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Selecting Employees for Teams

February 13, 2014

Now that the Olympics are on, my life is consumed by watching the Olympics and chanting “USA! USA!” all the time.  Well, at least one of those is true…  I am so impressed by the talent of the athletes as well as their drive for not only achieving their personal best but also for representing their country in the best way possible.  The team spirit is very infectious, and, it gets me thinking about I/O topics, believe it or not.  Even though there are several independent events in the Olympics, there are also a good number of team events, like curling, ice hockey, and bobsledding.  For some of these sports, the teams are intact—meaning, they train with each other for a significant period of time.  However, for other sports, like ice hockey, many of the teams are formed specifically for the Olympics and don’t train with each other for a long period of time. 461187401

So, how would we go about selecting members of the team?  We know that they need to have the ability and technical skills but is there anything else?  Yes—it’s critical that they also have soft skills in order to function effectively as a unified team.  These skills can help them be a good member of a team, whether it be an intact or transition team.  Below is a list of some of the skills that are important to consider when selecting for a team.

  1. Communication & listening skills: Team members need to communicate with each other so they can better strategize, work together, and accomplish their goals.  By clearly expressing everyone’s roles and responsibilities and clarifying what everyone can bring to the table, the team can create a mental model, which will facilitate team cohesion.  Also, being willing to share lessons learned can help the team to reflect on their actions and improve their strategy moving forward.  In addition to communicating with others, the opposite is true too; team members need to be active listeners.  Showing respect and being open to hearing from others can create a greater sense of trust in the team.
  2. Interpersonal skills: To be successful, team members must collaborate with others and work well together.  In addition, team members should have some degree of social awareness so they can be in tune with their team members and recognize when it’s appropriate to offer support and help.
  3. Adaptability: When you get a group of individuals together, you can almost guarantee that plans will change, problems will occur, and dynamics will be shifted.  This is why team members need to be adaptable.  Working in teams can be challenging because of all the obstacles that can be faced.  However, it’s important to be open to change and respond well when challenges occur.
  4. Positive attitude: Maintaining a positive demeanor and showing support for teammates is critical for facilitating harmony among team members and enhancing team members’ motivation towards achieving the end goal.  Positive impact can go a long way when working together in a team.

Aside from these individual-level factors, it’s also important to focus on team-level factors.  For example, when putting together a team of individuals, you should think about team diversity.  More specifically, it’s helpful to choose team members that have different backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets.  This diversity can facilitate more creative ideas and a more cohesive product.   Additionally, when considering differences in skill sets, individuals can complement each other so one team member’s strength can make up for another team member’s weakness.  As a whole, the team can function more effectively.

Assessments and structured interviews are effective methods to gain a good understanding of the candidate’s core skills related to teamwork.  However, to see how individuals behave in team environments, assessment centers and team simulations are very effective.  In assessment centers and team simulations, individuals are brought together and asked to solve a problem.  These methods provide a realistic perspective of how individuals will interact in a group environment.  Overall, when selecting for teams, remember to focus on not only those critical individual-level factors but also to consider team-level factors and how each individual can provide value to the functioning of the team’s goals.



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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.