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11 Team building Tips for Small Business Owners

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Small business owners must have to strategize on how to win the war for talent — and these 11 best practices can help your team building skills.

11 Team building Tips for Small Business Owners- corporateghana.com
11 Team building Tips for Small Business Owners- corporateghana.com

Whether you’re making your first hire, assembling senior leadership, or finding entry-level talent, building a strong team is central to your success. Each new addition to the team helps propel you toward your goals. And those pivotal early hires, in particular, help shape your company culture, brand values, and even your vision for the business.

But if you’ve found yourself struggling to attract the talent you need, you’re not alone.

When facing a competitive labor market, it’s important to create a strategy that will set your talent search up for success. Here, we’ll discuss 11 team-building tips that will help you conduct a winning candidate search, onboard new talent quickly, and create an inviting workplace culture that supports your talent management strategy for the future.

1. Identify the Core Skills You Require 

When you’re just starting to build out your team, each new hire can feel momentous. With so much on the line, many business owners feel tempted to paint a complete portrait of the ideal candidate: a vision of all the attributes, skills, and qualifications they’re looking for in an ideal hire, based on your needs now and your vision for the future.

However, the more qualifications and experience you require for a role, the more you risk discouraging talented candidates from applying — and the more you risk not finding any applicant suitable for the job.

Before you write your job description, reflect on the attributes your candidate truly needs to succeed in the role. Ask yourself:  

  1. Which qualifications, including certifications or degrees, are essential to do this job?   
  2. Which skills are the “bare minimum” to step into the role on day one?  
  3. Which skills will you need candidates to have a few months down the road? 
  4. Which skills or qualifications are helpful, but not truly necessary?   

As you craft your job description, focus on the qualifications and skills you identified in questions one and two and provide a short list of “must haves” candidates should have to apply. Relegate your longer-term needs to “nice to haves,” keeping in mind that talented candidates can learn on the job.

Keep in mind that, even with a focused list, valuable candidates may not tick every box. Invite candidates to apply as long as they meet most of the requirements. And stay flexible as you review applications, considering candidates with less traditional experience who may have the transferable skills you need, to maximize the chances you’ll find a suitable candidate.   

2. Conduct an Inclusive Talent Search

A strong workplace culture is paramount for attracting top talent. And in 2023, that means embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to assemble a strong team.

Creating a diverse organization starts with your candidate search. Write your job descriptions using straightforward language that describes the job’s duties, avoiding gendered pronouns, slang, or jargon that may unintentionally alienate applicants. Highlight your commitment to a diverse and inclusive candidate search, and directly invite candidates from a range of backgrounds to apply.[1]

Finally, help reduce unconscious bias in the interview process by asking each candidate the same interview questions, and evaluating each candidate across a standard set of criteria, to reduce the risk of unconscious bias during evaluation.

3. Curate an Attractive Job Offer

In an age of inflation and rising interest rates, compensation is top of mind for employees — and your ability to put together a tempting compensation package is key to your talent search.

Right now, employees’ expectations are high. Increasingly, small businesses are being called upon to match the salary and benefits of larger organizations when competing for talent. And salary is top of mind for candidates as they assess their options.[2]

As you begin your talent search, research the market rate for talent in your area, and aim to offer similar compensation and benefits as your larger competitors. If that’s not possible for you right now, explore compensation strategies that can help your business stand out.

If you’re running a startup, for example, you may consider offering new talent equity in your organization to supplement cash compensation. Alternatively, you may entice employees with a slightly lower starting salary that increases at the true rate of inflation, rather than the modest increase candidates may receive at larger competitors. Finally, supplementing a below-average salary with a signing bonus may help you secure the talent you need in a tight market.

Ensure you’re leveraging benefits to attract top talent, as well. Running a small business — and caring for a relatively small team — makes it easier to adapt your workplace benefits and programs to the unique needs of your workforce. Consider asking candidates which benefits are most valuable to them during the interview process, and customize your offerings to their unique needs to create an attractive job offer.

Finally, look for opportunities to attract top candidates by offering flexibility. As more and more organizations call employees back to the office, policies like remote or hybrid work, the option to choose your own hours and paid or unpaid time off can become key differentiators in your talent search. Position yourself as an employer who supports your employees’ work-life balance, and your flexibility may offset a slightly lower salary as candidates consider your offer.

4. Map Out Your Onboarding Plan

Adding new members to the team allows you, and other senior members of your staff, to delegate tasks and focus on the most meaningful work. And you can set the entire team up for success by mapping out how each employee’s duties will shift when a new hire joins the team, and how the new hire’s responsibilities will grow over time.

Start by soliciting feedback to learn which tasks your team is eager to delegate. Then, create three lists of duties for each new hire to take on:  

  • Small, manageable tasks that hires can begin on day one.  
  • Larger or more complex tasks to add in the medium term (90 days)
  • Tasks that position your organization for success in the longer term (180+ days)

Once you’ve defined the new hire’s short- and longer-term duties, look for opportunities to create resources that would help hires get up to speed quickly.  

Writing standard operating procedures (SOPs) or guides, for example, can help newcomers get accustomed to new workflows while identifying potential mentors at this stage can position new hires to make social connections quickly. Similarly, consider creating a welcome package for new hires that outlines their responsibilities and the structure of their team, so they can quickly orient themselves in their new role.  

5. Give a Warm Welcome

Stepping into a new role can feel intimidating, and you can set new hires up for success by helping them form social connections from day one.

Start their first day with a personally guided tour around the office, and introduce them to key members of the tour staff. Consider conducting a casual entrance interview, allowing your candidate to ask questions about their role, their team, and the workplace culture.

From there, empower your teams to mentor new hires. Pair senior and junior members of the team to facilitate onboarding, and designate a point person to answer questions and provide feedback in those critical first weeks.

Finally, consider investing in team-building activities, particularly if you’re onboarding multiple hires at once. Treating the team to an extended lunch, for instance, can help newcomers bond with their teammates and start forming the relationships they’ll need to get up to speed quickly.

6. Encourage Teamwork and Collaboration

While each workplace has its own unique structure and approach to leadership, collaboration, and teamwork can help any new hire quickly feel like part of a team. Productive teamwork creates a sense of belonging, which strengthens your workplace culture while putting new hires at ease.

A collaborative culture starts at the top, so encourage teammates to delegate their workload, especially as new hires gain confidence in their roles. Solicit feedback in the weeks and months of onboarding to learn when new hires are ready to accept more responsibilities and empower them to speak up when they want to learn new skills.

Make collaboration possible by creating a strong network of mentors within your business. In addition to pairing junior and senior team members on projects, look for opportunities to match employees from different backgrounds — or employees from different teams — to collaborate on projects and learn new skills.

7. Emphasize Positive Values

Next to compensation, workplace culture is top of mind as candidates evaluate potential employers, and it’s also a critical factor in employee retention.

Creating a healthy workplace culture starts with a positive mission, so reflect on the positive impact your business aims to make in the world. Think about the core values that shape your brand — for example, inclusion and sustainability — and ensure these values are reflected in your brand messaging and your communications with employees.

What’s more, take steps to emphasize positive values in employees’ day-to-day lives. Make it a habit to recognize your team’s hard work, and acknowledge how each team member, as well as the team as a whole, contributes to your larger mission.  

Finally, nurture a sense of community by being there for your employees when they need you. Offering support to your team when they need you helps build a sense of community that encourages loyalty, so top talent are more likely to be happy with the employee experience and stay with your organization.  

8. Offer Clear and Consistent Feedback

Clear communication is at the heart of great leadership, and it can help each employee work to their full potential. Frequent communication and feedback are even more important as you onboard new team members since these early insights can get new hires up to speed quickly. 

As you prepare to grow your team, make a plan for how you’ll communicate across teams and with individual team members. If you have a smaller, focused team, you might opt for daily or weekly organization-wide meetings to discuss everyone’s progress, as well as one-on-one meetings for a more in-depth conversation. If that becomes too cumbersome, set up meetings with leadership and with individual teams to provide feedback.  

Cultivate a supportive and positive atmosphere at each meeting by taking time to recognize the team’s hard work. Acknowledge how they’ve helped the organization move forward, and highlight the strengths that each team member brought to the project.  

Lead with empathy as you deliver constructive criticism as well. Consider using the sandwich technique — “sandwiching” constructive criticism between two pieces of positive feedback — to help you get your message across while boosting the team’s morale. And look for opportunities to keep the conversation solution-focused, so the team can work on moving forward together.  

9. Solicit Employee Feedback

Communication is a two-way street, and empowering your employees to communicate with you can strengthen the workplace culture and set your team up for success.  

Soliciting feedback can help you gain insight into what your business does well, and the steps you could take to bring your business to the next level. It’s also especially important as you onboard new employees, allowing you to address any issues early — before they impact your team’s job satisfaction or retention rates. 

Lay the groundwork for an open and honest workplace culture by empowering your employees to share ideas and participate in brainstorming. Not only can team members provide fresh perspectives that can solve problems and spark innovation, but it also builds trust, so team members are more likely to feel comfortable coming to you when there’s a problem.  

Take advantage of employees’ performance evaluations as an opportunity to ask how you can better support the team, and use an employee suggestion box — physical or digital — to allow your team to share feedback anonymously. Finally, reach out to new hires with a new employee survey to learn more about their onboarding experience — and any ways in which it could be improved.  

10. Invest in Career Development

Top talent is motivated by opportunities for personal growth, and career development should be top of mind as you build a successful team. Offering paths for advancement, and encouraging opportunities to learn new skills, can keep your team members engaged — and more likely to stay with your business as you grow.  

Career development should be built into each stage of the employee experience, beginning with the hiring process. Consider asking candidates about their longer-term career goals during the interview process, and identify the skills they’re most keen to develop within your organization. Use one-on-one meetings to discuss team members’ aspirations and goals, and look for opportunities to assign team members to projects where they’ll learn new skills. 

Create a pipeline of talent by building robust mentorship programs within your business. And highlight opportunities for team members to advance, either by moving up within the organization or shifting to another team. Finally, lead by example by continually reassessing your own role, and look for opportunities to strengthen your leadership team by delegating more of your workload.  

11. Build a Community Around Your Organization

Team-building doesn’t just happen within your organization, and building a community around your business can help you build a successful team. Partnerships with local organizations can serve as a pipeline for talent, a source of referrals, and an opportunity to strengthen your business and the communities you serve.  

Consider partnering with local schools and youth organizations for apprenticeships, scholarship programs, and mentoring programs to help young talent develop their skills. Get involved with small business groups to connect with advisors, consultants, and like-minded business owners to share insights, discover collaboration opportunities, and find like-minded talent that could join your team. And look to vendors, suppliers, and other strategic partners for industry insights and expertise that can inform your talent search.  

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