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Working as a Team Member: The "Old Lady" and the Millennials

What's the trick to working as a team member?

Working as a team member

Teamwork, to me, is an easy definition. Teamwork is a collaboration of people with a similar goal that assembles to drive initiatives forward. I immediately smile when I think of my team at HRpartners. HRpartners was my first consulting company which I started in 1998. Over the years, it grew to seven team members – and was purchased by Arthur J Gallagher in 2007. I always credit my team for the growth and development that we created together. Our ability to work as team members established our corporate attractiveness for a multi-national organization.

Working as a team member while building a team

Creating a team is a strategic endeavor. You need to be deliberate while forming a team that is responsible for driving your business forward. My first team member was someone with the same knowledge and background in human resources. She was my #2 person. Eventually, we looked for millennials that could support our high level work. Thus, our workers received training to perform the HR consulting work with our methods. In all, we hired four amazing millennial’s and one (then) stay at home mom to round out our team.

Working as a team member with millennials

Enough about millennials and their bad work ethic. I am passionate about great millennials. It’s about hiring the right ones! Millennials are passionate, committed and eager to learn. While they do tend to “think they know it all”, I find that their views bring new ideas to the table. If their ideas don't work, there is often a tweak I make to enhance their suggestion. Focused on a desire to move ahead, they are sponges that will happily soak up all the Old Lady has to teach. In addition, the millennials bring invaluable technology skills to the office!

Working as a team member to serve clients

Multiple team members were assigned to each account because our model surrounded the continued connection with employees. Since we taught the entry level consultants “our way”, senior consultants were confident in the day-to-day contact with our clients and their employees. Each client worked with an "Old Lady" and a Millennial. We created mini-teams. These teams revolved around respect and collaboration. The younger team member had time to spread their wings and shine with the client. Moreover, they had a safety net of an experienced HR professional to guide them in complex situations. The senior consultant had the new experiences of coaching and mentoring. This is an example of teamwork that is a win for business, the client, and individual growth and development.

Working as a team member when things go south

Unfortunately, it wasn't always rosey! We did have team members that were just not a good fit. These team members had their priorities aligned outside the group norm. We also had team members that just didn’t pull their weight. I addressed these issues; you must address issues when they arise.

In addition, team members should be respectfully reminded of the group expectations. Often, team members are given a chance to realign with the values of their team. If they choose not to, then the decision to separate must be made swiftly.

For instance, a team member insisted on being very causal. She set her own agenda and didn't consider high quality work as a goal. Our team didn't agree with her work ethic. Over the course of a month, she was given a chance to align with our values. It became clear she wasn't aligning to our team. Therefore, we terminated her employment. The productivity of the entire team went up immediately – they had felt if she could act like they could too.

Takeaways from working as a team member

As I reflect on all my teams, I know that in almost every case the end result was better off for the team participation. Yes, I often get things done more quickly on my own – and ultimately they’d be my way. But I also understand the value of collaboration and utilizing multiple viewpoints to ensure I am arriving at the best solution – which much to my dismay – is not always my way!

Lori Kleiman is a business expert with more than 25 years of experience advising companies on HR issues. Her background as a human resources professional and consultant gives her unique insight on how HR professionals and executives can work together effectively to achieve business goals. Her programs are designed to provide critical HR updates and best practices to small businesses. In addition, she is has served as adjunct faculty member at a number of Universities.

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