We all recognise that the world of work is changing fast, and one of the most sought-after skills is being able to work flexibly with people from all sorts of different backgrounds. This month’s guest blog is by Victoria Bird of team performance specialists, Belbin who explains why team work matters so much.

The way we work is changing.

With the rise of the ‘gig economy’, young people entering the workforce are more likely to work as freelancers (or in a series of short-term roles) during the course of their career, rather than remaining in one job – or even one particular field – for life.

From consultants to contractors, “gigging” promotes small-scale innovation and entrepreneurship and can offer a better work-life balance. In the UK, 15% of workers are now self-employed, with the expansion of self-employment playing a large in part in dropping unemployment figures. In the States, self-employment counts for a staggering 34% of the workforce. Organisations are being encouraged to embrace the rise of the “portfolio career”, contracting work out to a diverse mix of individuals on a temporary basis to bring in specific expertise, whilst maximising flexibility and manage ongoing costs.

In short, “gigging” means working with a wider variety of people on shorter-term projects. Rather than working in an established team with colleagues we know well, individuals engage directly with one another for a short time and then move on.

It’s crucial that we equip young people with the tools to adapt to different working environments and help them to understand what they can contribute to any situation. So, how does a young person successfully navigate the demands of modern working?

Playing to your strengths is the quickest path to happiness at work

Research shows that discovering and playing to one’s strengths spells success. Individuals who have the opportunity to play to their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work, which affects all kinds of outcomes including career progression, happiness, wellbeing and wealth. In their 2016 study, ‘How Millennials Want to Work and Live’, Gallup revealed that young people don’t want to ‘fix’ their weaknesses, they want to develop their strengths.

The same is true in the classroom too. Gallup’s recent student poll found that engaged students were more than twice as likely to say they got excellent grades and did well in school than their actively disengaged peers, and more than four times as likely to be hopeful, involved and enthusiastic at school. More engaged students were more likely to have entrepreneurial aspirations too.

Understanding your behaviour is key

Belbin believes that understanding preferred behaviours and working styles can influence the way kids learn best, communicate with others and solve problems. During over a decade of research, Dr Belbin and his team observed individuals working together in minute detail. They catalogued each and every contribution, and from their observations arose the nine Belbin Team Roles – nine ways of behaving, contributing and interrelating when working with others.

Understanding their Belbin Team Roles can help your child to fulfil their potential and set their career off on the right footing. There’s the student who is told off for daydreaming, but who produces work of astounding originality. The one who’s scolded for talking too much, but who comes into their own when given the opportunity to get out of the classroom and negotiate a deal on a business project. Another who dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, but is fixated – perhaps to the point of anxiety – on the detail at the expense of the overall purpose of the work at hand.

If you’ve seen your child come alive during a project but struggle with plodding through a textbook, Belbin might be able to shed some light and give students strategies to use their strengths to best advantage and mitigate any associated drawbacks.

Belbin GetSet, designed especially for students, brings Belbin’s professional expertise to young people in education, apprenticeships and training schemes, enabling them to understand and promote their strengths even before they enter the workplace. Students complete a short questionnaire and receive a personalised report on how to use their behavioural strengths to best advantage in different contexts – whether in the classroom, completing application forms or attending interviews.

Working in versatile teams is the future

According to management consultants, EY (Ernst & Young), 9 out of 10 companies surveyed, agreed that the problems organisations faced were so complex that teams were essential to provide a solution. And from Deloitte in 2016: “The ability to quickly build, deploy, disband, and reform teams is a critical skill for today’s organizations”.

In a gig economy, individuals need to work quickly and effectively together, but this can be difficult if young people aren’t sure what they have to offer in a new role. Our research shows that those who are new to the workplace are (understandably) less definitive about their strengths than those who have been in work for some time.

Unlike personality tests, which are entirely dependent on self-reporting, Belbin GetSet encourages young people to collect, and reflect upon, feedback from their peers. This is a crucial learning opportunity, allowing them to uncover – and nurture – strengths they didn’t know they possessed. The GetSet report prompts students to analyse their findings in the light of their own experiences, enabling them to keep a “pulse” on their changing behavioural styles and preferences as their careers progress.  It’s great preparation for encountering 360-feedback, which is commonplace in many fast-changing professional environments.

Finding the right fit

Many young people are still at the exploration phase – discovering where their talents lie and trying out different behaviours and ideas to find a good fit. With a solid understanding of their existing strengths – and the confidence to cultivate latent ones – today’s more flexible working environment will provide rich ground for those talents to flourish.

If you want to find out more about Belbin and the GetSet test, please visit www.belbingetset.com



“Self-employment and the gig economy”, House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, April 2017

“Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce”, an independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union & Elance-oDesk, 2015

“The future of work: a journey to 2022”, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, 2014

“State of the American Manager”, Gallup, 2015

“How Millennials Want to Work and Live”, Gallup, 2016

Gallup Student Poll, Gallup, 2016

Organizational design: The rise of teams, Deloitte, 2016

“The power of many: How companies use teams to drive superior corporate performance”, Ernst & Young, 2013