Build Teamwork in Six Steps

No matter what business you are in or your specific role, you rely on teamwork. Do you want the telephone answered professionally and the proper information conveyed? Does your website need to be updated to reflect new pricing? Is your computer acting up? Are parts needed from an outside supplier to meet a client deadline? Should billing be sped up so you can collect accounts receivables faster each month?

Whatever the requirement, you can’t achieve the goals of your function or for your company without inspiring and reinforcing teamwork constantly.

In the case of Affinity Express, we have to keep more than nine hundred employees, who are scattered across several different offices in three continents, feeling like they are part of the same team and pulling in the same direction.

As our CEO Ken Swanson pointed out, building teamwork is no easy task. And it is one that never ends. Based on our experience, here are some ways you can improve teamwork in your environment.

Make it a Priority

A few years ago, we decided in our annual strategy meeting that building stronger teamwork was the number one company goal because it would facilitate all of our other objectives. To that end, we set up a Teamwork Award.

Every month, the Teamwork Award calls out one team, often a cross-country and/or cross-functional team, that worked together to achieve a significant goal.  Nominations are invited from all employees (and judged by our Senior Business Team).

Create a Theme

To help employees focus on teamwork, it is a good idea to create a theme that resonates with people and makes the program fun (it can also drive contests and prizes). We were using Mastering the Rockefeller Habits to develop strategy and Verne Harnish encourages setting quarterly themes but we decided on a larger umbrella campaign around the popular sport of NASCAR rather than a short-term initiative.

Here is part of the original memo I used to promote the award and ask for nominations, back in January 2008 (feel free to borrow the concept or the quotes!).

NASCAR auto racing is the fastest growing spectator sport in the United States. Whether at track-side, on television or radio; men, women, and children of all ages follow their favorite drivers and teams. How can thousands of moving parts run at the outer limits of their design capability for 500 miles? The secret is not high technology or big budgets. It’s people—how they work with each other and with their equipment is fundamental to world-class levels of performance.

Ray Evernham, crew chief for the DuPont team, described it best when he said: “We’re all spark plugs. If one doesn’t fire just right, we can’t win the race.  So, no matter whether you are the guy who’s doing the fabricating or changing tires on Sundays and that’s the only job responsibility you have, if you don’t do your job, then we’re not going to win. And no one is more or less important than you.”

Since NASCAR racing is a model of teamwork, the timing is perfect to introduce another category for recognition: The Affinity Express Teamwork Award.

The objective is to highlight outstanding teamwork that improves our company’s efficiency, quality, communications, employee morale and/or client delivery and satisfaction. Teams can consist of two or more people and members can be recognized for work on specific projects. Extra consideration will be given to cross-functional efforts, as we believe departments/divisions already function cooperatively at Affinity Express. An example might be employees from Production in both Manila and Pune working with representatives from IT, Finance and Marketing to meet the special needs of an important client.

Affinity Express Original Teamwork Award Certificate

The Teamwork Award certificate we used when we first started the award

Recognize Success

Since then, we have issued awards to so many deserving teams. For example, the winner of the very first Teamwork Award was the Global Accounting Team, who was awarded for successfully migrating U.S. Accounting to the Philippines, closing the year-end financial audit on time and improving the distribution of weekly billing from Thursday to Tuesday morning. However, the Global Accounting Team shared this award with a number of individuals in other functions who had contributed to the achievement.

A recent award went to a large cross-functional team including people from the Client Solutions and IT team as well as several members of operations and client relations teams, for enhancements to the Affinity Express Service Bureau, our online system that supports many print advertising clients.

While Teamwork Awards often go to core design teams, they are also a great way to recognize and promote the contribution of support functions such as IT, Finance, HR, Training and Marketing and illustrate to employees how every person, as Ray Evernham put it so eloquently, is a “spark plug”.


The nomination of the candidates ensures that the work of numerous people at Affinity Express are visible to our Senior Business Team. We know when teams put in extra hours during busy times, an upgrade to our workflow systems goes off without a hitch or what clients say when they are thrilled with a seamless implementation process.

Even better, all our employees learn about these accomplishments when they get the memos and see them posted in all our offices. That means the accounts payable manager in Manila has visibility to what the customer service team in Pune is doing and so on. At most companies, departments work in silos but not here because we are given incentives to reach across teams and country borders!


The Teamwork Award is part of our regular rewards and recognition program. Every quarter, each office has a rewards and recognition event where employees who have contributed significantly to the company in the last quarter are celebrated. Teamwork Awards for the preceding quarter are also handed out at this event, along with various rewards like cash, certificates and trophies. Everyone crowds around on the production floor while the President of the local office or Ken Swanson, if he’s visiting, presents the awards along with words of thanks or praise.

Be Consistent

A monthly teamwork award fails if it is not issued monthly. If you say teamwork is important to you and vital to success, you have to talk about it all the time. Based on all I see, I think we could even have a weekly award and, if you look closely at your organization, you probably could too. And don’t forget about outsiders. How would service to you improve if you included the local printer, office supply company or software company in a teamwork award?

Having been a part of this program from the beginning, the reason why I especially like the Teamwork Awards is that they tell the story of Affinity Express, every single month. A great company is dedicated employees working together to find solutions to the problems of clients’ and internal customers. And every month, when I announce the Teamwork Awards, I feel we have one more way to tell the story.

How do you recognize employees at your company? What examples of outstanding teamwork have you witnessed at Affinity Express or at other firms?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

One Response to Build Teamwork in Six Steps

  1. Pingback: Core Values for the Affinity Express ELITE Club « Affinity Express Blog

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