HR Tech Number of the Day: dynamic teams

The concept of agility has become embedded in most HR conversations today about the changing world of work. But, while many organizations are striving for agility, most aren’t quite there.

That’s according to research by SAP SuccessFactors that was detailed Wednesday at HR Tech Virtual, which continues through Friday. (Register here.) Dr. Caitlynn Sendra, organizational psychologist and EX product scientist at SAP SuccessFactors, cited Deloitte research that found that 90% of today’s leaders believe collaboration and agility are critical to business success; yet, only 10% of those surveyed actually see their organizations as agile. This has created what SAP SuccessFactors terms The Agile Gap.

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So, how can organizations overcome that chasm? According to Sendra, introducing dynamic teams—and maximizing their potential—is one strategic way to take your company down the path to agility.

What it means for HR leaders

A dynamic team is “any temporary project team that comes together to achieve a goal and then disbands whenever that goal is accomplished,” Sendra said. Dynamic teams can help organizations tap into cross-functional knowledge and become unencumbered from traditional organizational hierarchy, she said.

See also: To improve EX and agility, many HR teams are restructuring

To learn more about what dynamic teams today look like, SAP SuccessFactors surveyed 1,400 employees who have served on dynamic teams, 700 line managers of such employees and 45 HR professionals. Researchers found several key differences between traditional, dynamic and agile teams:

Traditional teams: These have a formally assigned leader, a predictable workflow and members who usually share the same job title or expertise.

Dynamic teams: Such teams function in a self-managing way, workflows are often changing rapidly and membership is cross-functional. They retain some elements of agile methodology, like encouraging failure to drive innovation.

Agile teams: This is the most formal type of dynamic team, with an assigned leader, frequently changing workflows, and daily stand-ups and sprints.

Digging deeper into dynamic teams, SAP SuccessFactors found that most involved five to seven members, who largely joined at the prompting of their managers. They typically last four to six months and there is little to no structure, as well as minimal expectations for changes to each member’s regular “day job.”

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While those who’ve participated reported some positive outcomes—66% said their experience positively impacted their engagement and 65% said it boosted career development—only 20% were satisfied with the overall experience. What’s more, line managers had significant misgivings about encouraging employees to join dynamic teams: 70% were worried they would leave their regular team if they developed new skills, and 79% were concerned about how much time they would spend away from their regular duties.

Related: 9 things to learn this week at the virtual HR Tech Conference

So, how can employers maximize the potential of dynamic teams?

Sendra said the dynamic team members interviewed who reported the most positive experiences shared some commonalities: Teams had at least eight members, more structure, longer duration and more support to accommodate their regular roles.

And, “although we saw that most were joining when their manager told them to, when employees were given autonomy and empowered to join teams of their own volition based on what they’re passionate about, they tended to have more positive experiences,” Sendra said, noting line managers also need to shift their mindset if they want to help both their employees and the organization take advantage of the benefits of dynamic teams.

“Dynamic teams are not going anywhere any time soon,” she said. “In fact, we expect to see an increase in their prevalence as organizations seek to reduce hierarchy and increase organizational agility. Using and facilitating dynamic teams can be a key component of unlocking this organizational agility.”

Registered attendees can click here to listen to the full session.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at