Team Development – Performance and Productivity

Your team is a direct reflection of your effort. Achieving the highest level of efficiency, positive attitude and performance, while maintaining a high degree of satisfaction is a constant moving target. You can never say done, and relax. It’s a continuous process that requires constant attention and tweaking, while actively observing and listening to feedback.

But this is not an unachievable goal, and you could be running the best team in a relatively short amount of time. Team development is something that must be inspired into your team, and can only be achieved with guided contribution from the entire team.

Let’s have a look at a few of the aspects to be considered when embarking on this path.

Talent Management

The aspect of managing talent spans across identifying and recruiting talent, maintaining and enhancing that talent as well as retaining the talent.

In larger organizations, a large part of the identification and recruitment is handled by HR, and in most cases they have a methodology they follow. Sometimes though, there is a gap, spawning primarily from lack of communication or miss-communication.

In smaller organizations, the talent acquisition follows a less robust process, but sometimes that might give better results by putting the right people in front of the potential resources.

Skipping to retaining the talent, this again could be the topic of a larger discussion, but in the end it boils down to building that cohesive team, where each member belongs and has a reason to be. Of course, there are many other factors, like availability of opportunities, fair compensation, etc. But in most cases your organization will loose talent because something is not jelling properly in your team.

Now, maintaining and enhancing the talent brings me to the next major topic.

Talent Training

For the most part, and in most industries, talent is something we learn. Humans are very adaptable, and most of us are eager to learn and try new things.

In training, I want to look at several things that guide decisions around training options and approaches.

First off, from an organization perspective, a general direction must be in place. For example, we are focusing on specific products or services, and obviously the availability of training will be dictated by that general direction.

Managing the training offering starts with the identification of needs. A good approach is by defining and implementing a skills matrix. You start on this path by identifying the necessary skills categories, and asking all team members to realistically rate themselves in each of those categories.

The resulting skills matrix will help in different ways. If can not only serve as the starting point for defining training plans, but also help with resource assignment and load.

In addition to the standard skills matrix, you could also use this opportunity to gauge resource interest in future development needs, wants and opportunities. Most of the time, your team will open your eyes with regards to some of the things on the horizon you should start preparing some training on.

When evaluating and putting together a training plan, you will want to align the skill matrix results with a training needs assessment. This is a tool that allows you to identify what the best resources are for a specific training. that way, you don’t waste precious time with unnecessary training for specific team members.

Training Methodology

Training is never only training. Sending a resource to a training course does not make them an expert on that topic, no matter how expensive or comprehensive that training is. Training is a combination of formal training, coaching and on the job learning. Interesting enough, the formal training is the smallest amount of learning.

For this reason, along with formal training, coaching and regular forums are essential, as well as opportunities.

Training is an investment. No matter how you put it, you invest time and money in your resources, for a delayed return on that investment.

Looking at the results of your skills matrix, correlated with the interest expressed while collecting this information, you can now start pairing resources in training with more senior resources for on the job learning (coaching). Again, it’s an investment in building your team that will pay off down the road.

In addition, running regular open forum meetings with your team can give very good results. While you should start these meetings based on a list of topics suggested by your team members, these meetings should be loose enough to allow the discussion to flow freely. This will provide the best results from a training perspective. Consider maybe weekly lunch and learn sessions for this.

It’s always a challenge communicating enough information about what each team member is working on, and these meeting could be an eye opener for the rest of the team with regards to how solutions have been tackled and resolved in similar circumstances.

Team building activities should also be part of your training methodology. These come with more preparation and effort, as you must be very selective in order to achieve your training objective. Typically, you will focus on communication skills, but you can target other aspects like strategy, problem-solving, etc.

Resource Allocation and Training

One challenge I’ve seen too often is managing resources during and after long-term engagements. These pose a particular challenge. Besides the obvious eroding and segregation of your resources from the rest of the team, there is a challenge with keeping your resources updated. In particular, when it comes to technology, a resource allocated on a long term engagement runs the risk of being too focused and not keeping updated.

One way to mitigate this is by not only pulling all resources in various ongoing training opportunities, but also alternating allocations. For example, once a resource comes off a long term engagement, that resource should always be allocated next on one or more short-term engagement in order to update their skill set and cool off. It’s like cleansing your palate when whine tasting.

To close this, I want to tackle one more aspect:

Planning for Succession

No matter how good, dedicated and happy your team is, eventually you will have resources deciding to pursue new opportunities. It’s just a fact of life. In today’s day and age, gone are the times when you start working at Ford (just picking on Ford here, replace with any company you want) at an young age, and retire from the same company.

Part of your team training methodology is also building redundancy. You do not want to be in a situation where loosing a member of your team creates a gap in knowledge. You will scramble to fill that gap, and it will cost you. Also, do not leave this to the last moment, as knowledge transfer sessions are typically just dust in the wind. They will scratch the surface, but will not provide enough meat to the bone.

Your strategy should always include an element of cross-training. This way, in unexpected situations, whether when loosing a team member, of someone falling ill, you have a resource to cover for the duration.

There’s a lot more to be said, and we’ll be dissecting some aspects related to this topic in the future. Until then, if this helped in any way, leave a comment below.

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