Teams are a vital part of your brand.
They help ensure important work gets done, when needed, to the highest possible standard.
As such, there is a lot of focus on how to build teams that are more:
But, there is a much more pressing question you need to answer before any of these are possible — how do you build a happy team?
This is a question we have spent a lot of time thinking about here at Loomly. And, we decided it was finally time to share some answers.
We created a simple questionnaire for our team members to fill in about what they look for in a team environment and what makes them happiest.
Some of their insights were so good that, well… we decided to turn them into an actionable article for you to use to help you build your own happy teams.
Read on to find out more.
5 Ways To Build A Happy Team (According To Real Team Members)
In the following sections, you will find five key elements our team members felt were crucial for building a happy team.
These were based on:
- Their past and current experiences working in teams
- Their “dream scenario” of working in a team
Where possible we have also backed their statements up with research to show you the broader impact their comments can have on your team’s happiness.
It is worth noting that we have included both in-house and remote employees in this survey and that their insights apply to both environments!
But, without any further build-up, let’s get into it.
1. Keep Your Teams Small
83% of Loomly team members said they prefer to work in small teams. Ideally, small enough to fit into a decent-sized booth at their favorite restaurant.
This might not come as a surprise to you: managers and business leaders have been promoting small teams for years. Or, at least since Jeff Bezos popularized his two-pizza rule.
But what is it about small teams that people love?
Well, research on the effectiveness of team size shows that smaller teams come with several benefits that large teams just cannot contend with.
When analyzing 65 million papers, patents, and software products released between 1954 and 2014, researchers found that smaller teams were consistently able to:
- Communicate more effectively
- Respond quickly to problems
- Take more risks
- Generate more creative and innovative ideas
And these benefits are somewhat human in their nature; people feel happier when they are in a position to effectively communicate, contribute, and collaborate.
“My dream team environment is one in which we are small,” says Engineering Lead, Ari, “The ability to collaborate and solve problems as a tight-knit team is very rewarding.”
These small teams are perfect, then, for people in your more creative departments, such as marketing-focused and product-driven groups.
2. Cultivate A “Try New Things” Environment
Happy teams thrive in environments where they can:
- Try new things
- Take risks
With the support of their fellow teammates.
“Happiness in a team environment,” according to our Customer Success Manager, Meilani, “means you can trust your team and you have the freedom to try new things with their support.”
What Meilani is referring to here is a principle known as psychological safety: the sense of being able to make decisions and contribute without fear of retribution.
Research suggests that psychologically safe environments provide the foundation for all other aspects of teamwork, including:
The truth is — as you will see in the next section — team members love contributing to their projects. They want to play an active, useful role in your team’s work.
Psychologically unsafe environments can dramatically reduce the amount people are willing to contribute because they are scared of the backlash.
But creating an environment where people:
- Trust each other
- Openly discuss risks and mistakes
- Can have productive disagreements
- Know errors are not fatal
Can grease the wheels of contribution and make for a productive, happy place for your teams to work.
3. Give Team Members The Opportunity To Be Active
Every single member of the Loomly team said the same thing:
They love to be active.
Team members want to find themselves in a position where they can contribute, share ideas, solve problems and feel like they are making a difference.
When your team hits their goal, everyone wants to be able to lift their arms and say with pride, “I made a difference.”
There is a lot of research to show that giving (read: contributing) can directly impact your happiness. People often feel fulfilled when they have shared something with a group.
But this desire for an active role also comes from a need for purpose in their work.
Job Characteristic Theory, created by researchers Hackman and Oldham, states that team members have an intrinsic need for task identity.
This is their ability to:
- Identify the meaning behind their work
- Contribute to the end product
According to the researchers, “workers experience more meaningfulness in a job when they are involved in the entire process rather than just being responsible for a part of the work.”
Basically, the more they can add to the process, the more fulfillment they will take away.
When trying to increase the happiness of your teams, then, you must not just assign a person with a task and ask them to stay in their lane.
Instead, you need to give them the freedom to contribute to other aspects of the project, regardless of what their official job title or team role is supposed to be.
4. Dedicate Time To Collaboration
Our Senior Software Engineer, Jason, has a favorite saying from his 25+ years of experience working in various different teams:
“All of us are not as dumb as one of us.”
What it means to him is pretty clear, “collaboration offers different perspectives that you do not get working alone; it can lead to solutions that may otherwise never have existed.”
That alone is a practical reason to make time for collaboration. But, this is not an article about practicality, is it? We are here to talk about happiness. So, how does this apply to you?
Well, in our interviews, was asked Loomly team members a simple question; what is the most enjoyable part of working in a team?
Almost every single person said that collaboration with other members to solve problems was more enjoyable than anything else.
It is an aspect of teamwork that undoubtedly makes people happy. So, it is paramount that you give team members the time and space to collaborate and come up with creative ideas.
5. Have Strong, Inclusive Leaders (Who Know When To Step Back)
When you put people into groups, they will look for a leader; someone who the group can turn to for insight, guidance, and confirmation.
Your teams will likely have leaders that are:
- Assigned: such as team leaders or line managers
- Natural: someone who emerges as a leader within the group
This will depend on whether you have a flat or hierarchical structure to your team. Either way, these leaders will have an undeniable impact on your team.
All of the team members we surveyed said that managers or leaders had a direct impact on their:
- Sense of purpose
They also said that team leaders were necessary to help them stay on track and focused on their goals.
It will not come as much of a surprise that there is research to back this up. Inclusive leaders, who create that sense of psychological safety, can have a positive impact on:
- Work quality
- Stress levels
- Sense of inclusion
- Work attendance
- Morale, confidence, and sense of purpose
They make the workplace better and can galvanize a team in a way that authoritarian leaders can only dream of.
But, our survey also shows that it is important that leaders know when to step back and allow people to come up with their own solutions and ideas.
“Empowering each team member to solve problems, learn, and make decisions are important actions to take in this environment” says Ari.
This is something our CEO, Thibaud, has had to learn from experience. In the last few years, he has seen several benefits from “getting out of the way and letting my team do their job.”
To help ensure your team’s happiness, then, it can be beneficial to:
- Have clearly defined leaders
- Who focus on inclusion
- But also know when to let the team do their thing
And, when things go wrong, can be there to guide the team back onto the right path again.
Building A Happy Team In A Nutshell
This article was short and sweet, but we hope you will agree that it packed a real punch.
According to our team members (and science!), there are five ways to build a truly happy team:
- Keep your teams small
- Create a “try new things” environment
- Allow team members to actively contribute
- Dedicate time to collaboration
- Have strong, inclusive leaders
If you can hit all four of these points, you will be well on your way to building a happy, productive, and highly motivated team.