<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Do I Convince Employees To Volunteer For Projects

October 21, 2001

Dear Workforce:

I am the new manager of a 15-person technical group that always has been runin a traditional manner. I am trying to switch to a team-based culture byinviting people to volunteer for the first project. I was clear about theproject requirements, resources needed, and project life cycle. Short andfocused -- yet nobody volunteered. What should I do next to convince people tojoin the team?

-- Manager of technical resources, software/systems, Miami, Florida.

A Dear New Manager:

Congratulations on your new opportunity. It's always a challenge for anorganization to switch its culture. Everyone resists change; it is our naturalhuman reaction to the unknown. The best way to ease this concern is to allowpeople to digest, question, and take ownership of the changes. You might want toconsider the following:

Hold a meeting to share ideas on the new outlook with the group and ask fortheir feedback. At the meeting, describe the culture change you envision and howthis change will improve current team efforts and the company as a whole.Discuss the reasoning behind this shift in focus. Explain how these changes willbenefit the employees. People will respond to your emotions and excitement, soshow enthusiasm for the future and the growth of the team.

After setting the context for the changes in culture, allow the group to talkit out. Ask them for thoughts and ideas on improving the group. (Of course, ifyou are going to ask, you must listen and respond to their ideas). Take notes ofall the suggestions and/or write them on a white board or flip chart ifavailable. Be open to adjusting your ideas to include the most reasonable andeffective products of this discussion.

Once the group has discussed the various issues surrounding theorganizational change, recap the goals and suggestions made and possibly outlinethe next steps. Then ask the group directly for volunteers for the task team youare forming.

Keep everyone in the loop once expectations and goals are clearly set.Determine your team's most effective forms of communication, whether it ise-mail, regular group meetings, postings, or company newsletters. It isimportant to perpetuate the teamwork concept by continually updating the groupon its progress.

Taking on the task of switching to a team-based culture is a laudable one.Giving employees the opportunity to identify themselves as members of a trueteam is a great step toward your continued success. Congratulations again onyour new opportunity, and good luck.

SOURCE: Liz Petersen, human resources manager, Personnel Management Systems,Inc., Kirkland, Wash., May 20, 2001.

LEARN MORE: See "Five Effective LeadershipQualities"

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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