How to Develop a Team on a Limited Budget?

“Efficiency first, lean teams” has become the prevailing theme for many companies, even those with strong growth trajectories. In today’s business environment, most companies are proceeding cautiously—they may freeze department budgets or postpone expenditures for 1 or 2 quarters to adjust based on developments.

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If you are a manager leading a lean team, you undoubtedly know that you can’t just wait for the team to grow on its own, especially when you face situations like experienced team members leaving or someone nearing retirement.

Over the past few years, the pandemic forced many companies to pause training, which had a significant impact: it affected employee engagement and retention rates, slowed down their preparedness for taking on larger roles and responsibilities. While the pandemic has fully stabilized at the beginning of the year, its effects continue—the managers and employees have not fully recovered from the fatigue of the past.

So, with a limited budget, what can managers do to develop their teams? How can managers help themselves and their subordinates recover from fatigue and regain their efficiency?

5 Strategies for Developing a Team on a Limited Budget

  1. Harness Internal Resources

This strategy involves fully utilizing the existing talent within the company, often favored for its cost-effectiveness compared to external training.

One approach is to encourage team members to share their expertise and skills by organizing internal training sessions and seminars. This can enhance team cohesion and a spirit of mutual support.

First, identify the strengths of team members (including your colleagues’ direct reports) and consider what valuable experiences or expertise should be shared among the team. Whether through one-on-one training or informal online or offline sessions, ensure that the content is relevant to the trainees and makes knowledge transfer as smooth as possible.

Another approach is to invite leaders in charge of business operations to engage with your team members, even if it’s just for 15-30 minutes. This doesn’t have to be formal lectures or training but rather sharing key experiences and providing valuable industry insights or business perspectives, broadening team members’ horizons.

  1. Offer Practical Experience/Opportunities

Your team members are not children; they don’t just learn through reading literature, participating in training, or observing. They need opportunities to apply the knowledge they encounter in practice. Allowing them to participate in actual projects and learn and grow on the job is undoubtedly an important training method.

If “learning by doing” is already one of your training strategies, you can take it a step further. Not only allow team members to attend meetings they wouldn’t typically participate in but also let them play certain roles: whether assisting in meeting preparations (e.g., defining meeting objectives and how to achieve them), presenting meeting content to attendees, or summarizing what went well and what needs improvement in a project. This learning approach not only enhances skills but also deepens their understanding of business processes and company culture.

Additionally, you can organize problem-solving meetings where team members discuss and propose constructive solutions/suggestions for a business problem. Whether they find answers or not is not the primary goal; it’s about encouraging critical thinking.

  1. Guide the Team

As a manager, you may sometimes focus too much on solving problems for the team, especially when you have significant expertise. However, if everything relies on you, it’s easy to fall into a “monkey on your back” situation. When employees report problems to you, consider pausing for a moment. First, determine whether these issues require your guidance or if they need you to provide a solution.

Remember that you can cultivate your subordinates’ problem-solving abilities. To do this, ask thought-provoking open-ended questions that guide them to think and find solutions on their own, rather than leading them to your preconceived solutions. If you consistently operate this way, you will quickly gauge team members’ critical thinking abilities and accelerate their growth.

  1. Lack of Energy

Energy is a dynamic force and fervent passion that motivates managers to inspire and motivate others. Energetic managers are characterized by infectious enthusiasm, as they can inspire others by creating a positive environment where team members feel valued, motivated, and supported, establishing emotional connections with their work and colleagues.

Conversely, managers who lack energy are like birds without wings. They cannot inspire their teams to move toward common goals. When team members cannot ignite their inner fires, leading becomes challenging: members may resist change and innovation, display negative attitudes, or not actively engage in challenges or self-expansion processes.

5. Leverage the Power of Technology

The pandemic has significantly accelerated technological advancements, especially in a remote work context. However, many companies still rely on methods that overwhelm employees or make it difficult for them to apply what they’ve learned in practice.

There are now many learning platforms that can integrate the training methods mentioned above. Moreover, online courses, lectures, and tutorials on these platforms are often more cost-effective than traditional training methods, and learners can make better use of their fragmented time for self-improvement. On the other hand, HR and managers can track team members’ learning progress and effectiveness through platform reports.

In summary, with a limited budget, managers should be adept at discovering and seizing opportunities to develop their teams. Through innovative and effective methods, they can help team members continually improve themselves and contribute to the company’s development.

5 Tips to Help Your Team Recover from Fatigue

Daniel Browne, the author of “The Energy Equation,” suggests that energy is a continuum, ranging from depleted to overwhelmed to coping to thriving to flourishing. At the bottom, people struggle to function effectively in work and life, while at the top, in the “flourishing” stage, people are at their most efficient.

In the modern work environment, stress and fatigue are inevitable. To help yourself and your subordinates recover from fatigue, consider the following 5 tips:

  1. Identify the Root Causes:

Find out the reasons behind your or your subordinates’ fatigue. Is it due to an excessive workload? Poor working conditions? Lack of support? Or does the work currently being done feel meaningless? The best way to address these issues is to communicate directly with your employees. Collect feedback and suggestions, then incorporate them into improvement plans. For example, many companies establish anonymous employee feedback channels and promote internal employee resources to understand stress points and areas where assistance is needed.

  1. Provide Resources and Support:

As a manager, you can offer necessary resources and support, such as technical assistance, relevant training, and appropriate empowerment. Most importantly, demonstrate a supportive attitude that makes team members feel they can rely on you. For instance, SAP offers a “Free Friday” policy that allows employees to flexibly adjust their working hours on the last Friday of each month, enhancing both work efficiency and employee happiness.

  1. Foster a Positive Culture:

Create a positive culture within your team that encourages employees to discuss progress, provide support, and motivate each other. This helps boost employees’ sense of purpose, creativity, collaboration, and trust. Netflix emphasizes a culture of transparency and open communication. They believe that employee ignorance is a management failure, so they encourage candid conversations at work, both in terms of communicating with management and holding meetings. Everyone is encouraged to ask questions, point out issues, and correct mistakes anytime, as long as it relates to work.

  1. Encourage Breaks:

Stepping away from the work environment can help employees alleviate fatigue. Encourage your team members to take short breaks during lunchtime, allowing them to temporarily leave the workplace, relax, and reduce anxiety. For instance, the Weather Channel company designed “lunchtime yoga” for employees, enabling them to engage in yoga practices at noon to relax and relieve stress.

  1. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle:

Physical well-being contributes to fatigue reduction. As a manager, you can provide physical activity plans, dietary advice, and other support to encourage employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle. For example, Pearson offers free sub-healthy courses to employees, promoting healthy eating and physical exercise.

By following these tips, you can help your team recover from fatigue and create a healthier and more productive work environment.

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