The ability to work as part of a team is something our generation learned while growing up. We often worked in teams while participating in sports activities, as part of class assignments and group projects, or as members of student organizations. So what is teamwork and how important is it in the workplace?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), teamwork/collaboration is a core competency employers seek in candidates. In fact, NACE’s 2018 Job Outlook Survey reports that employers who completed the survey rated teamwork/collaboration as the second highest competency they sought in candidates, just below critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

NACE describes teamwork/collaboration as the ability to:

  • Build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints
  • Work within a team structure
  • Negotiate and manage conflict

Classroom application

author working as part of a team

“Teamwork is not about finishing an assignment quickly. The goal was for us to share ideas, evaluate our work, and provide each other with feedback to arrive at an enhanced solution.” – Tyler Savaglio, pictured right

For me, teamwork means arriving at a better solution as a group than one would have arrived at as an individual. For example, in one of the management courses that I took, my classmates and I had to write a case analysis. The task seemed simple because I wrote many reports and case analyses in the past. My group divided the work and we each completed our portions of the paper on our own. This was an incredibly quick way to work and made our project easy.

Unfortunately, it was a poor example of teamwork and our grade reflected it. Teamwork is not about finishing an assignment quickly. The goal was for us to share ideas, evaluate our work, and provide each other with feedback to arrive at an enhanced solution.

When it was time for the second case analysis, my group and I knew what we had to do.

Instead of dividing up the work into sections, we worked on the assignment together. This time we focused on one idea, instead of all of us working on independent concepts. Not surprisingly, we received an “A” on the assignment because of our teamwork. Teamwork and collaboration are powerful!

According to Enterprise Talent Manager Drew Butts, teamwork is an important skill his company seeks in candidates.

“We look for those who can show how they have gone beyond the job description to assist other employees in achieving company goals,” Butts said.

As students and young professionals, if we prove that we can be successful in a team, it may help to prove to a company that we can be the right fit for a position.

Internship application

This summer I had an internship with IBM in Massachusetts. Teamwork was an incredibly important component of this internship. I worked on projects and tasks in groups of two, three and six. After having learned about the value of teamwork from previous classroom experiences, I was able to guide the teams I worked with to complete our tasks. We were even more effective because each of us came from different parts of the country. Each of us brought new ideas and many were ones I had never heard before. We took advantage of the input from each team member and were successful in our projects.

Experiencing teamwork in my coursework and in my internship reinforced my conviction about the value of teamwork. It is an important skill to develop because most likely, I will be working in teams, both academically and professionally.

It may not always be easy to recognize, but it is likely everyone works in some sort of team every day. Whether it be with group projects, student organizations, in the workplace, or within families, we are constantly working with others. As students and young professionals, we need to be able to recognize these team endeavors, invest in them, and polish this ever-important skill to be better prepared to face the challenges of the next generation.

Tyler Savaglio is a marketing analytics and organizational leadership major and a Career Center career ambassador at Illinois State University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.