Satisfaction with teamwork declines

The Finnish Quality of Work Life survey 2008 indicates that teamwork has become more problematic. More Finnish people work in teams than in 2003 when the previous survey was conducted, but employees are less satisfied with the functioning of teams. Continuous performance evaluation and bonus systems are increasingly common in Finnish working life. This might explain increased dissatisfaction with teamwork as individual bonus systems and personal evaluations do not support the idea of teamwork.

Incidence of teamwork rises

Since 1997, the Quality of Work Life Survey carried out by Statistics Finland (Tilastokeskus) has asked participants whether teamworking is applied at least to some extent at their workplace. The survey is carried out among the Finnish employee population. Altogether, 4,400 employees were interviewed in the latest survey in 2008. Over a period of about 10 years, the proportion of female salary and wage earners who answered ‘yes’ to this question has grown by over 10 percentage points, and the figure for men has also grown by almost as much. There are almost no differences between sectors of the economy, company size, or ownership type regarding the way in which teamwork is carried out.

When comparing the results from the 2003 and 2008 surveys, the proportion of workers involved in teamwork rose from 61% to 67%. According to the definition, team or group work has become more common for both women (67% compared with 63% in 2003) and men (66% compared with 58% in 2003). This increase in teamwork appears to have been the greatest when it comes to working in the same team or group. This is more common today than working in several groups.

Differences among occupational groups

Regarding differences between occupational groups, team and group work is most common in social work (80%) and education (78%) occupations. It has also become clearly more common in these professions, as shown by a 10 percentage point increase since 2003. Teamwork has grown in popularity and become nearly as popular for those who do scientific and technical work (74%). In healthcare (73%) and administrative management (74%) occupations, teamwork is also very common, remaining at the same high level for these occupations as in the 2003 survey.

Teamwork more common in Finland than EU average

According to the 2005 European Working Conditions Survey carried out by the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO), teamwork is a particularly common form of work organisation in Finland compared with the average for the 27 EU Member States (EU27). In the survey, as many as 76% of Finnish women stated that ‘all or part of their work is carried out in a team’. The corresponding figure for all European female wage and salary earners was only 56%. Men in Finland also do more teamwork (73%) than they do in the EU27 countries on average (63%). Altogether, 74% of Finnish wage and salary earners confirmed that they work in a team. Only in Estonia (75%) was there a higher proportion of people who gave this answer.

Aspects of teamwork reported by respondents

Although teamwork has become more common in the past decade, the timeline of the various aspects of teamwork does not paint a very positive picture of the development of its content. The prerequisites for good teamwork, such as autonomous teams, seem to clearly have shrunk during the past 10 years. The potential for teams to select their own superiors, set their own goals and make decisions regarding the internal division of work has become progressively worse. It appears that, during the past five years, fewer people who work in teams report that teamwork increases work productivity or promotes the equal distribution of work tasks. Moreover, fewer of those who work in teams are, in general, satisfied with the team-based method of working or the way in which they can participate in the group’s decision-making process (see figure).

Figure 1: Aspects of teamwork reported by respondents (%)

Aspects of teamwork reported by respondents (%)

Notes: Aspects of teamwork where employees answered ‘Totally true’ to the related questions.

Source: Finnish Quality of Work Life Surveys 1997–2008

Aspects of teamwork reported by respondents (%)

Teamwork as a source of conflict

These quite startling changes involve practically all of the socioeconomic groups and sectors of employment. The only issue that seems unchanged is the association of teamwork with conflict: although this is not considered a large problem in teamwork.

According to the results of the study, measures to promote teamwork in the 2000s have not always succeeded in the best possible manner when it comes to content. References can also be found in other studies with regard to the decrease in the effectiveness of teamwork – for example, in the Work and Health Survey carried out by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos, FIOH). Team discussions regarding work tasks, objectives and meeting these objectives are one of the most important factors contributing to the success of teamwork. According to the Work and Health Survey, teamwork has clearly become more common in the 2000s. However, at the same time, the proportion of wage and salary earners who report that there is enough discussion about work tasks, objectives and meeting these objectives has halved in this decade.

Commentary

These results regarding experiences of teamwork provide food for thought about the potential of this type of work. On a positive note, teamwork promotes information sharing, brainstorming, learning, quality of work life and the possibility of spreading work pressures evenly. It is interesting to consider the degree to which the current trend towards individualisation in the workplace is connected with the perceptions of the decline in the usefulness of teamwork. For example, it would be helpful to determine how well the increase in the monitoring of individual work and payment systems that reward individual work contributions reconciles with teamworking principles.

Anna-Maija Lehto, Statistics Finland

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