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Creating Effective Teams. It Should Be Easy, Right?

January 3, 2018

Most organizations want stronger teams and more teamwork. Most managers yearn for staff members to work together, communicate well, and get along. For organizations working on cultural transformation, teams are even more fundamental. When staff members share information, think critically together, and reach agreement about work priorities, they move from the usual “lip service” of teams and teamwork. At their best, some highly transformed long-term care settings have empowered staff members and created self-organized work teams that create quality care for older people and quality jobs for direct care workers. Let’s look at some of the key concepts related to empowered work teams.

What You Should Know About Empowered Work Teams  

Empowered work teams require leaders to reflect on their beliefs in their staff members and to consider how they impart trust. In a long-term care setting, an empowered workplace means moving more power to direct care staff, along with authority and accountability. This shift can feel like a radical transformation for many long-term care organizations. But the potential for improving the lives of older adults and developing highly satisfied staff is well worth the work. Leaders should consider what an empowered workforce could mean for their organizations.

An Empowered Workforce

What is an empowered workforce? Start with the root word “power.” Power means “control,” “authority,” and “dominion.” The prefix “em-” means “to put on to” or “to cover with.” Empowering, then, denotes the transfering of authority and responsibility. Empowerment occurs when more power goes to employees who in turn experience a sense of ownership and control over their jobs.

Empowered individuals know that their jobs belong to them. When employees are given a say in how things are done, they feel more responsible. When they feel responsible, they show more initiative in their work—and they are more productive, effective, and more likely to enjoy their work. One way to structure an empowered workforce is to create self-organized work teams that manage the work and have decision-making authority.

Empowered, Self-Organized Work Teams

A self-organized work team is a group of people who, under minimal supervision, maintain daily responsibility for managing themselves, as well as their work, in order to reach a common goal defined by the organization. Self-organized work teams typically handle job assignments, plan and schedule work, make production and/or service decisions, act on problems, and monitor their own performances. Self-organized work teams have access to organizational resources and work within organizationally-defined boundaries or parameters.

Some areas for decision making and responsibility might include:

  • Self-scheduling
  • Ordering supplies
  • Direct lead role in service/care planning process
  • Planning and carrying out meaningful engagement within the home and in the community
  • Team meetings (planning, facilitation, follow-up, etc.)
  • Monitoring team performance

Empowered work teams create a seamless and highly skilled network around the people they serve. In a person-centered care approach, decision making moves more to the direct care staff member and the older adult. An empowered team approach can make this happen.

What Do Teams Need from Leaders?

For teams to be successful, supervisors should get to know each team member and develop a relationship built on trust and belief. Successful supervisors create systems of support and promote accountability by communicating expectations for the team. The scope of work and clear goals for the team are clear and opening communicated. Leaders also become good at giving and receiving honest and direct feedback from the team, and they furnish the team with resources and supplies, education, and recognition for team success.

The supervisor works to support the competence, confidence, and commitment of individuals and the team by modeling belief, trust, and respect. Competence is a function of knowledge and skills that can be gained from education, training, and/or experience. The leader gives direction and support to grow competence. Commitment is a combination of confidence and motivation. Confidence is a measure of a person’s self-assuredness, a feeling of being able to do a task well without much supervision. In contrast, motivation is a person’s interest in and enthusiasm for doing a task well.

In sum, creating empowered, self-organized teams might seem like a huge lift, but you should consider the payoff. An empowered staff is also the basis for creating quality care through quality jobs, which results in higher staff retention, job satisfaction and engagement, older adult satisfaction, family satisfaction, and more jobs that attract strong candidates.

In this highly competitive market for direct care workers, you could even become an employer of choice!

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