How to develop a dream team

For an SME, with little or no HR expertise, developing and managing a team is not simple. Here’s how to hire people in Ireland.

Team-building is too important to ignore. If you can get beyond the buzzwords, it’s also not that complicated. Much of the investment you need to make is about time, more so than money.

For an SME, best practice in team building can be boiled down to five main themes and taking action to change habits and behaviours.

Culture is key

The best performing businesses, be they multinationals or SMEs, have strong cultures. They may or may not have mission statements stuck on their walls. But they certainly know who they are and what they are about.

Workplace culture is simple: you need to have a clear purpose and a set of values that your staff know and care about. Engaged employees take ownership of their workplaces. They are the best advocates for your business and your brands.

Build trust

Employees are more productive and engaged when they:

  • Trust the business they work for
  • Take pride in the work they do
  • Enjoy interacting with their colleagues and their management

Building trust is about credibility, respect and setting expectations. It starts with owners and managers and the relationships they build with their teams.

Be open

The rumour mill is a potent force in most workplaces.  Many employers allow unfounded rumours to gain credence.  Instead, you need to communicate regularly and consistently. You should have open, honest and transparent communications with all members of your team.   And you shouldn’t shy away from tough topics.  

Delegate and celebrate

Trust your team to take on new challenges. Delegate more than the routine tasks. And celebrate the little wins, as much as the big wins.

Justin Keatinge of IT outsourcing company Version 1 faced a growth dilemma – management was stretched and opportunities were missed. The solution was to launch the Management Task Force (MTF) initiative which allows non-managers to tackle management challenges within their areas of expertise.

MTFs tasks included building the client pipeline, expanding into the UK and improving profitability. MTF cut the workload of Version 1’s management, employees were challenged to create solutions and managerial potential was shown in the process.

Don’t repeat mistakes

Few SMEs haven’t made a mistake in hiring the wrong candidate for a job or not doing enough to retain a valued manager or staff member. Such mistakes cause disruption and additional costs. Replacing a senior manager can cost between 150% and 250% of his or her annual remuneration, based on recruitment costs, productivity losses, induction and other costs.

A mistake is compounded if it’s repeated. Force yourself to ask tough questions about what went wrong. Or better still ask a trusted adviser to critique what went wrong and how you’ll avoid a recurrence.

8 Action Points

  • Set aside time to develop your team. Meet them formally and informally. One senior MD makes a point of taking the “scenic route” to the canteen, so that he can have casual conversations with the team.
  • Adopt a “no blame” culture. If there is a problem, avoid the trap of blaming an individual or individuals  Analyse what went wrong and provide constructive feedback.

  • Ask your staff for ideas. Remember that they can often be closer to the customers and day-to-day operations than you are.
  • Develop an induction process.  When new staff members join the business, go beyond the simple “meet and greet” pleasantries. Instead, set up a formal induction process to give new recruits a real understanding of your business.
  • Train your team to multi-task.  Invest time and money in training and exchanging skills among team members.  The payback will come through providing cover for leave and also in deepening the knowledge all staff have of the business.
  • Be inspired but don’t copy. Find out what top employers do to hire or retain employers. Ask your peers.  But don’t just slavishly copy what they do.
  • Consider performance management systems: If your people are motivated by goals that are connected with business objectives, they are more likely to work harder and smarter.
  • Get expert advice: Avoid expensive hiring or HR mistakes. Retain a recruitment consultant or another expert to help you hire new people or deal with team issues.  Not to do so will cost you more than the once-off fee.
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