A small sample of randomly selected job postings: “We are looking for team players”, “You convince through your teamwork skills”, “you contribute to the team”…

Teamwork seems to be one of the most important ‘soft skills’ or social skills to be at all in order to survive in today’s working environment. In this article we deal with two parts: what does having teamwork skills really mean and how can we determine whether someone has it or not ? But we better start with the foundation: do you know what teamwork skills are exactly?

What is the actual difference between teams and groups?

There are many different forms, such as employees who work together, but not every form of cooperation is the same as teamwork. When we talk about teamwork, we mean several people that (1) work towards a common goal, (2) have tasks that are dependent on each other or are built upon, (3) there is a certain division of labour, and (4) the team members together are responsible for the outcome.

For example: if five people are in the same room cutting wood, that is not teamwork. If the same five people are building a boat together, then that’s teamwork.

What does being a ‘team player’ mean?

Teamwork is often reduced to a few catchphrases. Looking closely, it is not easy to say what ‘good’ team players must bring, and they are used for an assortment of characteristics, behaviours, knowledge and domains. Here is a short (but definitely not complete) overview of common descriptive dimensions:

  • the willingness to get involved
  • communication skills to interact with the other team members effectively
  • keep others up to date
  • have clear objectives and quality standards
  • good planning and coordination skills
  • the ability to maintain personal relations upright
  • the necessary expertise to get the job done
  • conflict resolution and problem solving skills
Types of team players: Are you a doer or a specialist?

When it comes to defining teams, type models are quite popular. We can easily imagine how types such as ‘the doer’, ‘the specialist’ and ‘the implementer’ behave like in reality; types like these are not abstract.. The most popular model originates from Belbin and consists of nine distinguishable ‘roles’. However, it is not without controversy. Critics refer to the theoretical foundation, the validity and also that the types can enhance discrimination by putting people into ‘categories’.

How to recognise successful teams

A very popular and proven model, which defines what makes a good team, originates from psychologists Michael West and Neil Anderson. The core of the model is that personality traits are not defined, but concrete practices and processes lead to promoting innovation.
Four facets are derived:

  1. Vision and clarity of purpose: all team members are aware of where the journey should go and why a project is important for the company / department
  2. Shared Security: relevant information is shared, errors are openly handled, suggestions heard and regularly exchanged
  3. Support: team members support each other and admit this openly
  4. Task orientation: a high quality standard of work products and tasks maintained and regularly reviewed
Recruiting: Are my candidates capable enough to work in a team?

Even in the preselection you can – for example, get a first impression of the teamwork skills of your candidate – by using biographical or situational questions in recorded video interviews.

This is then usually substantiated with the most promising candidates in the subsequent assessment centre.

Generally speaking: certain characteristics and competencies of your candidates can be systematically checked by means of online assessments already in the preselection.