Question: How do we quickly engage new employees in effective teams?

We are a well established CPA firm offering accounting, consulting and advisory services aligned along industry verticals. Some of our vertical teams had to be downsized during the downturn, others were merged together.

As we re-emerge and ramp-up to meet new project demand, what would be a good way for us to reenergize the team, and get collaboration going in our interdependent service groups with several new members.

3 Expert Insights

Whenever individuals join or leave a team, the team will usually go through the "forming, storming, norming, performing" stages again. So to get the team engaged, it is critical to make sure everyone understands the purpose of the team (why do they exist), the overall goals of the team and each person's roles and responsibilities. I also find that having the team establish WOWs (ways of working) helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page about how each person is expected to behave in the team. The WOWs can also include how the team will deal with conflict, make decisions and hold each other accountable. One of the WOWs in your situation would be collaboration. Have the team members define what that looks like so everyone understands what it means and can be accountable to do that.

I think Judy Knight has a great response.  

What I would add are a couple of things.  First of all, once a team loses or adds a member it is a "new" team. The questioner's description of changed teams, blended teams etc., really means starting over.  The good news is if staff have had positive team experiences they can bring their team skills and talents to table. Therefore the teams are really beginning again in the new environment.  

Secondly it sounds like there has been some significant changes in the organization over time.  Staff may be feeling losses, insecurities, (sometimes survivor guilt) and we have found that acknowledging the transitions is very important  A facilitated meeting that focuses on where we have been, where we are now, and where we are going that also provides an opportunity to celebrate prior successes and to "mourn" losses can be very powerful.  New team members can participate and learn a great deal in the process and begin to form the interpersonal glue that effective teams typically demonstrate.  

An additional issue is that of interdependent teams and how to create good collaborations.  Spending some up front time defining the benefit of collaboration, the downsides of collaborations, the expected "bumps" in the road as well as approaches to minimize challenges and support the work is well spent time.  Just jumping in without the pre-requisite planning usually leads to difficulties.  Our experience also suggests that the support and modeling of the senior teams is absolutely essential.  

Besides the brilliance of my colleagues, two directions occur to me.

First, ask them how to do it. Nothing creates collaboration more than the act of collaborating, so pose the question to them and have them solve it.

Second, Gamify the whole process. Yup I said it, make it a game. Gamification has become a very powerful approach that has leap frogged and bypassed the normal methods of establishing collaboration and it's especially powerful with Gen Y.