Practical Team Building
There comes a day in the growth of a business or organization where the owner or founder must hire people with the expectation that they will help to contribute to its growth and success. This is true whether the hire will be working in the shop, taking orders at the front counter, writing software, or managing a part of the business. So often the entry of this new employee results in negative results. The manager and the new employee are frustrated and disappointed. With this hiring, comes some new skills which the leader must master to produce the desired results. Let us start with the assumption that the interviewing and selection process was done well and the new employee arrives for their first day on the job.
The manager has in their mind a group of expectations about the performance anticipated from the new employee. This goes beyond any formal Job Description. It includes how long it might take someone to acquire the skills necessary to perform given tasks. It might include how quickly someone will learn the importance of their role in the organization or how often a supervisor has to double check the quality of their work.
We often find that these expectations, although clear in the mind of the manager, are not clearly explained to the new employee. It is often the case that a person may be just simply instructed specifically on the task to be performed or the general area of responsibly and left to fend for themselves. A clear discussion, at this point, of the expectation is important. Statements such as, “ I would expect that for the first week you will have many questions on how to work with a new customer, but over the next two weeks all these issues will be resolved. Please let me know if we can help you through this learning process.” A statement such as this makes it clear what is expected by the manager during the initial few weeks and invited the new employee to come for help if required.
I have often heard a supervisor say of a new employee, “let’s just see how they do “. That is the opposite of clearly discussing expectations and providing a greater opportunity for success.
Every group or team has a set of what might be considered normal behavior. The dress code, when we arrive for work, the use of profanity, and personal telephone time are examples of these norms. A new employee may sense or discover these without much help, but violation of the group norms may lead to misunderstanding and embarrassment. For the most part, these are not written and should be discussed with new members of the group.
Trust is one of the most important attributes a manager must have and establishing that with a new employee is extremely critical. As a new employee seeks to find their way in a new company with an unfamiliar environment, finding someone to trust is critical to that process. If a manager establishes trust with the employee, he is in a position to provide performance feedback that is readily accepted and acted upon.
Note that the word here is empathy, not sympathy. Each employee is a unique individual and a manager who appreciates that is on his way to building a strong team. That is not to say that the manager should not critically evaluate the new employees, but should use an arbitrary standard for evaluation.
The recruitment and selection process has many pitfalls to avoid. It is only the first step in team building. In most cases, teams are built one person at a time not in mass. The manager should carefully consider how to assimilate the new employee into the team after their starting date.