In our ongoing series of interviews with a number of the Global Sage Business Experts, we interviewed HR expert Steven John. We asked him to give his views on the best ways a business can approach hiring people and building a team, and supporting employees throughout their career. Here’s what he had to share.
How do you build a team and maintain the culture of the business?
It’s important that people feel they can influence their environment. Open and continuous communication alongside transparency helps to drive a positive company culture.
Encourage people to share their ideas. It doesn’t mean they all have to be implemented but people will feel part of your company culture if they feel they can influence it. No single person has all the ideas.
Encourage bottom-up as well as top-down communication – some of the great features in cars were ideas submitted by the employees in the manufacturing plants rather than the HQ brainboxes.
Have a framework around your company value. What does it mean to work for your business? What do you expect from your team members and colleagues? Live those values. Don’t just stick them on the office wall.
As much as possible when employing people, hire for attitude, mindset and personal value set as well as technical competency and ability. The latter can be taught and learned but it’s so much more difficult to change someone’s behaviours to fit your company.
Diversity will help your business. A diverse team is more equipped to engage with a diverse customer base. And remember, diversity goes beyond age, race and creed – socioeconomic background and diversity of thought are also important, alongside confident but humble leadership.
How do you find the right team members and where do you look?
Be brave. Go beyond the obvious. Rounded leaders will look beyond safe bets. Be prepared to think and look beyond the obvious. Differences should be welcomed rather than feared and sneered at. At the company I work for, we’re using our own software to look for sales talent.
We do this instead of looking through piles of CVs, which can often lead rejections for a variety of reasons, such as: too senior. Not enough experience. Don’t like that company they’ve worked at. And so on. Technology can bring a more diverse pool of candidates to your business who may pleasantly surprise you.
Networking is also super valuable. You can often find potential hires via people who’ve got to know you and understand your values and ideas.
How can you make onboarding work smoothly for both employer and employee?
Shadowing as part of the interview process or familiarisation days before new employees start is a great help. This ensures new hires aren’t surprised by the demands of the job when they’ve start in the role and you’re expecting them to deliver a solid performance.
Do you have company or team activities or clubs? Tell people about them during the interview process. Find out about your new joiners’ interests, hobbies and passions. Can they connect with people who are interested in similar activities within your business? Proactively helping your new hires make connection with their peers will drive a positive on boarding process.
People are also increasingly less interested in a job for life, so if you have a good relationship with any former employees, can you ask them to speak positively about your business with a potential hire as well as being honest about the reasons why the left? This level of honesty and transparency could stand you in good stead and give your new hire further confidence in your company.
How important is training for developing the skills of your employees?
Training is important but you need to be pragmatic about what the worker needs, what the business needs and the expected outcomes. Of course compliance, systems and legal training are essential for certain roles but if training for the sake of it, it can be a pointless, costly exercise.
Motivating your employees to come to you to for training opportunities means they’re far more likely to own the outcomes. Ideally, training opportunities will be valued, not a chore or a box-ticking exercise.
As your company grows, what tactics are best for communicating with employees?
Technology is an obviously answer. WhatsApp, Slack, forums, intranets – they’re all helpful. However, don’t underestimate the value in spoken, visual communications, even via video conference. We get so many communication cues from what we see as well as what we hear.
Context is so important. If you’re a leader, taking the time to talk to your employees, telling them about your vision and what’s happening in the company will help your people get so much more from it than reading an email that lacks nuance, passion and tone of voice.
We’re people and we communicate best with people. Talk to your team as much as possible. A monthly 15-minute video conference call has more value than some written text via a communications channel that people might not fully pay attention to. And if you’re going to take the time to talk to your employees, always invite feedback so it’s a conversation, not a lecture.
What direction can you give new employees from the start?
Set expectations early on. How will you measure their performance in your business? Do your team members know what is expected from them from day one? If an organisation is unclear about what it requires from its teams, some people will struggle.
Not everyone can read between the lines, even if you feel it’s obvious. Ensure all employees have a path to success and understand where help can be found, if they need it.
When team members struggle, what can you do to support them?
Make sure all parties are on the same page about what the problem actually is. Does the individual know they’re struggling? Don’t assume they know because you do. Can you pair a struggling employee with a more successful colleague? It might be wise to avoid putting them next to your company superstar as that might make them feel even less capable.
Instead, can you pair them with someone in the upper middle level of the team performance – a level that they feel they might be able to achieve themselves with a better understanding of the job?
Could they be struggling due to events within their personal lives? We’re dealing with people, not robots, so don’t be afraid to look beyond the immediate demands of the job find the root of the problem.
Be an empathetic, active listener. Look for the early signals and signs of underperformance so you can address them as soon as possible. You can often begin to make ground simply by starting a conversation. Often getting someone talking about their work performance can help them reflect and form their own route to success, with some steerage and guidance from a leader.
Final thoughts on hiring people and building a team
A diverse team is more equipped to engage with a diverse customer base. When looking for leaders, be brave and go beyond the obvious. Shadowing as part of the interview process or familiarisation days before new employees start is a great help. Training opportunities should be valued, not seen as a chore and always invite feedback from your employees.
How are you getting on with hiring people and building your team and what have you learned along the way? Let us know in the comments below.
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