A Business Case for Diversity Management--The Velcro-ing of America: Instant Teams, Long-term Challenges

by Benavides, Gladis Monday, April 24, 2006
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Building effective teams requires effective recruitment, hiring and the proper orientation of new employees. Equally important is the establishment, maintenance and continuous development of cohesive teams.

Today’s labor pool and workforces are becoming increasingly more multi-cultural and multi-lingual
Many new employees come from different experiences and backgrounds. Multi-generational differences, gender and other variables add to the challenge of creating and maintaining efficient and productive teams. Another variable may be the degree to which employees are familiar with the organizational culture of the company that the join.

Companies are driven by competition, market and customer demands and of course profit. Teams must respond to short timelines, management expectations and organizational goals. These and other circumstances may create a need for employees to be “velcroed” together into instant teams.

So, what are the challenges that supervisors and employees face in today’s work environment?

  • Are you malleable?

    Adaptability and flexibility are no longer just preferred traits but critical job-related performance expectations. Changing priorities, systems and organizational shift, evolving markets and changes in the team’s membership are just some of the reasons why these traits are important.

  • Do you know the boundaries?

    Knowing the perimeters for decision making and risk taking can make the difference between being viewed as creative or simply messing up. The understanding of the acceptable or preferred manner in which conflict is handled and resolved in an organization, can determine whether an employee is viewed as a leader or a troublemaker.

  • Do you know the culture of the organization?

    Communication protocols are not always obvious and formal. Success sometimes is based on a supervisor or employee’s ability to “know the ropes” and “to choose the right wars”. The advice and the sharing of the wisdom by those who are already in the organization and are willing to mentor and assist those coming into it attaint that knowledge. Supervisors can better prepare team members by sharing information about preferred mode of communication, internal protocols, negotiation and conflict resolution strategies that work and other necessary information to assist employees to be successful communicators.

  • Do you work well with individuals different that you are?

    Today’s multi-cultural work environment requires supervisors and employees to effectively communicate across cultures. Differences in ethnic and racial backgrounds, religion, age, professional disciplines, geographic and regional origin can create challenges when functioning in a team environment where cohesiveness, collaboration and the art of managing and resolving conflict may be critical to the success of the team.

Tools and strategies for managers and supervisors to succeed in a changing environment.

  • The past

    Traditional management styles have served us well. The skills taught to managers and supervisors in the past were appropriate for a stable, predictable environment with homogeneous workforces and similar customer/client populations.

  • The present

    Today’s workforce requires managers and supervisors to attain and enhance a different set of skills/competencies. They include: cross-cultural communications, leadership and follower ship, coaching and mentoring, conflict management and resolution, negotiation and problem solving, managing change and strategic planning.

  • The future

    A leader today must understand how to navigate through organizational earthquakes, manage and deal with ambiguity and effectively supervise, lead and coach a multi-cultural and sometimes a multi-lingual workforce.

The benefit of creating effective teams (final thoughts)

A leader /supervisor can establish a framework for internal communications for his/her team. It could include formal and informal protocols, expected use of time, space and resources, implementation of policies and procedures and conflict management and resolution processes.

The nature of the work being performed, the organizational structure, the composition of your teams and other variables may not be conducive to having a traditional team. So, instead of simply velcro-ing people together, we can provide them with an opportunity for individual and collective success by giving them the necessary tools.

Being able to play tennis does not make you a good basketball player. A good coach should be able to convey to his/her employees what game they are playing and how to win. The results are effective teams, high employee retention, efficiency and profit.

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