by Katharine Giacalone
There is no magic formula for putting a group of people together to create a great organization.
Building an executive team can be a daunting task, but recruiting, hiring and integrating the right people into a business are essential to growth and success. Most of the time, building the team is a strategic process - at other times, luck plays a big role. And just when the answers seem obvious something happens: Someone quits, a new competitor emerges, or the financial landscape changes. The process and adaptation to changes along the way is just as important as putting together the team. The talent leader has certain responsibilities to employees, since the people hired are a reflection of his or her leadership style, personal beliefs, values and organizational goals.
Here are 12 steps to help build the perfect team:
Step 1: Map an action plan.
Spend time planning to avoid wasting time and money in the long run, which will interrupt business operations.
It's not unreasonable to take a few months to plan the hiring strategy for a management team. Some organizations actually do planning and test the waters for candidates before a company is formed. This eliminates the emotion of "hurry up and hire," which can cause trouble fairly quickly.
It's important to recognize the company size, growth potential and big-business implications before hiring employees. These concepts apply to established organizations with management teams, as well. Always be on alert for talent.
Develop strategy by brainstorming with other employees, who are always a good source for feedback, colleagues, or friends who have organized a team and managed its growth and evolution over time. Understand what the competition looks like and how they may have structured their organizations. Sometimes we avoid the obvious. It's always a good idea to borrow things that work and throw out the things that don't.
Step 2: Prepare the organization for prime time.
The most embarrassing and fruitless moments in establishing an organization or in the evolutionary phases of change in an existing organization often are the result of shooting from the hip and hiring familiar employees - perhaps those from sister companies - relatives or, worse, single-discipline focused, "pigeon-holed" individuals. These people aren't able to adapt to the multiple functions needed in small companies, start-ups or organizations going through periods of change and adaptation.
It is important to articulate to potential employees what makes the company a great place to work. Be able to explain the business to someone who can then ask intelligent questions that will expand the conversation.
Step 3: Build organizational capacity.
Continually examine the core competencies of high-performance team members. What skills should the team possess? Create a list of essential talents that all employees must have, (e.g., creative thinking, interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership skills and problem-solving abilities). Then overlay these talents with the technical skills for a specific position. This will make an organization more agile and better-equipped to share resources among departments. Job descriptions will be easily written after the talent manager thinks through the core competencies.
Remember, in some cases, talent leaders may be recruiting from large organizations where executives are used to thinking of budgets in terms of tens of millions of dollars - not thousands. These people may not be used to struggling to raise funds to start a business, keep a small company afloat or turn around a business. Sometimes it's hard for these executives to ratchet down to smaller-sized companies or a different way of managing.
Step 4: Know budget and compensation specifications up-front.
Many executive placements are made via networking. Placing an ad in a trade journal or newspaper may or may not bring what the company needs in a candidate. Many organizations turn to executive search firms, which can be an appropriate strategy for recruitment if the terms of the search agreement are clear and the talent managers can maximize them.
Hiring the search firm is the easy part; managing its success takes work. Have the position description clearly defined and written and the perfect candidate clearly in mind before engaging a search firm. Also know where the search firm should look for the talent. It can often look in places the talent manager can't. To build a successful partnership, chose a search firm that allows the organization to partner with it every step of the way.
In terms of compensation, know the market base salary. If that's a number that's not easily obtainable, such as if the company is a start-up and can't pay the IT executive the same salary as a Fortune 50 company, ask the candidates how much he or she is currently earning - not what he or she wants to earn. Then determine if the organization can justify the salary as it relates to the other executives on the team.
Create the pay-for-performance bonus arrangements up-front and know the expenses for relocation. Always leave room for negotiation, but know maximum compensation limits. Don't be held hostage to high sign-on bonuses or large stock option portfolios that may not be worth much these days. If the individual really wants the job, he or she will make realistic compensation decisions.
Step 5: Identify key management milestones early.
Once core competencies are identified, find the balance between hiring too early or too late. Knowing the milestones the company must meet will be a key factor in determining if putting in place an interim executive or outsourcing the executive's function would be better than hiring a full-time employee.
Step 6: Know it's OK to change your mind during the process.
That's the great news about planning and having core competencies established for a company: They ensure talent managers stay focused and create a framework to easily change courses should new information alter considerations about how the team should be structured.
Step 7: Stop.
Is the organization really ready to begin looking for team members? Let this process take as much time as necessary. Make sure all critical steps have been identified. If it's necessary to retool some aspect of the team-building process, now is the time to do it.
Step 8: Go.
Whatever recruiting strategy used, conducting the search and the interviewing process are the next steps. It may take a while to source candidates and schedule interviews. Be flexible. Use technology where possible - for example, webcams, video conferences and Skype. These tasks may be time-consuming, so try and build in a cushion of time to avoid falling behind on the overall schedule.
Step 9: Don't miss out on hiring opportunities.
Despite planning and searching, it's going to be hard to make a decision. Selecting a candidate means a commitment of people, compensation and personal chemistry. Choosing too soon or waiting too long will have a direct impact on the outcome of the search. Don't be disappointed if a top candidate decides not to join the organization. Have a plan B waiting in the wings whether this happens or not.
Step 10: Put your high performers together.
Don't expect new executives, whether it is one person or 10, to mesh instantly. Recruiting these people was the easy part. Now it's time to make sure they work together, share their talents and complement each other's ideas and experiences.
Mentor them no matter how long they've been in business. Provide some framework for how the organization should function so the culture will continue to thrive and prosper with new team members. This will take time and a great deal of involvement from the talent manager.
Step 11: Provide an orientation and training time.
Spend time with new team members, and have an orientation plan ready for them when they arrive. The plan could be as simple as spending time with some of the existing employees, or as extensive as visiting clients, reading briefs and interviewing staff. Provide training on technical parts of the organization if people hired don't have knowledge of your specific business.
Step 12: Remember to take care of yourself.
As the talent leader in charge, it's important to continue to develop yourself. Give a speech at a national or local conference. Participate in an industry council breakfast or lunch. Get involved in local efforts to link industry to education, such as giving a talk to high school seniors at career day.
Surrounding yourself with a team of awesome professionals will give you a chance to rejuvenate your thinking and reenergize to continue your hard work and dedication with the business. And if after you've settled in with your team you think you're ready for your next adventure, you'll have the time and right frame of mind to recruit a successor.
Throughout this process, track milestones to ensure activities stay on point. Some tasks will take more time than others. Be focused and determined to help stay on course. Be flexible too, since the process for every new team member will not fit into this time frame. It all depends on how clearly you have defined the core competencies, technical skills, scope of responsibility, competitive market salary and current market conditions.
Building a great team is time-consuming, but the organization payoffs are immeasurable. Following these 12 steps can promote success.
[About the Author: Katharine Giacalone, also known as The Corporate Nanny, is a management consultant in the Washington, D.C., area with more than 25 years of experience.]