Google coddles its employees with free food, massages and other lavish perks, yet some of its best engineers still grouse about their jobs and bosses as they struggle to get assignments done.
The Internet company tackled the puzzling problem with a study that concluded how teams work together is more important than who is on a team.
That's not exactly rocket science, but it's an example of how companies are spending more time trying to understand how to build the most productive and cohesive teams. It's a high priority because the best products and ideas increasingly are springing from people working together.
"It's becoming difficult to think of companies that aren't depending on teams," says Amy Randel, a professor of management at San Diego State University. "And usually nothing is more important than having a goal that inspires and organizes people's efforts."
Google's study, based on data analysis, found that teams work best when their members feel like they can take risks, can count on each other, have clear goals and believe their work matters.
Some of those findings were reinforced by a recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal by Jasmine Hu, an assistant professor of management at Notre Dame University and Robert Liden, a management professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. That analysis of 67 different teams working at six different companies found employees excel when they feel their work will help the colleagues, customers and community.
"The social aspect of teams is very important because many times people are just not motivated to work for money alone," Hu says. "They want to have the opportunity to achieve a positive impact on the lives of others."