9 76.0
Finland 64.8 66.7 75.2
France* 53.5 64.1 68.5
Germany 53.3 57.4 61.3
Greece* 56.8 67.7 69.7
Ireland 74.1 80.2 77.4
Italy* 37.2 48.3 43.7
Luxembourg* 66.4 81.0 68.1
Netherlands* 66.5 71.7 75.3
Portugal* 56.2 59.2 70.2
Spain* 51.5 57.9 60.9
Sweden 61.7 61.4 60.6
UK 79.0 81.0 85.5
Bulgaria* 63.8 75.9 84.6
Cyprus 66.0 63.9 72.8
Czech Republic 64.0 66.0 59.8
Estonia 80.0 82.9 88.2
Hungary 61.2 50.9 59.8
Latvia 70.8 77.6 72.8
Lithuania 36.7 43.6 46.1
Malta 79.9 83.0 73.5
Poland* 50.9 59.3 62.8
Romania* 63.1 73.8 81.9
Slovakia* 65.2 72.8 78.1
Slovenia 71.8 77.1 74.4

Note: * Statistically significant differences: probability (p) ≤0.05.

Source: EWCS 2000/2001

Occupation and employment status

Teamwork is directly related to the type and nature of professions. The following analysis clarifies which professions have a high or low incidence of teamwork, according to the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO).

The EU15 countries are typified by a predominance of teamwork among the three highest-level occupation categories, namely legislators and senior officials and managers (75.4%), professionals (66.7%), and technicians and associate professionals (68.9%) (Figure 5). A higher incidence of teamwork is also found among craft and related trades workers (68.2%), while a lower incidence of teamwork prevails among clerks (53.9%), plant and machine operators and assemblers (57.3%), and elementary occupations (52.9%). The results thus indicate that teamwork predominates among highly-skilled jobs with a higher than average degree of autonomy.

The conclusions from the national studies support this finding; in France, for example, according to the 1997 survey of organisational change and computerisation, teamwork is generally characteristic of managerial and planning or design positions with hierarchical or technical responsibilities. In the UK, the nationally representative survey of establishments, WERS 1998, shows that teamworking was least common in workplaces mainly comprising craft and related workers, and operative and assembly workers. Conversely, teamwork was most common among professionals. The Portuguese correspondent also states that teamwork is most frequently found among professionals, technicians and associate professionals, and managers.

Figure 5: Teamwork incidence, by occupation (%)

Notes: 1. Legislators and senior officials and managers; 2. Professionals; 3. Technicians and associate professionals; 4. Clerks; 5. Services workers and sales workers; 6. Skilled agricultural and fishery workers; 7. Craft and related-trades workers; 8. Plant and machine operators and assemblers; 9. Elementary occupations; 10 Armed forces. The low representation of armed forces, legislators (in Luxembourg and Portugal) and skilled agricultural workers means that there may be some bias. Armed forces and skilled agricultural workers are not taken into account when interpreting the data.

Source: EWCS 2000/2001

A similar model is also seen in the ACC12. The only distinct exception is the much lower proportion of employees whose work is organised in team form among services workers, at 48.6%, and the higher proportion of teamworkers among plant and machine operators and assemblers. It may be concluded that, in the ACC12, teamwork is more widespread among blue-collar workers than it is in the EU15.


The results of the EWCS 2000/2001 show a clear predominance of teamwork in industrial sectors (Table 3). By contrast, teamwork is less frequent in the services sector. Statistically significant differences between sectors were found both in the ACC12 and in the EU15.

Significant differences, at a significance level of probability (p) ≤0.05, were not found in Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Among the ACC12, the same is true for Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia.

According to the EWCO data, the Netherlands was the only country with a marked predominance of teamwork in the services sector, at 71.4%. However, the national report, based on data from the 2005 TNO survey of labour relations, shows that teamwork is relatively evenly balanced between the services sector and industrial sectors. Data from the TNO survey draw attention to the predominance of teamwork in the agricultural sector, where 95.5% of employees work in teams; however, this proportion is most likely distorted by the low representation. The 2005 survey only finds substantial differences when using a more detailed classification of economic activity. The highest proportion of employees working in teams of a minimum of four and a maximum of 20 persons, who work on a product or service together in companies with 30 employees or more, can be found in the hotels and restaurants sector, at 82.4%, and in the financial services sector, at 76.2%. The lowest proportions are registered among employees working in the construction industry, at 48.5%, and in business services, at 59.4%.

Agriculture and fisheryIndustryServices
Austria* 78.9 72.8 63.1

High-performance Teams: Understanding Team Cohesiveness

Daniela Molnau

“There is a desire in each of us to invest in things that matter, and to have the organizations in which we work be successful…Our task is to create organizations we believe in…to be part of creating something we care about so we can endure the sacrifice, risk, and adventure that commitment entails. That’s team work motivation.” – organizational development expert Peter Block4

Teams are the basic structure of how projects, activities and tasks are being organized and managed within companies worldwide. Global organizations striving for competitive advantage are increasingly incorporating the use of high-performance teams to deploy complex business strategies.7

Work done in teams provides many advantages and benefits. The major advantages are the diversity of knowledge, ideas and tools contributed by team members, and the camaraderie among members. A characteristic commonly seen in high-performance teams is cohesiveness, a measure of the attraction of the group to its members (and the resistance to leaving it). Those in highly cohesive teams will be more cooperative and effective in achieving the goals they set for themselves.9 Lack of cohesion within a team working environment is certain to affect team performance due to unnecessary stress and tension among coworkers. Therefore, cohesion in the work place could, in the long run, signify the rise or demise of the success of a company.1

Stages of Team Development

Team development takes time and frequently follows recognizable stages as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal. According to researcher Bruce Tuckman, in both group dynamics and the four stages of team development he popularized (forming, storming, norming, performing), leaders must retain the motivation of team members in order to successfully overcome the challenges of the storming and norming stages (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Stages of Team Development

The forming stage represents the beginning, the honeymoon period; great expectations are shared from all team members. Relationships are developed, purpose is clear and ground rules are established. The storming stage is triggered once team members start jostling for position, stumbling from confusion, having arguments about leadership, strategy and goals. This is when team leadership becomes imperative. The leader must succeed at keeping the team motivated, addressing all concerns and clarifying purpose and goals.

Once the storming stage is overcome the team is ready to establish open communications, stable positions and norms – the norming phase. Trust is finally gained, and “when the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”5 These are the first steps towards cohesiveness. Once cohesiveness is achieved, teams will move from norming to performing and subsequently to highly performing.

What Is Cohesiveness?

Cohesiveness is the extent to which team members stick together and remain united in the pursuit of a common goal. A team is said to be in a state of cohesion when its members possess bonds linking them to one another and to the team as a whole.

Members of a highly cohesive team focus on the process, not the person; they respect everyone on the team, assuming good motives; and they fully commit to team decisions and strategies, creating accountability among the team. Morale is also higher in cohesive teams because of increased team member communication, friendly team environment, loyalty and team member contribution in the decision-making process.6

Successful business strategies are usually carried out by an effective team with a high level of team cohesiveness. Highly cohesive teams are more committed to the goals and activities, are happy when the team succeeds and feel part of something significant, all of which increases self-esteem which in turn increases performance (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Cohesiveness to Performance

Key Drivers to Achieve Team Cohesiveness

High-performance teams are what make companies successful. Whether the task is to create an innovative product or service, or to design a new process or system, teams rather than individuals are assuming more of the load than ever before. The ideal team combines individual talents and skills into one super-performing-whole with capabilities that surpass those of even its most talented member.

High-functioning teams are not the result of coincidence. They achieve greater levels of participation and collaboration because their members trust one another, share a strong sense of team identity, and have confidence in their abilities and effectiveness. Such teams possess high levels of team emotional intelligence (EI).10

Figure 3: A Look at Emotional Intelligence

EI is generally defined as encompassing the awareness and understanding of emotions (Figure 3). It incorporates the application of this understanding to decision making, regulation, and self-management: these three are all important aspects of teamwork. Studies have shown that EI has a positive impact on teamwork by making the team more cohesive.2

Building an emotionally intelligent team requires developing emotional competence for the group as a whole. Teams that enjoy high levels of EI have established norms that strengthen trust, group identity, and efficiency. As a result, their members cooperate more fully with one another and join forces more creatively in furthering the team’s work.7

Research from organizational behavior experts Vanessa Druskat and Stephen B. Wolff suggests following three practices to build your team’s EI:

1. Make time for team members to appreciate each other’s skills.

Interpersonal empathy is critical to confidence. Interpersonal empathy builds confidence within team members; once team confidence is achieved, individual confidence will then follow. The team must be aware of each member’s skills and personality. People on teams in which they knew one another better were more efficient and got more work done. When team members know the individuals they are working with, they attain a different level of trust with each other. Trust increases motivation and motivation increases commitment; once the two exist within a team you have achieved cohesiveness, which in turn increases performance.

Team-building activities are a great way to implement this EI-building practice. For example, when a team is formed at one company, organize several team-building activities – even outside of normal work hours and location – so that the team members get to know each other better and develop empathy. Planning meetings outside of the workplace builds camaraderie. Team-building activities also reinforce organizational commitment as the team perceives that the company cares about the success of the team as a whole. Games are a way to engage team members and learn about each other’s skills on a more personal level.

2. Raise and manage emotional concerns that can help or encumber the team’s progress.

It is important to establish comfortable, team-endorsed ways to express the unavoidable anger, tension and frustration that arise in a team effort and to positively redirect that energy. Both humor and playfulness can be helpful tools in resolving conflict and relieving tension and stress.

A couple of examples come from two well-known companies.

  • At innovation consultancy IDEO, team members tossed soft toys over cubicle walls when feelings ran high. Besides lightening the mood, this action served as a reminder that the group had established norms for expressing difficult emotions, thereby making them feel less threatening to individuals and to the group as a whole.7
  • In another approach, Xerox team members wrote down their gripes, clipped them to play money in denominations from $1 to $100 depending on how serious they felt the issue to be, and dropped them into an “opportunities” jar.

3. Celebrate success.

Building the EI of a team also requires the expression of positive emotions such as gratitude and admiration when exceeding expectations. Recognizing individual and team achievements not only fortifies a team’s identity, but it also spotlights its effectiveness and collective passion for excellence.

Team lunches after a good project has been completed is an example of a typical celebration. The whole team goes out to a restaurant to celebrate their success and hard work. Another example is featuring a team’s accomplishment in a monthly newsletter from the CEO, so the entire company learns what has been accomplished.

Above and Beyond Cohesiveness

Although cohesiveness is a crucial and determinant factor for team effectiveness, cohesiveness alone will not guarantee success without organizational commitment. Team members can feel cohesion with their teammates but be completely detached from organizational values and vice versa.

Highly effective teams must have both perceived team support (PTS) and perceived organizational support (POS), but their PTS must be higher than their POS. PTS can be defined as the “degree to which employees believe that the team values their contribution and cares for their well-being.” POS can be defined as “the extent to which employees believe that the organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being.”3

Above and beyond cohesiveness there are other subset factors that are important in team development to make teams work, as shown below and in Figure 4:

  1. A clear set of objectives, communicated explicitly by management
  2. Metrics allowing team members to evaluate their performance and the connection between the work of the team and key business indicators
  3. Ongoing training
  4. Decision-making authority necessary to reach business goals
  5. Team-based rewards and appraisal, not only individual incentives
  6. An open culture with easy access to relevant information and to senior management as needed

Figure 4: Factors Involved in Team Development

Final Thoughts

Teams drive organizational success, though developing and leading high-performance teams is one of the most complex tasks facing any leader in the current competitive work environment. Cohesiveness is the key factor in implementing effective, high-performance teams. Emotional intelligence also plays a key role in building high-performance teams in that emotional intelligence fosters cohesiveness. Managing emotions is how you build a team, an organization. It is the ability to get team members inspired. Leaders must understand how team cohesiveness works and how bonding in a team will build energy. Leaders must inspire team members through reinforcing the sense of belonging, empathy in bonding and mutual respect, in addition to giving people choice and power over what they can do. Once that sense of support, that foundation, is created, the result is limitless creativity.


1. Alvarez, A., Butterfield, L. and Ridgeway, D. “Building Group Cohesion in the Workplace.” Clinical Psychology Associates of North Central Florida Website,, Accessed November 25, 2013.

2. Beam, Myra M., (2012). Emotional Intelligence and Team Cohesiveness. Marshall University. Theses, Dissertations and Capstones. Abstract.

3. Bishop, J., Scott, K., and Burroughs, S. (2000). “Support, Commitment, and Employee Outcomes in a Team Environment,” Journal of Management, 26(6), 1113-1132.

4. Block, Peter. (1993) Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-interest, San Berrett-Koehler, pages 9-10.

5. Covey, Stephen. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, FranklinCovey, pages 50, 51.

6. Daft, R., & Marcic, D. (2009). Understanding Management (6th ed). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning

7. Druskat, V. and Wolff, S (2001). “Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups,” Harvard Business Review, pages 82, 83 and 85.

8. Lussier, R., and Achua, C., (2010). Leadership: Theory, Application, & Skill Development (4th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning.

9. Oxford Brookes University, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, “Characteristics of a Group:  Cohesiveness,” Accessed November 25, 2013.

10. Ross, Judith A., (2006). “Make Your Good Team Great,” Building Team Trust and Cohesiveness. Harvard Management Update,, Accessed November 25, 2013. 11-12

11. Tuckman, Bruce W. (1965). “Developmental Sequence in Small Groups,” American Psychological Association. Psychological Bulletin, Volume 63, Number 6, Pages 384-99, Accessed November 25, 2013.