Workers are routinely assembled into cooperative groups in order to pool resources to get jobs done in firms. These ‘work teams’ are often assembled at random by managers. This means that their formation is seldom optimised for the work they are required to do, as individuals or as a team.
And yet there is a huge science behind building a work team. That science enables managers to optimise the constitution of a team. And an optimised team will perform best.
So how does a manager go about building work teams for high performance?
For an answer, the manager must look at two key points: firstly how workers are optimally matched with the job they do and secondly how workers are optimally matched to their roles within the team.
Workers have needs; for example the need for responsibility and the need for relationships in work. Workers do a job because it satisfies their needs. If a job is able to satisfy their needs, they will be motivated to excel in it. When job rewards complement a worker’s interests and needs, job satisfaction results. Conversely, if complementary fit is poor, failure and frustration will result. So this provides the first requirement – to match the team members individually to the jobs they do in the team.
Workers are defined by their individual differences (their personal characteristics). Characteristics span personality, intelligence, knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Personal characteristics are determined using psychometric evaluation and work sample testing.
So matching people to jobs involves determining the personal characteristics needed to excel in the role. Once the job requirements are established, it’s a matter of selecting workers who best match those characteristics.
Looking at a practical example, we might expect an accountant to be slightly retiring, conscientious, conventional and self-disciplined. On the other hand we might expect a salesman to be unflappable, calm, outgoing and confident. These characteristics – of the potential jobholder – can be tested for, using a personality profile. If that person’s personality profile matches the job requirements, the person is matched to the environment in which they will work. We can repeat this analysis for each of the personal characteristics. If there is congruence between the personal attributes and the job requirements, we can say that there is person-environment fit (P-E fit).
PE-fit analysis involves determining the characteristics needed in each team member – their personality, intelligence, knowledge, skills, and attitudes. PE-fit analysis then involves ensuring that workers in these jobs have complementary personality, intelligence, knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
So PE-fit analysis is a science involving the matching of personal characteristics with the needs of the various team roles. In building a team, the manager must define what’s needed and recruit and appoint to fill jobs with people with the right characteristics.
That leaves consideration of the workers and their relationships with one-another. For a work team to function, there must be balance in the personalities and the resulting behaviours.
Personal characteristics determine the way in which team members behave when working as a team member, as a leader, as a subordinate and when influencing others in the team.
The way people will behave in teams is assessed using psychometric evaluation.
So we can expand PE-fit to show how the manager with responsibility for building the team should proceed. That manager can say the behaviours he or she wants from the team and from each member of that team.
The team can therefore be assembled to have balance. It can be designed to minimise conflict and to run existing systems or to maximise creative tension and innovate new.
Team roles can be described as one of eight styles covering those who pioneer new methods, those who will drive existing systems and policies and who will work to help others master tasks. Each person in a work team takes the lead from time to time and so, likewise, each person can be defined by his or her leadership style such as directing or encouraging others. Even their subordinate style can be defined. These cover preferred styles such as behaving as accommodating individuals who are eager to please or behaving as people who will promote their own ideas in the team.
By considering the team and role requirements we can determine the behavioural styles that the manager would want to appoint in order to deliver a cohesive and high-performing work team for the task in hand. We can assess each person for his or her team behaviours and hence we can match required and individual preferred behaviours across the team.
Appliance of science
The science of PE-fit and the search for congruence between team environment and jobholder can be used to optimise team make up. The random assembly of people at work can be traded for a scientific approach.
Teams can be optimised.