ABOVE, FROM LEFT: Bobbi, Jelena and Rochelle are part of the Human Resources team at Flourish Australia. PHOTO BY NEIL FENELON
by Doris Kluge
I am the Senior HR Advisor of Flourish Australia. Not only do I work as part of the HR team, but I would say that I’ve worked with teams for all of my professional life. In essence, that’s what organisations and businesses are: a number of teams all working together towards a shared goal.
Everyone needs to know how to work as part of a team. Even professions who may traditionally work independently, such as doctors, will still need to interact with colleagues such as nurses, pharmacists, secretaries and others to some degree. Any job role you can name will place you in contact with other people for some purpose. And teams aren’t just found in workplaces: you could be a part of a family, a part of a neighbourhood, a part of a sporting team, or a part of a classroom.
Flourish Australia has many teams. We have teams here at Head Office, teams in the Community Businesses, teams in our NDIS and HASI services, the list goes on. If you work for Flourish Australia, you’ll be in a team of some kind. I love being a part of the HR team, as well as a part of the bigger Head Office team and the wider Flourish Australia team beyond that. I think, in comparison with other organisations I’ve worked for, it’s such a good culture, and there’s nothing toxic about it.
Vital, but attainable, skills
The good news is that the skills you need to be a good team member can be learned. You don’t have to be born with them, and you don’t have to be really gregarious and talkative to be an effective member of a team, either. It’s about asking lots of questions, being enthusiastic, and soaking up understanding and knowledge like a sponge. The most important skill you will need is to be able to listen and communicate clearly, and you also need to understand the purpose of all the other members. Another vital trait for working as a part of a team is being able to take feedback onboard.
The role of HR (and my role)
The HR team helps wider Flourish Australia staff, including our frontline workers and managers, to be able to do their job as well as they possibly can. While HR doesn’t deal directly with the people who access our services, we actively assist the staff members of our 60-plus sites to feel supported.
“The best teams are composed of a really diverse set of people who all bring complementary but different skills, because that’s how we learn from each other and enjoy working with others.”
This includes keeping track of things like recruitment and variations in locations and pay levels. Like other Flourish Australia teams, we deal in a high-volume workload, so we always need to be very organised, listen carefully, be patient, and maintain confidentiality. We work in a really fast-paced environment, and the NDIS has been such a fabulous change, but it’s a MASSIVE change, and it’s impacting all parts of the organisation. You’d be surprised how many of these changes affect my team at HR! We have a “no wrong door” approach like the rest of the organisation, so if we can’t help with a request, we’ll try to put you in contact with somebody who can.
As a senior member of the HR team, I think the best thing I can do is helping other team members to shine and do great things, as well as operating independently. It’s not about being a boss, but about being unified. I also think it’s good for team members to be able to feel safe enough to say “sorry, I don’t understand” or “I don’t know how that works” without the fear of being penalised. Good teams have a strong customer focus, rather than purely focusing on the wellbeing of their own organisation to the exclusion of everyone else.
If you want to be trusted by your team to work independently, it’s important to continue earning that trust. Thankfully, I think we have trust in spades around here. I definitely trust everyone in the HR team to work to the best of their ability and do the best they possibly can for the stakeholders.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading about diversity and inclusion, and there can often be a feeling of tokenistic lip-service where an organisation will hire a new team member from a minority group just for the sake of ticking boxes, like hiring one person from a CALD background or adding a woman to an all-male-dominated team. But if an employee feels they’re being included in a non-genuine way, they won’t feel safe to share their thoughts and knowledge, and that defeats the whole point. The point of being diverse and inclusive is to seek out different opinions from people who think in different ways so that everyone can learn and improve how things are done. Ticking boxes means nothing if it isn’t genuine.
Planning pays off
A good way to build a team is to be clear about their purpose from the beginning. This ensures that not only do you recruit based on specific skills and experience and qualifications, but also on the ability to work cohesively. Sometimes these are called “soft skills” or emotional intelligence, as opposed to certificates you hang up on the wall. Soft skills are really important, because if you only hire people with the exact same study and work backgrounds, you might be missing out on other sets of skills and talents that could make a huge difference to your team’s output.
A team of introverts?
Some people might find it easier to work in a less team-oriented environment, but that’s often a personal makeup thing. However, some people might feel as though they aren’t capable of working as part of a team. Perhaps they identify as an introvert, or get really anxious in crowds. But even if you have anxiety issues, you can still be a part of a small team, or be part of a team that doesn’t come together very often. You can also use Yammer and Skype and other tools to assist with this, so there are technological options.
You need to invest for it to payoff
If an objective is set for a team, it’s vital that the team receives sufficient resources and influence to meet their objective. You need a supportive structure for a team to be successful, but then you’ll always have these case studies where teams have managed against the odds to Flourish Australia. So it’s about resourcing, it’s about communicating effectively, and that’s where Yammer and other types of online communication tools can be really great.
As told to Grant J Everett
“Despite how busy you all might be, it’s important for teams to put aside time to meet. You need to share what you’ve learned, what’s stumped you, and to make sure everyone is on the same page. I believe if you have a diverse group who comes together with a common goal and you all have the respect to listen to differing opinions, that can gel into something really special.“