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Building a great work team can seem daunting. How do you take a diverse group of employees and turn them into an efficient, innovative, and effective team? The ultimate goal is to create a group that follows the agile system development technique, which can be applied to many different industries. The colloquial term for the process is stormin’, formin’, norman’, and performin’. A more technical explanation of the system is that it is created by small group dynamics which allow a self-regulating team to define, motivate, and manage themselves. Here are five steps to help build a team that can achieve that goal:
- Mix personalities and skills- Do not assign five identical people to the same team. The more you can mix it up the better. Try to create diversity in age, experience, background, and education to have a well-rounded team. Each worker will be able to provide a new perspective and set of skills that the rest of the team may not possess.
- Give them a clear goal- It is a group of people; which means if they do not have a clear goal, they will pontificate ad nauseum. Assign a task, give them some set parameters, and make sure that they have a clear understanding of what the end goal is.
- Let them figure out how to get there- This is known as the stormin’ part of the process. There may be some arguments and this step can take longer than some of the others, but the team will come out on the other side of the discussion with a creative way to achieve the goal that utilizes their individual strengths.
- Time block their work- Make it a realistic period, but a little challenging. This is another part of the Agile technique: break into short components to allow short bursts of energy that will lead to more progress than one long stretch of time. The idea is to have the team break the work down into sections, so their energy can be focused on one part at a time. This will mean every step of the process is given equal attention and that the team can reevaluate what they need to do each step of the way.
- Unless there is a strong personality conflict try to keep the team together through multiple projects- With every project they work on together, they will continue to improve as a team. They will become in tune with how their coworkers go about their task and will set up stronger lines of communication.
With these few steps, a company can take a group of employees and turn them into a strong and united work team that can produce great work.
The workforce is one of the first places that different generations interact in a team environment without as much emphasis placed on age. It is important to understand since the workers will come from different backgrounds, education levels, and generations that the manager or employer must know how to engage and interact with every age level. Remember that everyone in every generation wants to feel relevant, needed, and appreciated.
Motivation for each generation comes from a different place; identify where it comes from and use this to your advantage. The oldest generation of workers, and these are going to be the baby boomers, want to be recognized for their lifetime of experience. Their years need to have value to their employers even if their years in the workforce may be limited. The next generation of workers are your in-betweeners and they have different needs. To engage the in-betweeners, they need to feel like they are rising and in control. They are going to be feeling a loss of power when their skills are replaced by someone in another generation even if they have more knowledge or better ideas. Give this generation of workers power within the project and the ability to prove themselves because these are the employees are the pool to be promoted to high-level management positions. Finally, your young generation, the famed millennials, are going to be excited about introducing new ideas. Show appreciation for their ideas, energy, and enthusiasm because they place value in their fresh perspective.
Now that the values of each generation of worker have been identified it is important to assign them roles based on how they will best be engaged. The older generation should be assigned a task that allows them to be the subject-matter expert and show off their years of experience. The younger generation should be placed in the role of the innovator; let them utilize their spirit and imagination to push the project in new directions. The in-betweener should be the manager or guide for the whole process. Let them demonstrate and test their leadership skills by leading the team to complete the assigned task.
By keeping in mind the needs and values of each generation, you can successfully engage a team that is comprised of workers from different age groups.
Workplace etiquette is critical in running a business: it can change how employees interact with each other and with their employers. Below are five ways to build workplace etiquette to ensure everything runs smoothly:
Make A Good First Impression
Coming into a new workplace is difficult, you don't know anyone and you don't know the current dynamics of the workplace. However, making a good first impression will make colleagues more likely to bring you into the workplace environment. This will make the team work more cohesively to accomplish things faster and easier.
Keep Communication Lines Clear
Communication is the key to any working relationship, including employee relations in the workplace. Communicating when something is bothering you, in a professional manner, will help solve problems quickly and easily before they start. However, it is important to remember that not all communication is good communication. Gossip, complaining and other forms of negative communication should never be able to find their way into the workplace.
Be On Time
Being on time to work is one of the hardest things for employees, but constantly arriving late to work while all of your colleagues are on time can wear on the team. Continually asking your colleagues to cover for you because you're running behind, again, can cause the team to start to resent you for not doing your part to further the team. Being on time will make the team get along more and be an overall more cohesive unit.
Being available to your colleagues is incredibly important. Not just being in your cubicle able to be called on when needed, but responding to emails in a timely manner and answering phone calls when you are able to. It is also important to remember that your off days are not everyone else's off days. If you're off and someone calls with a question it is important that you respond at your quickest availability to help your colleagues further their projects.
Plan Outside Team Building
Planning outside team building activities can greatly improve team morale and make the team work together as a more cohesive unit. Activities such as team building workshops, or even a team lunch, cam greatly improve how the team works together. The better a team is able to work, the better the workplace as awhile is able to function.
Money is one of the biggest motivators to employees when finding a new job, but there are many other things that can motivate employees. Below are three things that can motivate employees more than money:
Starting a new job can be a great feeling, but if you already know exactly what you're doing when you start then that job is not really benefitting you the way it should be. Ever new job should be an opportunity to gain new knowledge and experience to make employees more well rounded, employable individuals. So experience, regardless of pay, can be more than enough of a motivator to employees who need more experience to get a higher up job in their field.
Employees like to be able to see where they are in a job, and how far they've come since they first started, seeing yourself progress can be a great motivator to employees to keep up their hard work. However, with profession comes recognition, meaning employers must know how to recognize their employees' progression and properly reward them when they have done well. This doesn't mean giving employees big, fancy gifts, but simply telling employees that they are doing a great job can go a long way in boosting morale and increasing their motivation.
Giving your employees responsibility, whether promoting them or allowing them to lead a project, can motivate them to work harder to produce a greater outcome. Promotions tend to come with increased pay, but if you were to increase an employee’s pay and not increase their responsibilities, they would not be greatly motivated to try harder. Employees find joy in being able to lead and accomplish tasks at work, and the first step is to motivate your employees by giving them more responsibilities at work.
When hiring a recruiting staff, most people will say that they look for a specific skill or experience in a particular industry. That is the easy part; recruiters that do not understand the job will often rely heavily on those specific skills in their selection criteria because they do not know what they should be looking for. What should they be looking at? There should be a focus on a match between the human characteristics of the job and the candidate pool. Proper identification of the true characteristics of the successful employee in the job is the key to finding the best candidate.
Let’s say you are trying to find a candidate for an isolated, boring, and repetitive job, what kind of person do you need? A type A hyper-creative team player who is also highly disciplined and well educated will not be successful in this role. The type of person who would be best suited for this role would be a loyal, predictable, and dependable person that thrives on routine. In this case, a recruiter should not be looking for someone who has a specific skill because most people can be taught, it is the core personality that needs to fit.
To find the best candidate for each job, recruiters need to fully define the characteristics needed to be successful in the role and then select people based on those. There are of course a few general aspects that should be consistent across all roles: maturity, morality, ethics, and judgment. Outside of these key qualities, each job requires a different type of person and by identifying that personality type you can successfully recruit staff that will be suited for their jobs.
Millennials are often treated as if they are some special generation that requires extra care, but they are no different from the Woodstock idealists and those that came before them. The unifying characteristic of Millennials is they want to change, and the world and they want to do it NOW. Knowing this is essential to being able to manage Millennials as it is one of their best and worst characteristics. They are no different than the Baby Boomers of old except they are a bit more socially aware and the Boomers were more socially aware than the WWII generation and so on and so forth. Millennials want to work on something that has meaning, is that really so different than the desires of the generations in the 1960s?
As I mentioned before, the key to managing Millennials is recognizing their drive to make a change. This has resulted in a generation that is self-driven and works better when they organize themselves; give them a goal and let them figure out how to get there and accomplish their task. The methodology behind this managerial style is used in computer application development which is known as the “Agile” method, and this system has shown tremendous results by not managing the people on a team. How it works: a product owner identifies, defines, and prioritizes functions and features to be developed. The team is responsible for determining how to do this work, in what sequence, and assigns the tasks to get it done. While to some people this sounds like chaos, it has been proven to yield great results. Toyota first introduced this idea in their Lean Manufacturing technique, and this proves allows Millennials to be high performing, top quality, and enthusiastic workers.
The downfall of managing Millennials is the same as dealing with any other generation: it is important to recognize what they want and what they are willing to work for and utilize that to get the results you want. This is an idealistic generation, so they need to see how their work is going to be effective in the long run. Any good manager identifies what is important to their team and focuses on that to create the best results. In the case of Millennials, they need to be given a basic structure that they can freely work within and to let them see the impact of their work.
Self-care has become a hot topic in the media as people are trying to be more intentional about taking care of their mental and physical health. It is both the right and the responsibility of the employee to take care of themselves, but employers can take steps to ensure their employees feel comfortable doing what they need to do. Often, simply knowing that the employer cares and tries to help is enough to instill loyalty and inspire motivation in employees. It is important to remember that each employee is different, and every job is different, but some things transcend the differences. No matter what, every employee needs to be physically, mentally, and emotionally fit for their role.
Office workers who sit at a computer all day may need a periodic break to stretch and move around; health studies have shown that simply standing and walking a few dozen steps every 20 to 30 minutes dramatically increases an individual’s energy level as well as having long-term health benefits. An employer should communicate that they know this and promote that 1 to 3-minute break to help their employees get better work out of the rest of their time. Mental stress can also be reduced by having these mini-breaks incorporated into the workday.
Health and wellness committees at different companies can really help to improve and promote self-care in the lives of their fellow employees. Some programs that are popular are: lunchtime walkers, diet support groups, etc. These types of initiatives show that the employer appreciates their workers and cares about their general well-being. A great way to encourage team and relationship building among the workforce is to have these programs be employee led. This is an area which has a strong influence over employee retention.
Another area for self-care improvement is the stress induced by having personal business which must be postponed or delegated due to lack of available time. Giving employees an area and some time to make private calls or do online work for personal business, awards points to the employer too. This does not have to be much time either! Just 5 to 10 minutes a day to call a doctor or dentist, order a gift online, or fire off a quick note to a teacher from a personal email, can be the difference between feeling stressed by the job and feeling appreciated. People will take this time anyway, but by making it official is what counts for happy employees.
Finally, offer help with career coaching and planning for the future. No matter what the age of the employee, they are considering their future whether it is at the company or elsewhere. Smart employers recognize this and make available resources that may not even be directly related to the employee’s current role. Bringing on-site a short seminar or class is what shows the employer actually cares about employee growth. Examples of this might include hosting a Toastmasters group, bringing in a financial planner for a seminar, small-scale technical seminars, or classes; all show commitment to growth for the employee. Even try hosting a local college or trade school fair where employees can see what educational opportunities are available and negotiating a discount for company employees is often quite easy. The key to incorporating self-care into the workplace is to be obvious and intentional about any programs supported by the company that are meant to help their employees.
The first step in successful networking is identifying what you want in a connection; relationships take energy and you have to be willing to put in the effort into the connections which will make a difference. Be sure to spend some time and physically write down the goals you for the connection, this will ensure you get results. In most cases, the connections we want are business oriented. We want sales leads, future employers, potential employees, technical ideas, or simply credentials that come from belonging to the “right club”.
The best way to make connections in the modern business world is to have a professional social media presence, i.e. LinkedIn, Ladders, etc. This is a pre-requisite, as anyone you might start to connect with will use these to check you out at some point in the relationship formation process. Notice that this is necessary, but not sufficient alone to establish a strong network. Physical presence is almost always required to start a relationship. You have to go to where the right connections go, talk the talk and walk the walk. You will find that many groups are welcoming to new members, as long as you have shown the initiative to find them. Social and service organizations have traditionally been the best places to meet local business and political leaders. Beware, you may also be meeting nothing but salesmen eager to network with you. Another idea for find groups: look online at places like Meetup.com. These websites are especially useful for connection with specific populations interested in a well-defined topic. If you do not find one convenient to you, then start one in your area!
That is the easy part; you now know where to find and meet contacts who could be good connections and you are ready to start networking. What next? The first step to prepare yourself is to dress appropriately for the group. In some cases, this means: a dark suit, white shirt, power tie and other times it means jeans and a clean t-shirt. Always dress based on what you think the contact would be comfortable wearing themselves. Do not forget to bring a stack of business cards with you; in addition to giving them to a potential connection, they are good notepaper. Bring a pen and an extra one in case someone else needs to borrow yours.
Networking is all about establishing a relationship. The best way to do that is by paying attention to the other person and asking questions that give them the opportunity to speak; basically, show interest in them! At a first meeting, your objective is simply to get to know them. If they have a business card, take it and use it to make notes about them and their situation while they talk. Practice your own short introduction about who you are, make it short and then turn the conversation back to them. After your first meeting, you need to decide whether the person meets the criteria for a good connection. If they pass, then send them a note, and email is fine at this point, expressing your interest in what they were talking about and try to ask a question. The follow up is critical as it cements the start of a network relationship.
The next step in the networking process is to schedule a coffee or a lunch. You should have plenty to talk about due to the email correspondence. By the time the next meeting of your group occurs, you have established at least one contact in your network. Remember to maintain your network with a monthly email and contact at the group event. Follow these steps and you will be a professional at making business connections and expanding your network.