The process of building a high performance team involves making adjustments over many areas of an organization. Streamlined processes, team structure, and strategy, for example, all play a role in creating a successful high performance team. One of the key characteristics of high performance teams, however, is employees that are fully engaged.
“Employee Engagement” is perhaps the business catchphrase of the past five years. Among other things, employee engagement can foster a positive workplace, which employees obviously prefer. In addition, an organization needs its employees to be engaged because they are far more likely to perform better, creating revenue. There are millions of available statistics around employee engagement – perhaps the most notable are Gallup’s findings that only about 13 percent of people are actually engaged at their jobs and that this disengagement causes $450 billion in lost profits in the U.S. annually – but the data points to one conclusion:if you want to build high performance teams, you need to ensure that your employees are engaged. The best employees are those that are fully engaged. In turn,[Tweet “A team of fully engaged employees is far more likely to be a high performing team.”]
There are numerous ways to go about cultivating employee engagement, from ensuring the right leadership is in place to holding team-building activities. Our data has shown us, however, that training is one area that is frequently overlooked. Although a team may consist of members who are both smart and driven, employee engagement and team performance will suffer if employees have not been sufficiently trained. Another of the key characteristics of high performance teams, therefore, is employees that are fully trained.
Cultivating employee engagement is about more than simply hiring people who are enthusiastic about the company’s mission. Recruiting good people and bringing them on board in a way that fosters their commitment to the organization are important first steps to creating a team of engaged employees. It is also important to remember, however, that employees continue to evolve in their roles, even if it seems as though they are merely typing away in cubicles. It is critical, therefore, to cater to that change, actively encouraging employees’ growth through training. Training means more than simply getting a new employee up to speed; it needs to involve continuous learning and employee growth.
Here’s a fascinating statistic:the central commonality of the ‘100 Best Places To Work’ list, year-over-year, is the amount of on-the-job training those organizations offer. For some, that statistic might seem intuitive:employees value organizations that are giving them opportunities to become better. For anyone who has worked in a mid-size to large organization, however, it may seem confusing. In lean fiscal times, functions such as training or other aspects of HR are often the first to be scaled back or eliminated. Part of the issue is that these functions don’t directly affect revenue, so it’s harder to justify their ROI. In fact, however, the companies that make ‘100 Best Places To Work’ generally outperform the major stock indices by 300 percent. Thus the equation seems simple:train more (and train effectively) = happier, more engaged employees = stronger revenue growth. It doesn’t work quite that directly, but the correlation between trained employees and company performance is undeniable.
It is important that on-the-job training is presented in a positive way to employees, rather than as a corrective measure or as part of an “HR Rollout” or “corporate fad.” It needs to be clear to employees that (a) training is tied to new knowledge and (b) down the road, new opportunities will stem from that new knowledge. Although an organization certainly benefits from the fresh perspective that new employees bring, employees who know that opportunities for growth consistently exist will be more engaged in their current roles. That kind of engagement drives teamwork and aids the creation of high performance teams.
The quality of a manager obviously contributes significantly to high performance team development; it is nearly impossible for a team to be effective if the team manager is not effective in his or her role. In addition to employee training, therefore, management training is essential to the successful creation of a high performance team. Like employee training, management training involves more than merely ensuring a manager is able to perform the role for which he or she was hired.
In a 2012 study, Gallup found that 82 percent of managerial hires in the U.S. are ultimately thought to be the wrong hire for the position. In other words, four out of every five managers hired eventually cause the person who hired them to question that move. Part of the reason for this statistic is the basic nature of most American organizations:people are typically promoted because of their ability to manage processes, not people. As they advance in seniority, these managers are eventually required to manage people as well as processes, a task which many managers find more challenging. As a result, management training tends to revolve around more “soft skills” such as humility and good communication skills. Managers who do not fully appreciate soft skills can become disengaged with these efforts, making the trainings less effective.
In order to be successful, therefore, management training programs need to make a clear, direct link between “skills essential for managers” and “bottom-line effectiveness” (as the latter is often how managers will ultimately be judged). Discussion of “soft skills” is still necessary, as those skills are often the defining traits that separate good managers from poor managers in the eyes of employees, but these skills need to be explicitly connected to how they benefit the organization.
Training of both managers and team members is an essential part of building a team that is fully engaged. Building an engaged team, in turn, is vital to building a high performance team.
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