TEAMWORK: HOW TO DEVELOP, TRAIN AND SUPERVISE YOUR STAFF.

From videos and books, to seminars and weekend workshops, employee development and team building are rapidly becoming a top priority in today’s business environment.

During the past few years, more and more employers and management consultants have come to realize that a cohesive, focused and team-oriented workforce is imperative to improving productivity, efficiency, customer service and competitiveness. This realization has spawned an explosion of techniques and resources designed to improve employee morale, loyalty and attitude. From videos and books, to seminars and weekend workshops, employee development and team building are rapidly becoming a top priority in today’s business environment.

The idea of improved efficiency and enhanced customer service has motivated businesses, both large and small, to implement policies, programs and employee services that encourage a more positive team atmosphere within their workforce. However, there still seems to be much confusion among employers about the best way to create an “overall” team environment.

Laying the foundation

The foundation of successful team building lies in the selection of sincere, energetic, enthusiastic and professional team players. Before the interview process begins, prepare a list of questions covering a variety of topics that will be submitted to each applicant. This process should include questions about education, previous work experience, personality traits, communication skills, attitude and goals, and overall intellect.

During each interview, take detailed notes about answers to your questions. This will be extremely beneficial in comparing candidates during the decision-making process. In addition, take a few minutes to sell yourself and your company. Attempt to satisfy the candidates’ questions concerning what you and your company’s main focus is, and how you go about achieving your company’s goals and objectives.

Always remember that your employees are your No. 1 asset, and that selecting and retaining quality employees will continue to be one of your club’s most challenging tasks. Screen and hire your teammates carefully. To do this, ask specific questions of the job applicant, and listen to their answers carefully.

Focus and vision

In order for any team to function with unity and precision, it must possess long-term focus and vision. It is essential that your employees share your vision and embrace it. Failure to do so will encourage a lack of team direction and unity.

One critical building block in the development of a team environment is clearly defined job priorities. This will assist your teammates in identifying which aspects of their job should be given the highest priority.

A company should also develop a formal mission statement and philosophy. Incorporate this statement into all aspects of your employees’ and facility’s daily operations, and make sure it is clearly visible to all your teammates. This will serve as a constant reminder of your team’s focus and goals.

To empower your team and encourage communication and cooperation, create small committees, focus groups or task forces within your workforce. Use these groups to explore and address new projects, personnel policies, idea development, facility and equipment improvement, and any other areas or problems. The development of these groups will contribute to your employees’ overall feeling of involvement, inclusion and self-worth.

Next, recognize and reward your teammates. A little praise can go a long way in improving morale. So many times employees feel unappreciated and taken for granted. This can be combatted by offering a positive gesture at the appropriate moment. Also, organize regular social events. For example, hold pizza or pool parties, buy lunch for deserving staff, or reward your team by taking them to a ball game.

Finally, initiate programs that regularly recognize superior performance. Always remember that it’s the team that is number one.

Another step to improve teamwork is to delegate authority and allow your teammates to provide input and ideas. Employees are more productive when they feel they have a share of the responsibility. And by showing your trust and faith in their ability, your teammates will respond with an improved attitude, effort and enthusiasm. In delegating authority, however, remember to maintain a visible and accessible presence since your teammates will have questions and will need to seek your advice.

Creating a sense of loyalty is also crucial to an improved team atmosphere. Employees need to know that management will support them during difficult situations. This may mean standing behind an employee when faced with a difficult member, or coming to their assistance when they’re faced with personal problems. Whatever the case, demonstrating a a commitment to team members will bring management big rewards.

Finally, it is important to make your work environment as fun as possible. This can be done without risking the level of professionalism within the team. Attempt to maintain a positive and upbeat atmosphere at all times. Common sense tells us that employees who are happy at work and enjoy their jobs are also more productive, efficient and customer-service oriented.

Staff training

Staff training, orientation and continuing education are essential, but sometimes overlooked, elements of successful team building. In order for your staff to offer the same level of high-quality service and professionalism, it is safe to say that they must all receive the same training and education. Too often, however, organizations neglect this important element and surrender to what’s known as the “warm-body syndrome” — the process of hiring and training an individual simply to fill a position, without taking time to orientate them. This unprofessional and undeserved practice routinely leads to poor customer service, member complaints and, often, employee failure to fully comply to company policies and procedures.

One way to combat the warm-body syndrome, and improve your organization’s overall level of customer service, is to develop a comprehensive employee orientation and training program. This program may take many shapes and can utilize a variety of media forms and techniques.

An increasingly popular form of staff training is the development of an employee orientation video. This video can enthusiastically introduce new employees to your organization’s goals, values, objectives and philosophies in a positive and entertaining format. Used as a supplement to the more traditional employee handbook or manual, a video orientation may be easier for your new staff to digest. As a final touch, you may want to follow up with a brief, non-threatening “test” to ensure your new staff have retained everything you feel they need to accomplish their duties.

Other more traditional forms of training, like the use of outside speakers and “cross training” of employees, may also be beneficial. Likewise, regularly held staff training and social events can be fun and educational for both staff and management. During these events, address specific training needs and concerns. Also, take time to listen to staff feedback. For further input, you may want to consider using confidential employee questionnaires; however, above all, retain the questionnaire’s confidentiality and act upon your staff’s comments with prompt actions.

Finally, encourage and schedule your staff to regularly participate in continuing education programs and seminars. Sending them to trade shows and workshops not only increases staff knowledge, but also develops professional networking and staff unity.

Supervision

To successfully supervise and lead your team, you must first be willing to practice what you preach. Team leaders must be willing to work harder, longer and go the extra mile at all times. They must be the model of enthusiasm, professionalism and customer service. It is vital that your teammates see that your commitments, as well as the organization’s, are not just a written policy, but a way of life. As an example, management must adhere to honesty, loyalty and trustworthiness, and possess an ability to communicate, listen, be decisive, work under pressure and, not the least important, have a good sense of humor.

In addition to the above skills, managers can use other tools to stay ahead of the game. First, instill personal accountability into your teammates. Staff must realize that you and your members are relying on them to do a superior job and that their actions are important to the organization. Team members must know that they will be held accountable for their actions.

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Another helpful tool is the employee review. This personal, one-on-one review can lead to increased communication, loyalty, improved focus and attitude. While many organizations neglect personal reviews, the successful team leader can use this process as a positive means for improving employee performance. Try holding reviews quarterly or at least twice a year. Use this time to inform staff of their strengths and areas of excellence, as well as those areas in which they need to improve. In addition, try to make available to employees necessary resources to succeed. For example, offer the use of books, videos or other educational or motivational materials. Also, you may want to let the staff person confidentially state any concerns they have about management, the team or the organization. Listen carefully to these comments and provide constructive feedback where appropriate.

In summing up, teamwork is not a “catch phrase” or a trendy tool. By developing and training your staff into a cohesive, focused team, you will expose your organization to a vast source of resources and creative ideas. Using these resources can make your organization more productive, creative, efficient and, again, not the least important, fun.

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