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Teamwork and transitions: How to build team cohesion during change


From time to time, you may need to reorganize your teams, bringing in new members from a different part of your organization or even externally. To work cohesively and collaboratively, the people involved will have to first learn each other’s personalities and work styles. The change you’re making, whether planned or unplanned, is necessary. So, you don’t want poor team cohesion to complicate the transition even more.

If handled poorly, these transitions can lead to conflict and slowed productivity.

That’s why you need clear strategies for helping build team cohesion. In this article, we’ll discuss ideas to:

  • Introduce new team members to each other (whether in-person or remote)
  • Get people up to speed on how their roles are related
  • Get a new team’s project work flowing quickly and efficiently

Let’s dive right into how you can get a newly formed work group to gel quickly and demonstrate strong team cohesion.

1. Revisit your onboarding practices

Borrowing practices from your new employee onboarding process is a great way to get people who are new to each other (but not necessarily new to your company) working together smoothly.

Repurposing these onboarding components can encourage new team gelling:

Start the process as soon as the new team is announced.

Meet one-on-one with each person on the team to clarify their individual roles and answer any questions they have.

Follow up with handwritten notes and even welcome packages (including team or company merchandise) to generate excitement around the plan for a fresh start.

Ask each person to record a video introduction to share in advance or prepare to make an in-person introduction when the team formally kicks off.

Plan a great first day working together.

Ensure everyone is prepared to be fully present and engaged on day one of coming together as a team. The last thing you want is for your new team to get off to a haphazard, uneventful start.

Aim to make all the team members feel special about their first day as a new unit, taking everyone out for lunch or enjoying a company provided meal together over Zoom.

Lay out the vision for the team’s role in your company.

Take time to reiterate how your new team will play an important role in the strategic projects that are critical to your company’s future. This gives a sense of shared purpose that will help build enthusiasm for the work ahead.

2. Create a culture of grace and empathy

As the leader of a new team, create a standard of showing grace and empathy, supporting each person through the challenge of transitioning into working together.

Preemptively acknowledge that you expect your team to encounter difficulties as they get acclimated and learn to merge various ways of operating.

The more empathetic you are in your expectations, they more natural they will find it to be gracious with one another, too.

3. Establish clear communication channels

Especially if your new team is collaborating virtually, don’t leave any ambiguity when establishing reporting relationships and information flow down the chain of command.

This helps ensure everyone has access to needed insight, and it also helps you avoid subjecting anyone to information overload caused by over communicating.

In addition, ensure everyone is trained on how to fully utilize available collaboration and project management tools.

Make your expectations clear if there are certain actions that you want to see taking place within these systems and acknowledge that everyone has different preferences and comfort levels with technology.

4. Introduce the team to their clients and projects

Not only should they be gelling as a team, but you need to get them comfortable with the work they’ll be doing.

  • Introduce the team to any internal or external clients they’ll be working with.
  • Set up meetings with key stakeholders and clients to review projects and key initiatives.
  • Allow your new team the opportunity to ask questions about the projects and get familiar with the leadership style and expectations of their new clients.
  • Walk through what’s been done previously, what the goals are moving forward and ensure everyone in the room has had a chance to interface with one another.
  • Create accountability and get everyone contributing at a similar pace by using a project collaboration tool like Smartsheet.

They key is to break down knowledge gaps early in the process to give your newly gelling team a running start.

5. Create self-serve support content

Make sure new project information and procedure expectations are not just shared with the entire new team, but also published in a format that’s easy to revisit later.

With so much to get up to speed on at once, your employees will appreciate being able to go back and reference what they don’t immediately absorb without having to ask anyone for another explanation.

6. Address issues immediately

Despite everyone’s best effort at showing grace and empathy toward each other, your new team may still run into conflicts as their workflows are rerouted.

If this happens, don’t run from your new team’s issues. Address problems immediately – as professionally and gently as you can. Get into problem-solving mode quickly, listening to everyone’s concerns and having the conversations you need to have to find a solution.

This can be tougher than usual in a remote work environment. Getting on Zoom or just a regular phone call helps everyone remember to consider the feelings and concerns of the other people involved.

7. Value diverse perspectives

After getting off to a great start, you should begin to observe what makes each member a valuable asset to your new team.

Begin to highlight and call on the diverse perspectives and experiences that you have represented. This gives each person more satisfaction in what they can to contribute and encourages everyone else to appreciate their teammates’ efforts more fully.

Summing it all up

Team cohesion can make or break how a group operates. It can impact engagement, productivity and ultimately it can impact your bottom line. Taking the above steps to ensure the transition is smooth for those involved can help to avoid any unnecessary complications with the change at hand.

Want to learn how to encourage gelling as a team and inspiring people to give their best every day? Download our free magazine now: The Insperity guide to being a best place to work.