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FRESH FRIDAYS: There’s no ‘I’ in team…

by Keri Link August 08, 2014

​One of the most overused phrases within the world of recruitment for me is ‘must be able to work in a team’, or ‘strong team player’. In fact, it's rare not to see this on a job spec these days. But why is it so important and do people really know what makes a good team player?

According to research, the increased need for teamwork is a direct result of changing organizational structures over time. Generally speaking, the move is toward flatter structures – with fewer layers of management. As a result, team-work is even more crucial to business success!

In 1981 Meredith Belbin, a British psychologist, wrote Management Teams in which he presented findings from his studies of how members of teams interacted during business games run at Henley Management College. He concluded  that  an effective team has members that cover nine key roles; Shaper, Implementer, Completer-Finisher, Co-ordinator, Team-worker, Resource Investigator, Plant, Monitor-evaluator and Specialist. Each role has identifiable behavioural strengths and weaknesses, that I'm sure that you recognise from the workplace. Have a look at Belbin's model, can you work out where you fit in....?

When we bring it back to this idea of teamwork, more interesting than the exact profiles he identified is his overall conclusion that teams comprising a balanced mix of team roles outperformed unbalanced teams. If you think about this in relation to your co-workers, I'm sure that you can think of a situation when you've had to deal with complex issues, and that a range of team roles were required to effectively resolve the situation.

Belbin’s research is pretty compelling – and logical when you think about it. It makes sense that diverse teams will be more successful. But surprisingly, here at FreshMinds, we see very little evidence that this is taken into account when recruiting. For instance, I often hear line managers wanting to recruit exactly the same profile time after time – from the same universities, same degree subjects, experience from a particular consulting firm and unsurprisingly, they often end up hiring a similar personality type. This means that their teams normally end up being quite homogenous.

Now I know for a fact that these teams do perform well. They hire impressive people that make an impact and they clearly get results. But could they be improved?

Could a change to the hiring strategy, with a focus on getting an optimal personality mix rather than a perfect blend of skills or backgrounds, speed up the recruiting time and reduce risk long term? Of course it is too ideal to suggest that all teams will have Belbin’s perfect mix of personalities, but it might take away the pressure of recruiting and retaining top talent if the goal posts are placed slightly further apart.

If you want to talk about expanding and diversifying the roles within your team, give us a call or drop us an email!

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