“Culture eats strategy for business.” It’s been a business maxim for so long that it’s almost a cliché. But make no mistake: Leaders ignore the importance of having a solid culture and team development plan at their own peril. At a time when turnover is higher than ever, and good help is tough to find, culture isn’t just a buzzword but a real driver of cost savings and performance in the property restoration space.
Understanding the importance of having a team development plan
In the past, neglecting culture may have been understandable in the restoration space, where a lot of individual components often work in isolation. But thanks to technology, things are different today. Groundbreaking job management and communications tools are streamlining the industry and breaking down barriers between adjusters and inspectors, between contractors and office workers, and so on.
It’s a new era in property restoration, with innovative tools that can empower forward-thinking leaders to gain market share in an increasingly consolidated space. And taking full advantage of these tools means creating and implementing an effective team development plan. It means embracing ongoing education, training and, above all, culture as an essential element of success.
As Jacob Engel writes for the Forbes Coaches Council, culture is the “secret sauce” that keeps workers happy and motivated. When people quit, he observes, it’s usually because of culture, not because of a specific leader. So, by focusing on team development to support a positive culture, leaders can help retain the workers they need and better utilize the new tools available to them.
By emphasizing ongoing education and group evaluation, team development also gives workers the chance to develop valuable skills in an ever-changing industry. It offers an opportunity to work together in a space that’s often segmented, and helps workers get to know one another. It also nurtures respect, and helps them develop a sense of one another’s skills and preferences.
“Team effectiveness is enhanced by a team’s commitment to reflection and on-going evaluation,” writes Judith Stein for MIT Human Resources. “In addition to evaluating accomplishments in terms of meeting specific goals, for teams to be high-performing it is essential for them to understand their development as a team.”
The four stages of team development planning
Having a team development plan is one thing. But how can leaders actually put it into place? Experts recommend beginning with a step-by-step approach that moves through four key stages. Developed decades ago, by Bruce W. Tuckman, an influential psychology professor and researcher, the strategy is still widely used by leaders and HR managers to this day.
- The first stage, forming, involves bringing the team together, fielding questions, and setting expectations. Tasks for stage one can include an orientation session that includes establishing expectations, communicating them clearly, then organizing group exercises or activities—virtual or in-person—to make sure they’re understood on a team level as well as individually.
- The second stage, storming, addresses the reality that day-to-day work may fall short of initial expectations. Frustrations and criticisms will inevitably appear. Rather than ignore or suppress them, it’s essential to approach them head-on and resolve them. Team exercises involve discussing roadblocks and then establishing new, more immediate goals to address them.
- The third stage, norming, is the adjustment of expectations with the day-to-day reality of everyday performance. This critical stage nurtures understanding and respect for other team members’ expectations, opinions, and skillsets. Team exercises for stage three can include breaking the team into sub-groups, then discussing and evaluating the results.
- In the fourth stage, performing, teams evaluate their satisfaction with their progress and the goals they’ve met (or have had to re-evaluate). That means discussing how they’ve grown in their own roles, and how they’ve learned to support their co-workers. Team exercises include a communal evaluation of what’s been accomplished so far—and possibly a celebration, too.
After stage four, it’s time to address potential questions and concerns about what comes next. In other words, what do we do now that we’ve met our initial goals? Addressing and answering these questions may involve moving beyond the four-stage model and taking team development into your own hands, as best fits your organization—the true measure of a leader.
3 things to remember when implementing team building
Now that you’ve seen the importance of team development, what steps can you take to stimulate a culture of learning and development in your own organization? What does successful team development look like in a restoration company, and how can you measure your progress?
While there is no universal answer to these questions—each team will have its own goals—there are certain metrics that can apply to most restoration businesses. Some obvious examples are employee retention, customer satisfaction, and overall growth. With these results added up over the course of six months to a year, the importance of team development will become clear.
Finally, when kicking off a team development plan, remember these three important factors:
- Focus on learning. As Engel points out, a consistent measure of successful businesses is their ability to “learn along the way.” This helps an organization grow. It also helps people feel more comfortable voicing their opinions and trying new things. A focus on learning also helps workers become comfortable with—and even draw motivation from—seeing things from a new perspective.
- Lead by example. The best advocates for culture are those who lead the company—“culture starts at the top,” as Engel points out. Nothing demonstrates the importance of a team development plan more than direct involvement from leaders, managers, and owners. Taking an active role in team exercises works as a force multiplier, making the activities even more effective.
- Listen to others. As critical as it is for leaders and owners to have a seat at the table, it’s just as important for them not to dominate the conversation. In a team-building exercise, your voice is one among many. Listen honestly to the comments and concerns of everyone on the team, and respond and react in a way that supports and encourages openness.
Next Gear Solutions can help
Whether you’re in the business of property restoration or insurance, team-building is critical to success. And groundbreaking tools like DASH, LuxorCRM and ProAssist from Next Gear Solutions are built to support that goal. With that in mind, we encourage leaders to embrace team development as a means of using every tool possible for long-term success, and to retain important team members, too.
To further support employee development in the restoration space, Next Gear members also receive IICRC CE credits for engaging with educational webinars on topics like optimizing water mitigation, building restoration workflows, managing S500 standards and more, in addition to 24/7 support and training. Contact us here for more information on becoming a member.