Facilitating teamwork within food and drink manufacturing

According to the Harvard Business Review: ‘A team is a group of people who do collective work and are mutually committed to a common team purpose and challenging goals related to that purpose.’ Nigel Wright Group’s latest food and drink industry webinar focused on how HR Leaders are encouraging better cross-functional teamworking within manufacturing.

A major obstacle to teamworking in manufacturing is the tendency for each function (engineering, production, support, etc.) to work in silos. By adopting a teamwork mentality, functions would be more accountable for shared problems. Sharedleadership roles and individual and mutual accountability can help manufacturing functions work better together to solve problems.

HR Leaders from across the UK food and drink industry who attended our webinar considered this statement and shared how their organisations are encouraging better teamwork behaviours within the manufacturing environment. The following themes emerged from the discussion: belonging, connections, engagement, and teambuilding.

Belonging: Do people feel like they belong to the wider team or just their function?

“We adopted a rotation system during the Covid pandemic to ensure fewer people were on-site at any one time. Consequently, it meant that different functions were interacting with each other more so than usual. This helped build stronger relationships between the different teams.”

“Ironically, working remotely and having to use Teams to communicate with colleagues has improved teamwork and collaboration. This is especially the case with interactions between our local and international operations.”

“We’ve found that two years after the start of the global pandemic, employees now have a heightened sense of our culture and values and recognise that they have access to a much wider pool of people to collaborate with.”

“The last two years have shown that you can develop great relationships with colleagues even if they are not members of your team or even work at the same location as you. Building rapport can lead to being more informed about what’s going on elsewhere in the business.”

“Our health and safety manager needs to drive the health and safety agenda across 17 sites. They can’t physically be at all 17 sites all the time. But there is an opportunity now for that person to leverage technology like Teams to link in better with colleagues across the UK and Europe.” 

Connections: Do people appreciate how what they do affects how others do their job and the results?

“By adopting a lean manufacturing approach led by our engineering production manager, the whole site is now interconnected. No one can act selfishly or work in a silo because all teams are reliant on each other.”

Each team (engineering, production, health & safety, etc.) within a manufacturing site will have different KPIs. A key challenge, I believe, is creating objectives for each function that are measured on their collective impact rather than on team performance.”

“Our three-year strategy is focused on four key pillars. Objectives across the organisation are all linked back to each of the four pillars so that the functional and collective impact can be measured.”

“Appraisals are not just focused on task-based objectives but consider employee behaviours and values alignment too. Cross-functional involvement in the appraisal process also helps to drive cross-functional teamwork and understanding.”

Engagement: Does cross-functional working and learning occur?

“Production quality is fundamental to the success of the business. Getting engineering to understand the value of production and vice versa is essential to creating a teamwork environment on the shop floor.”

“We encourage production workers to gain engineering skills that enable them to perform basic maintenance on the machines. This makes them appreciate the responsibilities of the engineering teams more.”

Senior leaders sometimes spend time on the shop floor getting to know factory workers and understanding the nature of their jobs better by actually doing them. This initiative can be replicated within the manufacturing facility too: e.g., getting production to spend time engineering, etc.”

“Shop-floor staff rarely get a chance to step back and acknowledge that they were part of a team that achieved, for example, a reduction in downtime. We’re offering vouchers and other incentives to teams for achieving targets e.g., waste reduction. This all helps drive ownership of team objectives as well as encourage the right teamworking behaviours.”

“I think that people need to be given some flexibility around how they deliver their objectives. By giving people influence or some autonomy about how objectives are achieved, they tend to willingly take ownership and accountability for outcomes. It’s about giving them something to feel proud of.”

“It’s up to functional heads (engineering, quality, health and safety, production, HR, marketing, etc.) to demonstrate the right teamworking behaviours. Supervisors and team leaders will then see the benefit of encouraging better teamworking on the shop floor.”

Teambuilding: What is your approach? Does the leadership team value them? Is it providing them with what they need?

“I've spent quite a bit of time working on team building events and the results I've seen of businesses and groups of people coming together are fantastic. Your leadership team needs to understand why you're doing them and what they will get out of it, rather than just a day outside of the office.”

“Open discussions are key to building trust and solving persistent problems.  We do a lot of personality profiling in our business and share profiles amongst the leadership group to ensure we are more fluid in how we approach leadership decisions.”

"One team-building exercise that has been successful at our business was to dress in different colours depending on your personality profile. It allowed us to see how different areas of the business are made-up in terms of their personalities. It has helped a lot with self-awareness and understanding of how to communicate and talk with different people. We understand each other a lot better now.”

“It's about different teams with different objectives coming together for the benefit of the business as a whole. Learning effective communication is key to making this work.”