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Fostering Talent: Seven Team Building Steps for Stronger Players

What do Verizon, Farmers Insurance and Miami Children’s Hospital have in common? They garnered the first three spots on Training magazine’s 2012 ranking of the top 125 organizations that excel at employee development. Granted, the mean revenue of worldwide applicants for this prestigious award was $11.3 billion, and on average, each budgeted 4.5 percent of payroll toward “harnessing human capital.”Whether or not your company’s revenue is in the billion-dollar ballpark, don’t put a permanent hold on investing in your company’s future. Here, we identify seven affordable methods of increasing productivity with team building actions that can add value to your bottom line and show your team that you value them.

1. Budget it in. Effective employers have training budgets. Do they earmark 4.5 percent of payroll for them? Perhaps not, but if staff development is a line item in your budget, you will get it done. Finding talent can be tough. Once you find the right people, it’s worth the investment to foster talent. Properly trained employees have the confidence to quickly take the ball and run with it, saving time and resources.

If your firm is operating on a shoestring budget, look into your chamber of commerce, state workforce commission, and industry associations. Some host brown bag lunch-and-learns, webinars and other free training events. Search the Internet for free video tutorials and low-cost certification programs. Invite speakers from industry associations—and don’t be surprised if they say yes. Professionals welcome opportunities to network and improve their speaking skills.

2. Mentor the newbies. Hiring a college graduate? Pair inexperienced or new employees with longtime staffers who can introduce them to wider circles within the company and answer questions. Mentoring advances a new hire’s understanding of company culture and offers experienced staff members the opportunity to develop leadership skills.

3. Take your lead from industry standards. Let industry accreditation requirements guide staff development initiatives. For example, the American Staffing Association (ASA) offers a Certified Staffing Professional™ program to certify staffing professionals’ knowledge of employment law. For recruiters who specialize in IT placements, the ASA provides the Technical Services Certified™ certification. Programs like these challenge professionals to illustrate competency through education, experience and examination. To retain the certification, the employee must complete continuing education activities on an ongoing basis. The built-in learning requirement helps participants grow over time.

4. Sponsor association memberships. Membership in professional organizations offers additional training and networking opportunities, and exchanging ideas with industry peers is invigorating. Examples of associations that offer career development, education and certification are the Association for Operations Management, Institute for Supply Management and National Association of Personnel Services.

5. Plan a meeting of the minds. Plan meetings once a quarter to discuss the state of your industry. Share statistics and research articles. Watch an industry workshop on YouTube. Invite team members from various departments to cross-pollinate expertise by sharing best practices or explaining emerging technologies from their own fields.

6. Encourage entrepreneurial thinking. Allow your team to be creative while increasing productivity. Challenge each team member to bring one innovative idea to the next department meeting. Create an open, democratic environment where risk-taking and tackling big challenges get attention.

7. Allow the team to trickle up. Provide opportunities for employees to teach, write and speak. Motivated workers will jump at the chance to take on creative challenges outside the scope of their usual jobs. By sharing industry expertise through courses, blog posts or industry presentations, employees build professional muscle, and your company gains recognition for thought leadership.

While it is not always possible to predict who on your team is going to become your most valuable player, you can take action to foster talent. Recognizing that good ideas can come from any corner of the conference room, and providing opportunities for employees to stretch beyond their current abilities, you capitalize on your in-house talent. Team building also enhances employee engagement, makes for a more positive company culture and better prepares your team to meet challenges as they arise.

What do you do to foster your team’s talent? What approaches have proven most effective? What hasn’t worked so well?