Recruiting for Teams – A New HR Challenge

Traditionally, human resource professionals have focused their efforts on the career trajectory of the individual employee, whether it’s in the recruitment phase, performance assessment or development. Now that approach to organizational structure is undergoing a big sea change according to some new research by Deloitte. Organizations are experiencing a movement away from functional structures and rigid roles to something much more decentralized – what has been referred to as “networks of teams.”

The Deloitte study found that up to 80% of North American companies are restructuring along these lines, with changes also including a move away from a hierarchical structure. This evolution has been prompted by the modern organization’s need to be agile and flexible; to be able to adjust quickly to customer needs and wants. With decentralizing authority as the central theme, empowerment, strong communication and quick information flow are the goals. The fundamental principles behind it are that teams are led by an expert in their field, not a professional manager. Teams empowered to make their own goals and decisions can deliver results faster, engage people better and stay closer to the mission.

What does this mean for HR professionals and recruiters? It likely means that HR professionals should be developing their capabilities around understanding team dynamics. This includes analyzing who would make a great team member in specific team situations when they are identifying potential candidates for project managers or leaders. Let’s unpack a few of the concepts at play.

Team dynamics are the psychological forces (often unconscious) that influence a team’s behaviour and performance. They arise from the personalities within the team, the work environment and the nature of the team’s work, and they can be productive or destructive. A bad team dynamic can create conflict and demoralize the members, affecting teamwork and performance.

We aren’t just talking here about the approach described colloquially as “Go along to get along.” As much as we might think we are a nice person, the reality is we aren’t in total control of our disposition or character. It has been established for some time that people’s personalities play a significant role in determining team performance. It can impact what role you should play on a team, how you interact with them, and whether your values align with the rest of your colleagues on that team. There is no question that technical factors and competency will always be a part of the equation, but historically, human resource professionals focused on the functional component, hoping that the team chemistry would magically fall into place. Today, the best utilize the many personality tests available to determine if a particular candidate will fit in with their team. Evaluating the whole person, not just their qualifications, offers pivotal insights into how people are likely to work together. Using these scientifically-based tools can help get the team balance right.

Research published in Harvard Business Review shows the type of the individual most likely to balance well with the typical team. It’s someone who is pragmatic, results-oriented, relationship-focused, a process and rule-follower, but also with the capability to be an innovative and disruptive thinker – in other words, the perfect employee!

The implications of these changes have other ramifications to the way human resources are managed. Job titles and descriptions, for example, are becoming more flexible and broad to account for an individual’s potential to be deployed in a variety of teams. There will be a demand to meet the needs of project-based situations in which employees are moved around in cross-functional teams which are quickly built and then re-assigned.

These demands fit with the evolving role of the HR professional as a strategic partner who contributes to organizational development, strategic recruitment and the service of business goals through smart talent management. The ability to predict how an individual will fit within a given team will, therefore, be a valuable skill set to have as traditional organizational structures evolve.