Empowerment Leadership Model for Small Groups, Teams, & Families
Course Five, Lesson 10
How to Help the Team Bring New Employees on Board
Copyright 2001 Dick Wulf
When you hire people, they should be hired for a position as a team member with (plus) a specific job description. What usually happens is that a person is hired for a job description that says nothing about being a member of a team.
This usual way of hiring an employee leads the new hire to think that he or she just needs to do a specific number of tasks with little responsibility to the team. When that person does not work out well as far as relationships go, it is hard to be convincing that the job is not being done, since no expectations for teamwork were part of the hiring process.
When a person is hired to be a team member who fulfills a job description, there are two distinct aspects to the job. One aspect has to do with the technical tasks – what we usually call the job description, such as handling the cash register, selling accounts, balancing financial books – the kinds of things never forgotten when someone is hired for a job.
The other aspect is a whole set of expectations that should be included in the hiring process that relates to teamwork. This includes skills and actions that help the team function as a whole, help all other team members give their best to the team, contribute a host of helpful behaviors, and avoid dysfunctional behaviors that would hold the team and its members back from the best progress toward the team purpose and goals.
Imagine if the job offer were stated like this: “How would you like to be a member of the team responsible for such-and-so? Your responsibilities will include being a helpful and contributing member of the team. These duties are spelled out in the job description. On the team, your job title will be [job title], the duties of which are also spelled out in the job description.”
Most likely, people being hired will not have much training on how to be a contributing team member. When they are interviewed for the job or sent material, team member requirements can be presented. However, on the day that the new employee shows up for work, he or she will still know very little. This is where the team itself comes in.
As soon as the team has a meeting, it is important that the team welcome the new member and bring that person “up to speed”. By this I mean that the new employee needs to be told by the team what is the team purpose, team goals, and already agreed-upon action steps. Then the team needs to go over with the new team member what the team has already decided regarding necessary individual and team behaviors. This will include the team’s decisions regarding how to work together, confidentiality, and a host of other considerations. Then the team needs to review with the new team member what it has decided are dysfunctional, destructive things to avoid. This will give the new employee an idea of how the team works and will speed up the process of assimilation.
All of this can be done by just the team leader, but that would be a gross mistake. If peer relations are to help the new employee perform successfully, the team leader must leave this task to the whole team. There is great value to the team as well, because reviewing its decisions and mode of operating will remind everyone of team decisions that might have been forgotten by some or all team members. This is also why this task of “filling the new employee in” must not be delegated to one or two team members rather than the team as a whole.
For really complicated teams, it is best that the team hire its own team members, with management veto, of course. When the team interviews candidates for a team position, they can make known how they operate and check out an applicant’s team-necessary qualities. This will not work with teams led differently than this model, because such teams will not be taking 100% responsibility for accomplishment of the team purpose and goals. But, under this model wherein the team leader empowers the team by focusing on helping the team be independently successful, letting the team hire its own members has much value.
Similarly, there is much value in the delegating to the team as a whole major input into job evaluations. The team knows much better how a team member is functioning, and will have given much effort to helping the team member perform successfully, as the team needs him or her to perform. There may even be some legal protections in having more than just the team leader participate in job performance evaluations. This is assuming, of course, that this model of team leadership is being used.
Next: The Team Leader Should Not Be a Member of the Team