You regularly monitor the health of your projects, but when is the last time you checked the health of your team? Ensuring that your team has a healthy culture, environment and work ethic is vital in getting and keeping great business results.
A team with a healthy outlook performs well and is a pleasure to be around. They turn in the results and make work enjoyable while keeping it professional and constructive. The health of your team is something that every manager should care about, although it’s not always clear what you should measure.
Why Team Health is Important
The Corporate Leadership Council surveyed over 50,000 employees and found that those individuals who are most committed perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to quit. Given the cost and time involved with onboarding new staff, the more star performers you can keep in the business, the better your longer term results.
One person consistently not performing well has to potential to bring a team to its knees. No one likes to carry their colleagues — that can lead to resentment and a drop in morale. Good managers can identify subtle shifts in the health of their team so they can act quickly to resolve problems like this without negatively affecting the top performers.
What’s Normal, What’s Not
Teams go through stages of development. A commonly used management model for describing the stages of team formation is Bruce Tuckman’s four stages of team growth model. It’s useful to know what the normal stages of team development are because then it’s easier to spot if something is amiss. Tuckman said that teams go through four stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and he later added Adjourning to capture the closing phases of project management.
Morale and performance move in cycles which are aligned to the team development stages. Not everyone is going to be up all the time, especially if the team is in the storming phase outlined in the infographic. Be on the lookout for abnormal behavior in your team so you can step in early. Here are four warning signs to watch for.
Four Warning Signs to Watch
- Staying late
Time at the desk doesn’t always equal productivity. Staying late is a warning sign for your team’s health because it could be a symptom of there being too much work. Most team members can sustain a short period of high activity and many projects have the requirement to work overtime now and again. But it can’t happen long term without burnout.
What to do: Check the resource allocations on your project schedule. Adjust the distribution of tasks within the team to make sure that there isn’t one person constantly overloaded with work, or that the team hasn’t stopped being in crisis mode after a deliverable which has thus become the new normal.
- Leaving early
When team members start to leave the office early on a regular basis it can be a sign that they either don’t have enough work to do or morale is so low that they can’t wait to leave.
What to do: Check the workloads of your team. Could you stretch them more by giving them more tasks or responsibility or tightening up some deadlines? If you suspect morale is low, get curious and ask yourself what factors might be provoking this behavior. Is there internal change? Discord on the team? If you can’t pinpoint a clear reason, then then talk to your team.
- Poor communication
Check for signs of communication sagging or misfiring. If you notice that members of your team are ignoring emails and messages from you, this could be a sign that they are overworked or that they don’t care or they don’t think your project is important enough to be bothered about right now.
What to do: If workload isn’t a problem, then talk to them about team and company priorities. Your project may genuinely not be strategically important. In that case, you’ll have to plan around their availability if they are also working on higher profile projects.
- Job hunting
This has happened to someone we know: he came into work and caught one of his teammates running off copies of his resumé on the office printer. It’s time to worry if your team members are job hunting online, interviewing during in their lunch breaks or asking for help writing their resumés.
What to do: It’s probably too late. Your team member has checked out and is already mentally moving on. Talk to them openly about their plans. If they do seem open to the possibility of staying, work out what you have to do to make them stay and do it (if you want to keep them – you may be happy to lose a poor performer!). Then backfill any leavers as quickly as possible so you manage to complete a knowledge transfer before they go.
Tips for Monitoring Team Health
These tips will help you keep on top of the health of your team.
- Management by walking around. This is a technique where you check in with each of your team by walking around the office on an informal basis for a chat. On virtual teams you can achieve the same goal by phoning them once a week to find out how they are doing. If know your team members well, then you’ll be able to notice changes in behavior.
- Surveys. It’s possible to suffer from survey fatigue, so you don’t want to do this too often. A quarterly or twice a year survey is adequate and if you do it regularly you’ll build up a data source to use to monitor trends. Go through the results with the team to identify areas where you can improve working practices. Solutions proposed by the team are often more powerful and supported than suggestions put forward by you as the leader.
- One-on-one meetings. You should have one-on-one meetings with each of your core team at least once a month. This is your opportunity to address their concerns and listen to their suggestions. You’ll also pick up any early signs of discontent within the team which will allow you to deal with conflict before it gets out of hand.
- Team meetings. As well as meeting everyone individually, meet regularly as a group. Monthly team meetings are a good way to see the team working together and note how they interact. Judge the mood of the group from the conversations and comments that you hear. It’s easier to do this face-to-face so you can include body language in the mix, but you can still get a good sense of the health of the team from a virtual meeting.
- Talk to their managers. In matrixed or flat environments where you have responsibility for a team member but you aren’t their official line manager, talking to their manager can be enlightening. When someone’s performance drops it could be for any number of reasons and their manager may be able to shed some light on the issue before it starts to affect the rest of the team.
Track any actions that come from staff satisfaction surveys, group or individual discussions and meetings in your project management software. You’ll then be able to report back on progress and boost your team’s morale and performance whenever you need to.
Finally, use the complete suite of tools in your planning software. ProjectManager.com will let you record the tasks you’re doing to monitor and track team health, specifically resource allocation through the dashboard tool, which gives you a real-time view of work allocation for your team members – a key factor in ensuring the team overall maintains a balance.