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16 Mar. 2012 | Comments (0)

Business leaders are drawing upon an array of team organizing structures to solve contemporary business challenges. The increasingly geographic distribution of workplace talent has driven organizations to embrace a team approach to work as a flexible, effective means of competing in a competitive global business environment. Different kinds of teams - management, parallel, project, transactional, and work teams – are playing an important role in how work is done in an organization. All of this has occurred within an environment of shifting demographics and increased workforce diversity. For business school graduates to be successful in these team-oriented environments, senior business leaders report that it is important that employees possess the critical skills of being able to work well in teams and in collaborative situations.

Business schools are working to prepare students to be successful team members in both co-located and virtual teams. In fact, major international business school accrediting organizations, such as The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), and the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), specifically address the need for institutions to incorporate team work, cooperative learning, and collaboration in their business programs. To assure that this is occurring in business programs, these accrediting bodies are demanding business schools structure student work to be completed in teams that exhibit the same characteristics required of teams in the workplace.  However, educators have acknowledged the difficulty in teaching students to be good team members.

One way to assure that new hires hit the ground running as productive team members in an organization is to consider incorporating a structured team experience as part of the on boarding process. The purpose of this structured team experience would be to both accomplish a defined work objective while providing a reflective forum that addresses team dynamics within the specific culture of the organization.  An individual’s participation in a team will be shaped by both her educational experiences and cultural imprint (think Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Model). Even though teamwork in an academic environment shares many characteristics with that of the workplace, there are differences: the context of teams within a matrixed organization, cross-generational team membership, varying tenure of team members within the organization, how organization’s use technology, and the impact of geographical and cultural gaps that need to be bridged. Providing an experience that combines academic expertise and theoretical frameworks, with the application of available work place technologies to a real-time work situation, will enhance a new employee’s ability to be a successful and productive team member in an organization. 

Providing a forum that explicitly reflects on team management processes, task identification, role definition, conflict management strategies, leadership direction, coordination, expectations management, and conflicting personal agendas will develop team skills that have the potential to provide an organization with the competitive competencies that will result in positive results. In addition, this kind of focused experience will help new employees build relationships with existing employees across the organization, and serve as a mechanism to convey the organization’s culture.


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  • About the Author:Peter McAliney

    Peter McAliney

    Peter J. McAliney is founder and president of Chenery & Company, a private consulting company that works with higher education clients to develop innovative and market driven programs that produce…

    Full Bio | More from Peter McAliney


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