Managing Work Teams

In recent HR training programs that I have conducted throughout the EMEA region, one topic that seems to dominate discussions and problem analysis revolves around internal team development and promotional opportunities, and the impact that managers have in either supporting or discouraging such activities.

Organizational work teams are stronger when they are more diverse, from both a cultural and performance perspective. High performing/high potential employees are valued by managers since they frequently become team leaders and establish an exceptional level of performance, utilizing innovation, creativity and self-directed work habits. Such people are highly valued by managers, since they support department goals and provide the manager with the means of meeting organizational deliverables.

While somewhat difficult to manage and engage, these high performers are critical contributors to

both the effectiveness and success of work team productivity.

Typically, organizations identify high performing individuals in order to establish a pool of talent utilized for internal recruitment as well as strategic succession planning programs.

Since these individuals often require a higher degree of challenge and empowerment methodologies to maintain effective motivation and engagement levels, they are readily provided with developmental and promotional opportunities as a means of insuring retention within the organization.

Naturally, their relocation to another department (or other work team) via the promotional or accelerated development route removes them from existing teams that may result in a temporary loss of team leadership and performance capability.

While progressive managers with a holistic organizational view take a sincere interest in the career development of their workers, and encourage internal movement and deployment within the company framework, all too often, protective managers will attempt to use their power and influence to prevent this process, insuring the security and sustainability of not only their teams, but also their own “empires.” Ironically, this results in a temporary strengthening of the individual department and work team, but possibly a longer-term organizational weakness.

The self-serving attitude of some team managers is often deeply entrenched in culture and practice, reinforced by protectionism, and a priority to one’s own power base, leveraging the performance of above-average workers to maintain the manager’s business position and job security. Interruption of the smooth functionality of a well-run department team represents a serious threat to this comfort zone, and therefore, creates a disincentive to actively seek promotional and developmental opportunities for one’s best workers.

This lack of strategic organizational focus is not uncommon within many diverse industry sectors, and presents a serious dilemma for the Human Resource community. This is not, by any means, a regional or domestic issue, but exists in organizations on an international scale, and is frequently a hot topic of conversation during HR training programs, especially when discussions center on talent management initiatives, internal recruitment and promotion, career development opportunities and succession planning talent pools.

The new challenge for HR within these organizations is to first uncover manager driven barriers and bottlenecks in the identification of internal talent, and to enable these human assets by providing a mechanism for inclusion of this talent into the necessary programs that will accelerate their development and provide them the necessary vehicles to achieve and participate in a variety of career pathing options.

As with most new initiatives, the planning and implementing stages are drastically different and complex, and usually require a level of change

management process and communication in advance of implementation. The heart of this change must center on realignment of manager perspectives that will enable them to focus on macro rather than micro visions, prioritizing the organizational advantage over the departmental impact.

Ultimately, managers must be trained to appreciate business needs and responsibilities as critical success factors of organizational performance as well as understanding their roles in providing strategic solutions and partnerships to help meet these deliverables. High potential employees must be provided with consistent advancement and development opportunities in order to leverage their contributions to the success of the organization and insure their organizational value utilizing smart retention strategies. Misalignment of career ladders and lack of promotional opportunities will result in turnover of the best and brightest, which will be a major loss not only to the department, but to the organization as well.

Allan Gardner, PHR, HRMP, MHRM has over 35 years of experience in the Human Resources field. Currently, he is an expert Human Resource Trainer throughout the EMEA region and also teaches HR and Strategic Management programs for MBA students at the UAE campuses of Chifley Business School Australia.