If good management is the backbone of your brand, then the people are its heart and soul. But for many companies, building the right team isn’t an easy task, and it can take years to get it right. When mixing different skills, personality types and work strategies, it’s no surprise that many teams find themselves stagnating, losing motivation and even breaking down. From maintaining good communication to solving conflict and developing people on the right career path, the challenges of building an effective team can be a minefield to navigate.
According to a study by PwC, 63% of CEOs are concerned about finding the right skills to fit their business, while 93% recognise the need to make business changes in order to attract the best talent. While finding the right people is the first step to building a dynamic and productive team, you need collaboration and strong leadership to make your company vision a reality.
Due to the changing political climate and the ongoing negotiations that surround our exit from the EU, many businesses are experiencing a period of uncertainty. But with the right management, the right tools and the right outlook, you can build the kind of team that can weather any storm.
Choose the right players
Ask any successful sports team manager, and they’ll tell you that finding the right players is the first step to success. In the business world the same principles can be applied, and good managers need the right recruitment processes in place to build an efficient team.
Wildgoose Managing Director, Jonny Edser says it’s crucial to remember the core company values during the hiring process and to refer back to them at all times. “Building an effective team can have a significant impact on the team dynamic. By employing great people, this will help to raise everyone’s performance and develop a team where you can rely on your colleagues, enjoy working together, have fun, and deliver better outputs. The opposite is the case if you have colleagues that are not up to the grade and this can have a very negative impact on the team dynamic.”
For many companies, actually finding those people can be a significant challenge, and some bosses argue that it’s difficult to find good employees that meet the job specification. A Talent Now survey shows that skills shortages are a key concern for 2018, with 42% of hiring managers concerned that they won’t find the right fit for their team. However, according to Forbes, it’s not the lack of talent that’s the problem, but the recruitment process itself. From crafting the perfect job advertisements to knowing where to place them, a large part of recruiting great staff is understanding where to find them in the first place. While some companies find word of mouth and referrals an effective way to find talent, others are turning to alternative hiring methods. Ditching CVs in favour of video proposals or tasks has become popular with some organisations, as it gives a clearer picture of a person’s personality and skills than a standard CV. Meanwhile, some brands are making the most of face-to-face meetings at employment fairs or utilising technology to support their recruitment processes, using AI to match graduates with roles within a business. Building an online presence for your brand can also help to attract strong candidates, as it creates awareness about the company and its strengths. In addition to showcasing the great work you’re doing as an organisation, you can use it to highlight employee achievements, CSR work, training days and team building exercises.
However carefully designed job specifications are, employers need to remember that these roles aren’t being filled by robots. If a person demonstrates the right attitude and personality for the brand, but is missing experience in a certain area, it may be worth taking a chance and offering them the opportunity to train up to fill the gaps in their skill set. If you’re not attracting the right candidates, it could be a case of tweaking the job advertisement or your own interview technique.
Staff retention is just as important as the hiring process, and your company benefits should be well-advertised during the recruitment stages. In addition to offering a benefits package and learning and development options, companies should be clear about their office culture, to ensure that prospective employees understand as much about the team dynamics as they do about their specific role.
Building a team culture that works for your brand
Leadership plays a huge role in the development of successful teams and poor management is cited as the number one reason people leave organisations. However, good management can be one of a company’s greatest strengths, leading to a happier, more fulfilled team that fully understands the organisation’s goals and aspirations.
Developing a brand’s culture is integral to its growth and this needs to be reflected in the team, from the initial hiring process through to day-to-day working practices. Recent research shows that only four in 10 people understand their company’s vision and less than 50% of employees feel connected to the brand mission. Without this passion for the organisation’s underlying values, people are unlikely to work to their full potential, and you may notice that your team becomes more despondent as a result.
Getting employees to believe in the brand starts during the hiring process itself, and the company’s cultural identity should shine through before candidates have even stepped through the door. Lucinda Bianchi, Wildgoose’s General Manager of Operations points out that if a company can’t sell itself to its own team, how can it expect to have success with clients? “The important thing with brand awareness amongst employees is that employees need to actively participate. It’s not just a list of values to learn off by heart, it has to be an organically grown culture. That can’t be learned through a powerpoint, it can only be ingrained through action, participation and collaboration.”
An interview is a two way street, and ultimately it’s your job to sell the company to prospective employees just as it’s their job to sell their skills to you. The vision and mission of the brand should also be clearly articulated during the onboarding process, with many companies now using gamification and other interactive tools to deliver the message in an engaging and insightful way, boosting enthusiasm among new employees.
As flexible working patterns continue to be adopted by companies across the UK and US, it’s important to retain that vision, mission and positive brand culture through regular face-to-face team building opportunities, meetings and one-to-ones with managers. For example, while a 2017 Harvard Business Review showed that working remotely can leave employees feeling ‘left out’, there are ways to combat this. Almost half (46%) of respondents agreed that managers who were frequently in contact were most successful, indicating that regular communication between employees is key to maintaining a solid team structure in a company with flexible working hours.
Other perks within the office space such as pool tables, minibars and regular team nights out can help to build a positive team dynamic, keeping that positivity alive outside of work.
Creating a learning and development programme that works for your employees
While your employees are likely to appreciate free doughnuts and company parties, there’s more to developing a successful team than rewards and incentives. According to a Gallup survey, just 29% of millennials are truly engaged in their jobs, suggesting that many managers have a long way to go to win over their teams.
For many, lack of learning opportunities is one of the key reasons they don’t feel motivated in their roles, with a Total Jobs survey showing that 68% of employees have moved jobs due to lack of training and 90% would like to see more development options offered in their workplace.
But how can you provide a strong learning and development programme that works for your team? Jim Alexander, Head of Wildgoose Learning, says that when it comes to delivering something your employees will appreciate, personalisation is paramount. “Personalisation is of the utmost importance in L&D because a learner can absorb content at a pace and style that suits them. Whether that’s by utilising technology or face to face learning, having a vast array of different approaches online or ‘in the room’ will only solidly learning.” He adds that for both passive and active learners, experience is the best way to build soft skill development. “In a world where leadership is going to have to rely more and more on interpersonal and human interaction, soft skills are going be more important than ever. Learning by seeing, hearing and feeling will only speed up the practical application of these skills.”
According to CIPD, giving your employees a voice not only boosts their confidence, it also enables their skills to be better utilised. There’s no better place to test this than with your learning and development programme, which is a place for your staff to grow and develop away from the constraints of their day-to-day roles. With so much diversity in organisations, listening means you’ll better understand the opportunities your employees are looking for and how they want to boost their careers in the long run. Allowing them to make mistakes in a supportive environment, share ideas and grow leads to greater innovation and creativity as well as enhancing accountability. The more you accommodate their needs, the more likely they are to stay and develop those careers with you, leading to better employee retention and a stronger team.
While employees should receive continual training, it’s also important that company leaders continue to learn, with some studies suggesting up to 98% of managers think they need more learning and development opportunities.
The ever-changing environment may have contributed to this, with a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion within the workplace in recent years. By developing the traits that make leaders more inclusive, teams stand to benefit from greater creativity, idea sharing and innovative problem solving – with individuals drawing from their own personal experiences and diverse backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion programmes should be a mandatory part of modern training, challenging people’s perceptions on what it means to be a diverse and supportive leader.
Creating a culture of inclusivity will enable businesses to benefit from the cultural intelligence of their people and teams. In addition to boosting team morale, motivation and positivity, a cohesive and culturally diverse organisation is more likely to expand into other markets,boosting business opportunities long-term.
Creating a happy environment
The idea that happy employees are more productive isn’t new, but it remains an important concept. From listening to the needs and goals of employees to providing platforms to grow, there’s many ways to ensure a happy workforce- you just need to find the ones that work for your team.
Studies show that at least 83% of people look for personalised experiences from the brands they select, so why shouldn’t the same be true of your workforce? Thirty years ago, job hopping between different companies was uncommon, with many people settling into a ‘career for life’ at the age of 20. But with a multitude of options now available, it’s time to up your game if you want to retain the best talent. By 2025, millennials are expected to make up around 75% of the workforce, so it’s more important than ever to listen to those changing needs and desires.
An obvious first step to creating a happy workforce is to offer a personalised benefits package, with different options depending on an employee’s circumstances. While a new mother might be keen to take advantage of childcare support, a travel enthusiast could opt for extra holidays or discounted airfares. Extras to boost mental health and wellbeing are also well-received, such as birthday bunk-offs, paid charity days, fresh fruit in the office and team breakfasts. Regular surveys with staff members will help managers to establish what their employees are looking for, and create programmes and opportunities that reflect this.
Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that long hours can actually be detrimental to business, as well as negatively impacting employee’s lives. Our workaholic culture has led to an increase in stress and sleep deprivation, with studies suggesting that one in five highly engaged employees are now at risk of burnout. Days in lieu for overtime and restricted working hours are one way to combat this, and many companies have successfully introduced ‘emergency email only’ policies between certain hours. Sheridan Roberts, head of events at Wildgoose, says that the communication channels must be open for a company to succeed and support its staff in the right way. “Regular one to ones are an opportunity for a manager to provide an employee with their undivided attention and create a comfortable environment for them to be open and honest about their workload and general wellbeing, meaning potential areas of struggle are identified and can be worked through,” she explains. “Flexible working hours can also give the employee a sense of freedom in managing their own calendars, meetings and workload and mitigate the amount of pressure they could feel from a traditional clock in, clock out system.”
Creating a happy working culture is the first step to boosting your team’s productivity, but it’s also vital that managers stay engaged with team dynamics. No matter how skilled they are, employees can only reach their full potential when they’re working well with the rest of team. Regular assessments are important, giving employees a safe space to discuss any niggles, issues or grievances they may have with another team member. Avoiding favouritism, whether accidental or deliberate is also key, and managers should ensure that perks are evenly distributed between different members of the team to avoid resentment.
If and when conflict does occur, swift action can prevent problems from escalating. Team building exercises and regular away days are one way to intervene, as they allow people to build up relationships outside of a deadline driven environment, discover each other’s talents and learn to build bridges.
When it comes to business, nobody knows what the future will hold. But in a world that’s becoming increasingly tech-driven and fast-paced, you can be sure that the most innovative companies will be amongst those most likely to succeed. Resting on your laurels and putting stock in tradition is unlikely to build the team dynamic you need, and companies must be open to cultural change if they want to succeed. Strong leaders who value their employees and treat them as equals will drive results, turning traditional notions of ‘top down’ management on its head. Building a strong and engaged team takes time, dedication and the ability to listen to a multitude of voices. Get it wrong and you’ll be struggling with dissatisfied employees and high staff turnover. Get it right and you’re paving the way for brand success.