Category Archives: Organizational Health

Thoughts on Hiring Processes (aka Starting/Building a Team)

I’ve long been fascinated by team dynamics, on paid and volunteer teams.  This week, I read an article that made me think more about the hiring pipeline and methods I utilized at a previous position, and I decided to brush it up a bit, while I’m at it.  A couple of people have asked me about hiring and team building recently.  Seems like it’d be good to have a blog post to point them at.  😉

I was reading a NY Times article titled “Why Some Teams are Smarter Than Others.”  I take issue with the title, a little — what we think of as “smart” differs dramatically around the world, and is highly context-dependent.  The author of the article pulls the term from the referenced studies, though, basically.  They wrote, “On average, the groups that did well on one task did well on the others, too. In other words, some teams were simply smarter than others.”  Doing well on a task is not the same thing as having higher intelligence, in my opinion.

At any rate, this NYT article discussed two study findings that were of interest to me about group dynamics and what makes for a productive, effective team.  The first study referenced found that there were 3 characteristics of a more productive team: higher collaboration (teams not being dominated by one or two louder voices), higher scores on a test that essentially measures empathy, and higher number of women (a group of people who tend to score higher on aforementioned empathy scales).  The second study referenced in the NYT article followed up with analysis of online versus face-to-face “group effectiveness” (aka team cohesion), and found that “the most important ingredients for a smart team remained constant regardless of its mode of interaction: members who communicated a lot, participated equally and possessed good emotion-reading skills.”  The obvious question then becomes, how do you build a team that functions this way?

CLEVER, COMPETENT, AND KIND

Well, I know what that reminds me of!  A few years ago, I sat down to chat with my friend Dan, and he gave me the three best employment requirements I’ve ever heard: CLEVER, COMPETENT, and KIND.  These are required characteristics of anyone I’d like to call a colleague, whether it’s a paid position or volunteer work.  I’ve used these requirements ever since that conversation, and I’m profoundly grateful to Dan for laying it all out for me so simply.

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Onboarding Processes that Work

In organizations (professional or volunteer), you hope that you’re gaining members to help add to the awesome efforts going into your goal, right?  This means that you need to have a way of adding people to your organization that gives them the basic info everyone needs to know, and preferably delivers some of it in a fun format that enables people to enjoy learning about the new people they’re working with and the efforts you’re coordinating together.  This is a process called “onboarding.”

According to Wikipedia,

“Research has demonstrated that these socialization [onboarding] techniques lead to positive outcomes for new employees such as higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in stress and intent to quit.  These outcomes are particularly important to an organization looking to retain a competitive advantage in an increasingly mobile and globalized workforce.”

It is really easy to do this poorly.  It is (sadly) uncommon to do it well.

I want to give a quick shout-out to Runkeeper, however.  My partner is just joining their team, and he’s overjoyed to discover that their onboarding includes a map of the office with everyone’s desk labeled, and a scavenger hunt list of unique facts about each colleague.  By the end of his first week, he intends to know who has a dog named Yaz and who has a fondness for ice luge!

On the Helsinki in 2017 team, we are still ironing out this process, as I’m sure most organizations are.  Now I really want to write a scavenger hunt for our next larger staff meeting, though — particularly as we are such a geographically spread team, internationally.

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