When you screen CVs (resumes), you read about candidates’ stories following a recurrent theme: ‘I’m a great team player.’ No matter what’s the background, the company, or even the job position. When looking for a job, every candidate claims to be the best team worker ever. On the flip side, try to find a job application that doesn’t require teamwork in its description. 

Why is everyone so obsessed with it? The answer is simple. For leaders and managers, online teamwork is one of the top ten priorities in 2021.

The ability to work in teams is vital for remote positions. While traditional teamwork builds on in-person meetings and group activities, distributed environments demand different solutions. Countless researchers highlight how close-knit teams record higher engagement levels and success rates, or that teamwork makes employees happier — and more productive. 

These data are also why lately everyone is so good at teamwork, at least on the CV. The tricky part of teamwork online is that anyone can be a great team player. A good workflow doesn’t depend only on team members and skills but also on how team leaders encourage it. 

Why is Teamwork Important in Any Organization?

Everyone is unique and can bring valuable qualities to a team. These magic qualities, however, won’t appear without a wizard evoking them. As a team leader, you are a sort of wizard and your power is to recognize these skills and encourage their use for the right scope. 

As obvious as it sounds, teamwork is essential because it directs employees towards a common goal. If everyone has fantastic skills but no-one to guide them, this potential won’t ever materialize into a concrete project.

If you are a team leader, think of yourself as a mayor. In your little town, every brick and stone reflects the way your citizens are. Everything around is tidy, and citizens are kind and caring with each other and the city. This lovely atmosphere happens because you, as a mayor, give a good example, promoting a sense of community. 

Your citizens know that working together is what they need to be happy. If everyone puts effort into keeping roads and parks clean, we will all enjoy our outdoor walks. 

Can you imagine an example of indifference and superficiality? Rubbish on the streets, inefficient services, and dirty parks. People in this messy and dirty neighborhood won’t care about the place even for a moment. They don’t feel part of a community or the need to contribute to a common goal. They just want to stay there until they can leave for a better town. 

That is not what you want for your team. You want people happy to stay where they are – even virtually – and ready to contribute to a common goal – your business. To make your employees happy, you want to create an environment to nurture individual skills to bring the team to its higher level. Imagine these skills as seeds to water and take care of until they turn into a blooming garden. One day, this garden will sustain you without the need of looking for more supplies. 

Plants can’t move, that’s true. But people can and if you want to keep your team with you, think of teamwork as your watering system and get creative with it! 

How to Create a Culture of Teamwork in a Remote Setting

Especially for virtual and distributed teams, teamwork is the invisible web that makes all your team members feel part of a community and working towards the same goal. In an office, it’s easier to imagine how to create this sense of belonging – try thinking back as a mayor. More or less, an office operates like a small town. 

You can play with design and architecture to personalize the place or create special occasions to engage with your team. In a virtual office, you can’t put fancy paintings on the wall. You could try to add fake jungles or party balloons on Zoom backgrounds, but it won’t do the job. Teamwork in virtual teams looks harder, but don’t let this stop you!

Working from a distance is different from working alone, and this is the message you should obsessively transmit to your team. No one ever said that you couldn’t create a virtual watercooler or engage in fun activities aside from work. 

The first thing is to set up the right communication tools to encourage your team members to share tasks and responsibilities. For example, let’s say that you have two great writers producing excellent posts in your content marketing team. Both are contributing to growing your online authority in very different ways. One of them is amazing at writing news about the industry, while the other is great at technical pieces, constantly updating you on the latest trends and technologies. 

If you encourage casual conversation, the two writers won’t ever feel in competition; rather, they will be glad to write about their interests. They can give you very different things, but they will be happy to support each other as a part of the same team instead of fighting. That’s why you should always encourage teamwork online in your business. 

Your job is to understand how to create a workflow in which everyone feels equally essential and contributes to a common goal – as much as citizens keep their city clean if they plan on creating roots there. 

How to Keep Your Employees Working as a Team

Unlike a soap opera where small towns never change, your virtual team is going to be dynamic and in constant transformation. Whether you hire new people or launch a new project, you will always need to keep an eye on how your team changes over time. 

Your job is to understand who you are talking to and help each person shine, regardless of what they are best at. Sharing tasks is not enough if people aren’t feeling a sense of belonging. They will just do what they need to. If you find people with a cultural fit, in addition to technical skills, your team will grow together and change will never be a problem for your teamwork.

Especially when you are hiring remotely, always imagine if the candidate could be a good member of your community, not only just another citizen paying council taxes. Once you get the best people you can get, get creative and find unique ways – like your team members – to work together and that will give you the best results! 

Sharon Koifman is the CEO of DistantJob, a Montreal-based company that provides remote worker staffing and best practices-based advisory services for companies seeking to improve and expand their remote work operations. Twitter