Team Composition: the Unknown Concept in HR

Team Composition: the unknown concept in HR

We all have the tendency to focus on hiring individual that we think will be high-performers in the workplace, however, as the good old saying goes – teamwork makes the dream work.

Essentially this means that if you want to build teams of high performance, it’s crucial that you look beyond what individual talent has to offer, and instead begin by understanding the strengths (and yes, also weaknesses) of your current teams.

In other words, you need to take a look at your team composition.

What is team composition?

Team composition definition

Team Composition is the combination of skills, competencies and personality traits that the people in your team represent collectively.  Therefore, it’s not about searching for the best people over and over again. 

It’s about searching for the right combination of people.

Why you should be aware of team composition?

Overall, the goal of assessing current team composition is to get to know your own teams better so you can make the best decisions on who you want to add to your team and how you can help your teams by providing them with the right working environment for their abilities and behavioural preferences. 

Based on the kind of jobs in your teams, different teams may require more or less collaboration between team members. In some teams people may be working on their tasks individually and need to make a lot of independent decisions. Others may require people to work very closely together at all times, while for some teams there is really a mix of what is required from their team members. Being aware of team composition can help you see how well your current team fits your requirements and where you could support them. 

4 reasons why being aware of team composition matters

  1. Team insights: By conducing a team composition analysis, you can learn about team members’ strengths and weaknesses. These insights will allow you to make the most of their strongest points and work on their areas needing improvement.
  2. Roles assignment: Even though your team works collectively toward a goal, you need to assign roles to individual members. Being aware of team composition can help you determine which roles best suit which team members. The result is a cohesive, synergistic team that correctly utilizes everyone’s strengths for success. On top of that, it can serve as a valuable insight into potential internal mobility opportunities.
  3. Improves communication: Provides insights about colleagues’ behaviors, which can help  establish certain behavioral patterns to bolster effective team communication.
  4. Enhances working experience: When each team member understands each other’s traits, they can use that as a guide for how to best interact. This, in turn, will help to build a pleasant working environment, and the team can collaboratively achieve better results.
4 reasons why being aware of team composition matters

Why Team Composition determines your company growth

Accomplishing a certain goal asks for people joining this mission who collectively represent a broader set of skills and personality traits. That’s where the concept of Team Composition comes in – having this right combination of skills, competencies and personalities on board. 

The copy-paste-effect (which I will explain later on in the blog), however, will stimulate you to grow your team by hiring people with similar characteristics as your top-performer. 

The result: abundance of people mastering a certain skill set in your team, and at the same time a huge lack of other skills you need to accomplish your goals. An without accomplishing goals, your business won’t be able to grow.

The five aspects of team composition

To improve overall team success, you must first understand five characteristics that enable teams to flourish:

  • Roles within the team
  • Abilities within the team
  • Cognitive abilities and behaviour within the team
  • Team diversity
  • Team size

 

Let’s briefly unpack each one of them before we dive deeper into how team composition can be determined!

Roles within the team

Teams will only be successful if team members understand what they are supposed to be doing, how their efforts contribute to the bigger picture, and what is expected of them. This can be achieved by clearly defining roles and responsibilities for each team member:

  • Job role is a part that an employee does in accordance with their key responsibility areas. For example, marketing managers role is to attract more customers to buy from the company and to raise brand awareness through the creation of marketing campaigns
  • Job responsibilities are the functions an employee has to perform to succeed in the position, so for example, a marketing manager is responsible for looking after the budget of the marketing department and making sure the budget spend is delivering a return on investment.

 

P.S. If you’ve set up the job requirements for each role properly, even before making a hire, the chances are that defining job responsibilities will be an easier task than if you had not. Just in case – we’ve prepared something that will help you become better at determining job requirements for any future roles you might have open!

General abilities within the team

Unless you’re just starting out as a company, chances are that your teams do not consist of one employee that is doing it all. Your teams consist of multiple individuals, each with their own unique set of skills, knowledge and abilities. However, here’s the tricky thing – understanding this only on individual team member level won’t suffice. 

And yes, it is a great start:

  • It allows to understand which projects are more suitable for which employee;
  • Create strategies for both professional and individual development for each employee;
  • Identify best ways of coaching, mentoring and managing each employee.

 

Yet in order to make meaningful and well-informed decisions, you must be aware of the collective abilities of the team.

After all, a team is about the mix of individuals. You can put your greatest talents together in a team who, when having to work together as a team, can provide you with the poorest results. Having a group of high-performing people in one room doesn’t mean that these these high-performers master all skills and represent all needed in order to succeed.  Here are two reasons why:

  1. Allows you to identify the existing gaps, whether it be on a skill, ability or knowledge level, thus, giving the opportunity to act upon them;
  2. Gives insight into the possibilities of reskilling or upskilling existing employees.

Cognitive abilities and behaviour within the team

Cognitive abilities and behavioural aspects play a huge part when it comes to creating & fostering teams that are successful. Let me give you two examples of why it matters:

Example 1. When only having collaborators in the team, the team will be less creative, less efficient, and take longer to come to decisions, as there’s a constant search for consensus. 

 

Example 2.When only having individualists in the team, the team members will be very much focused on only their own goals and don’t learn a lot from each other, as less information is being shared and less feedback is being asked. 

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to workplace interaction. It’s just about determining current dynamics to figure out what is missing and what could be improved upon. On top of that, research has shown that cognitive ability (with a correlation of 0.65-0.74) and behaviour (with a correlation of 0.4) are the most significant predictors of job success.

 

Team diversity

When people discuss diversity in work-related settings, all we tend to think about (or at least most of us) is demographic diversity.  However, diversity is about more than demographics. Diversity goes beyond gender, age and race. It also refers to neurodiversity, personality, skills, sexual orientation, cultural diversity and much more.

In fact, there is a multitude of research conducted that has examined the impact of diversity in the workplace and the findings are overwhelmingly positive. Diversity is no longer only an act of Corporate Social Responsibility but also a proven business case. It should be everyone’s top priority.

This is precisely the reason why you should be working towards not only embracing but also actively nurturing diversity within teams by being an inclusive leader yourself. How can you do this best? By creating a supportive environment, diversifying the team, encouraging open and transparent communication and asking for feedback.

Team size

“What is the best team size?¨ is a question we hear often. There is no easy way to determine this, however, there are a few guiding principles to take into consideration:

  1. What is the role? The more involved the role is, the smaller the team should be, because you need to have more time for discussions and communications.
  2. How much engagement is necessary? If you want to motivate a team, motivation requires oversight, communication, assistance, and help. If you need them motivated and thinking and you want to get them through change, you need a smaller team. 
  3. Communication channels. With a team of 10, now you’ve got 50 communication streams to maintain. That is why in most cases – the bigger the team, the less efficient the processes.

 

However, it really doesn’t matter how big or small the team is if the people in it can’t deliver results. Therefore, ability is the most important element of any team. 

The five aspects of team composition

4 ways of determinining team composition

Questionnaires/surveys

Now another method of determining team composition is by using questionnaires or surveys. They can prove to be quite useful as they can easily be distributed throughout the entire company and allow you to gather thorough feedback.

Questionnaires can allow you to gain insight into the current job responsibilities of your team members, their general knowledge and skills, cognitive abilities and behaviour, as well as diversity.

Not only is this time-efficient and easy, but also allows for participants to provide their insights and answers anonymously facilitating the likelihood of more honest answers. However, in most cases, this will lead to socially desirable answers that are extremely subjective. Especially when it comes to questions surrounding general knowledge and skills, cognitive abilities and behaviours.

SWOT analysis

Perhaps one of the most common ways of determining team composition on a role and ability level is by asking your employees to complete a SWOT analysis. This can go a long way – ask them what they think they are good at & what they see as areas of self-improvement and development.

Interviews

Also interviews can give valuable insights into team composition on a role, general abilities (skills, knowledge), as well as behavioural and cognitive ability level if you ask the right questions.

For assessing job responsibilities in a team per job role, you could ask questions like:

  • What are some of the daily tasks that you complete? What steps do you take to complete them?
  • How do you prioritize your responsibilities on a day to day basis?

 

For assessing behavioural and cognitive abilities, you could ask questions such as:

  • Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
  • Can you give me an example of when you had to adapt to a new and sudden change in the workplace? What happened?

 

For assessing more general abilities, try asking questions like:

  • Which project did you enjoy working on the most? Could you elaborate on why?
  • Is there anything new you would like to learn in your job role? What and why?

Assessments

One of the most effective ways you can determine team composition is through the use of assessment tooling. As assessment tools can help you:

  • Efficiently (time and money wise) assess your current teams
  • Provide you with insightful reporting when it comes to general abilities, cognitive ability and behavioural traits of your teams
  • Give insights that can it can serve as a valuable point of departure into potential internal mobility opportunities (which in the midst of hiring freezes and focus on retention can help a lot).

 

There are various different assessment tools out there, but what you should consider before choosing one is whether it allows you to objectively assess your current team composition in terms of top-performance indicators, skill gaps, and cultural characteristics. As with most things in life – it’s important to carefully outweigh all the options available out there (because for different needs, there are different tools). 

How to start acting on this concept in your company

Of course I could promote Equalture’s Team Composition technology as the one way to go, but I would be even more happy to provide you with some food for thought first. Tools are always a very nice helping hand, but just like everything else, you can also start practicing this concept yourself. Just to (hopefully) make you realise that it works. So here’s what you can do. 

Pick a certain team of certain project within one of your team. For instance creating a new promo video. 

Let’s assume you have a battle plan ready for this project. 

  1. You know what to do, which steps to complete in which order and who is involved. 
  2. Now try to write down the different milestones you need to complete in order to launch this feature and what is needed in order to accomplish this milestone. For instance, you need determine the goal of the video, write the script, create the visuals (since it will be an illustrated video), check the result and distribute it on your different social channels.
  3. All these tasks, allowing you to accomplish your milestones, ask for certain skills or personality traits. Let’s write these traits down. At this point you’re almost there – you almost mapped out your team composition and its gaps. 
  4. Now link the people in your team to the different traits you wrote down. It’s likely that you will find out that, for some traits, a lot of people tick the box, but you’re missing out on some other traits as well. We call this your skill/personality gaps. This is great, because improvement starts with having clear insights.
  5. From this point you can walk two different routes: (i) training people in the skills you’re missing or (ii) hiring someone who masters these skills. And that’s it! 
How to start acting on team composition concept in your company

However, this is what often goes wrong...

When using insights from team composition analysis for hiring, although we might not be aware of this, we all often use the copy-paste effect in hiring. This means that, when hiring people, we tend to search for look-alikes of high-performers we already have in the team. And from a logical reasoning perspective, that makes completely sense. Cause why would you take the risk of hiring a completely different person, mastering different skills, while your high-performer has proven to be a high-performer because of these traits. But while it seems to make sense, in fact it doesn’t. Here’s why.

Teams are responsible for accomplishing company goals. So for instance your Marketing team is responsible for communicating your company’s mission and attract the right target audience that fits your customer base. Accomplishing these goals, however, isn’t that easy, because otherwise everyone would run a successful companies and failures wouldn’t exist…

It’s important to not only consider the strengths and weaknesses of each individual, but also how they complement each other. 

Company growth is a result of team success, and team success isn’t determined by the sum of all individuals. It’s determined by the mix of all individuals. 

 

Hope this blog leaves with some food of thought when it comes to team composition and makes the concept itself more familiar! 

 

 

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