Sparks from a sparkler

How I Would Build a Team Today

Over the past 20 years, I have managed a wide range of teams involved in pricing, product marketing, sales, localization, web production, and IT data center managers. Some of these teams numbered 130 plus people spanning eight countries and a wide range of skills. These teams were all built from the ground up leveraging external services from time to time for specific or burst capacity needs.

Over the past four years, my perspective has changed. Before, I would go through my HR and wade through a sea of resumes, hire a set of managers, break out the teams by discipline, and work with managers to hire the best talent and cultural fit for full-time employees.

While managing these teams, we often ran into “lumpy demand,” or fluctuations in the type of work done, so some team members didn’t always use their core skills. Of course, everyone stayed busy, but it would shift to non-core activity at times. Occasionally, with changes in business conditions, roles and people were unfortunately eliminated. Other challenges like employee turnover, cultural fit, and career development made the hiring process a job in itself. In some cases, the skills needed for success shifted and not all of the team members could shift along with the needs of the business.

I now prefer a blend of in-house and contract- or contract-to-hire talent. It’s more flexible and allows a company – and a potential employee – to try out the relationship before a full-time commitment is made. Lots of people interview well, but some don’t perform as promised. A worker might find that the culture is not the right fit, too. By offering a trial period through a contract work arrangement, both parties can determine appropriate cultural fit and employee skills prior to moving to a full-time employment relationship.

It’s also much easier to build “functional teams” this way. You can bring in unique talent to fill gaps for short periods on projects as needed. Similarly, you can work with contractors that are open to permanent hire and make them part of the team if they fit in well. In essence, you develop a core team of experts that are filled in with point skills guided by the core team. That way, a company can move a key project forward without the ramp-up time of the formal hiring process, stress on HR and lost team productivity from interviewing for the perfect fit.