How to build a team: what to do and what not to miss

Written by: Deanna deBara | Edited by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Officevibe team
Published on April 13, 2021 |  Reading time: 9m

Building a team, whether that’s building a team from scratch or expanding your existing team, is about more than hiring people to fill roles within your organization.

It’s about finding a group of people with a complementary set of skills, backgrounds, experience, and personalities.

A group that can come together to create a real, lasting impact on your organization.

So, the question is: how, exactly, do you do that?

What’s the framework for building effective teams? And once you’ve laid the foundation for an effective team, how can you ensure that team succeeds at (and for!) your company?

Let’s take a look at how to build a team, both from the ground up and with the awesome employees you already have.

How to build a team from scratch

Wondering how to build a new team from the ground up? Here’s how to get started:

Create a plan for your new team…

You can’t build a new team from scratch if you don’t have a plan for what team you’re trying to build — and how you’re going to build it.

Before you start interviewing, you need to set clear expectations around:

  1. The goals for the team: What are your team goals? What do you need them to accomplish?
  2. The goals for building the team: How long do you want the hiring process to take? How many people do you want to bring on board?
  3. Roles and responsibilities: What are the job duties and responsibilities for each role? How does each role contribute to the overall team?
  4. Team dynamic: What kind of team culture are you trying to create for your employees?
  5. Ideal candidates: What kind of person would be satisfied, fulfilled, and successful in each role? What kind of people (and combination of people) do you need to hire to create your ideal team dynamic?

…and don’t forget to make a plan for yourself

One of the most important elements of building a strong team from scratch is strong leadership.

As a manager, you’re the heart of the team you’re building. So you want to have a plan for how you’re going to build and support that team from the get-go.

Just like you need to set clear expectations for building your team, you also need to get clear on some issues for yourself as you build that team, including:

  • Resources you have to dedicate to managing the new team. The resources you have available will dictate the type and size of team you build. How much time, energy, and resources can you put towards managing your new team?
  • How you’re going to support the team’s growth and well-being. Your team needs support to succeed. How are you going to support your team’s growth and well-being — both on a team and an individual level?
  • What behavior you need to model to build the most successful team. Team attitudes often trickle down from the top. So, if you want to build a strong, effective, and high-performing team, what attitudes and behaviors do you need to model as a leader?

Hire not just to find the best people, but to build the best team

Obviously, you want your sourcing, interviewing, and hiring processes to vet the best candidates. But just because you have five candidates you think are amazing doesn’t mean those five candidates will necessarily work well as a team.

Once you’ve identified top candidates, schedule a group interview and/or mock work situation to see how they interact and “vibe” together. Putting your top candidates in a group setting to see how they work together will help you hire the strongest team, not just the best people.

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How to successfully expand an existing team

Growing an existing team? Here’s how to successfully manage the expansion:

Identify skills gaps within your team…

If you’re looking to grow your team, that means something is missing; you want your new team to be able to do things your existing team can’t.

Before you start hiring new employees, identify what capabilities your current team is missing. Consider what skills, background, or experience you need to fill those gaps.

For example: Let’s say you’re expanding your engineering team, and you want your new team to be able to build software in different programming languages. If that’s the goal, you would need to hire engineers with experience coding in each language.

…and identify people gaps within your team

Sometimes, it’s not skills or capabilities your team it’s missing. Sometimes, it’s more of a people issue.

Before you expand your existing team, make sure you understand what human elements your team is missing, and what kind of people you need to fill those gaps.

For example: If your current team struggles with attitude issues, you might look to hire optimistic, positive people. If your team is full of employees that look, think, and work similarly, you might consider hiring more diverse voices.

Ask your employees how they’d like to see the team grow and change

You might have ideas about what your team is missing. But who knows better how your team could stand to grow and change than the employees who are already working on the team?

If you want your existing employees to be on board with the expanding team, ask them for their insights on how they’d like to see the team grow and change.

For example: Let’s say you’re expanding your content team, and you think you need to hire more senior talent to tackle writing projects. But after talking to your team, you might find that what they actually need is a few marketing coordinators to handle administrative tasks, so the existing copywriters have more time to manage production.

Getting feedback from your existing employees gives you insights into what’s working, and what’s not working. This helps you figure out what type of people you need to hire to build the strongest, most effective team. You can collect this input through one-on-one conversations or through an anonymous feedback platform.

Host your top candidates for a “work sample”

You might have a candidate with the perfect resume, skills, and background for the role you’re hiring for. But until you see them work and interact with your existing employees, you can’t know for sure that they’re the right person to add to the team.

Have your top candidates do a “work sample,” where they spend a few hours actually working with your team.

Let’s use the content team as an example. If you’re hiring marketing coordinators to build out your team, have each candidate come in for a half day of work supporting the team. While they’re working, observe how they manage the tasks and interact with your existing employees.

Seeing candidates actually work with your employees will give you key insights into how that person will fit in with your existing team — and whether they’re the right person for the job.

How to make sure your team succeeds

Building the team is a huge step. But once the team is built, you need to make sure the foundation stays strong — and that everything you built doesn’t come tumbling down.

And keeping your teams strong? It’s all about how you manage them.

Here are a few strategies for setting your team up for success, whether they’re a brand-new team or one that’s expanding:

1. Get to know every person on your team

Different people need different things to succeed. So, if you want your new team to succeed, you need to understand what each team member needs, and what they’re like.

Make connecting with new team members a priority. If you don’t have a solid read on your existing employees, make sure to get to know them better, too.

Schedule time to meet with each team member and learn more about their goals, career aspirations, preferences, work style, and personality.

The more you know about your employees, the better you can support them — and the more successful your team will be as a result.

2. Schedule regular check-ins

You need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening within your team, and that means checking in regularly.

As a manager, you need regular check-ins-both with the team and with individual team members.

This is how you gauge how people are doing, listen to what’s working (and what’s not working), make sure your team is hitting their goals and objectives, and see if they need any additional support to succeed.

If you want your new team to thrive, make sure to schedule check-ins on a regular basis.

3. Celebrate wins…

According to a 2018 report from SHRM and Globoforce, leaders overwhelmingly agreed that employee recognition programs drive positive results within an organization.

86% of leaders surveyed cited recognition as a key factor in improving employee relationships.

SHRM and Globoforce

Look for ways to celebrate your team’s wins, and give them the opportunity to celebrate each other.

For example: You might schedule a weekly 30-minute meeting where you shout out the things your team did well the previous week. Give your team the opportunity to call out their peers’ wins as well.

Taking the time to celebrate your team’s wins (and have them celebrate each other) builds stronger relationships — and a stronger team as a result.

4. …and deal with issues

When there’s an issue within the team, it can derail things pretty quickly. So, as a manager, it’s your job to identify those issues and deal with them quickly.

Observe your team and immediately address any issues you notice.

For example: If you notice a new employee isn’t settling in with the rest of the team, schedule a team-building activity to bring everyone together, and get your new team member better integrated into your team structure.

As a manager, you can’t always have your eyes on your team, and there may be issues that you don’t notice.

Set up an anonymous feedback system where people can share issues you might not otherwise have visibility on. Officevibe‘s anonymous feedback platform lets employees come to you directly and safely.

Turn every piece of feedback into a two-way conversation, and let employees choose to stay anonymous or not.

5. Host activities to bring your new team together

Team building activities can help new employees better integrate into the team. Plus, they make the overall team more effective, productive, and collaborative in the process.

Team building activities could be hosting a weekly social hour, throwing a team game night to encourage collaboration, or kicking off team meetings with “icebreaker” games that help people loosen up and get to know each other better.

6. Make changes as necessary

In an ideal world, you’d build a great team from day one. But if you want your team to succeed, you’ll need to make adjustments along the way.

For example: If there’s a person whose negativity is causing team morale to drop, you need to have an honest, difficult conversation with them about their attitude.

Or maybe you realize that your new team seems stressed and overwhelmed. It could be that you underestimated the amount of work the team would have to manage. You might need to hire more people to lessen the workload, or adjust objectives to be more realistic.

The point is, as your team grows, you may need to adjust your team structure to support that growth. So don’t be afraid to make those changes and adjustments as necessary.

Get our Communication guide to structure your objectives and express them with clarity

The 4 steps guide to powerful communication

Get out there and build your team!

Now that you have a blueprint for building a team, you have everything you need to effectively build and manage the strongest team for your organization.

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