Harvard Business Review recently ran an article on “How To Build a High-Performing Digital Team.” Someone suggested a I post it here because this is a little bit of where my worlds collide. When I’m not writing about broadband, I’m often building websites or creating social media strategies or teaching others how to do these sorts of things.
People often ask “how much is it? And “what’s most important?” And for years I’ve been saying – well, how much is a wedding? And what’s most important there? OK bride and groom should be the easy answer – but you know what I mean. If you’re a foodie, you care about the meal; if you’re into fashion, you care about the dress; if you play an instrument you care about the music. In a perfect world you’d have the best of everything but that’s not always realistic.
The HBR offers a list of 6 attributes to consider when building a digital team..
- People who are omnivores, not vegans. [Not too focused in one direction/solution.]
- People who understand a website launch is only the beginning.
- People who recognize that design is a differentiator.
- People who are comfortable with uncertainty and can act with agility.
- People who eat the dog food, willingly and visibly.
- People who bring varied perspectives, earned from experience.
You can check out the article for more details on each attribute. I think it’s a good list. But I also think this is a list for a big company with access to lots of potential candidates. For smaller companies I might come up with something a little different. My list assumes you will have one person to focus on digital marketing – and I understand that the same person may be responsible for all marketing (and dishwashing and payroll and…). And I purposefully add the term marketing because while the marketing folks may work with the folks who maintain your server (or laptops or network), in my experience the IT folks are not always the best drivers of the marketing side of technology use.
Here seven more attributes to consider when support and staff are limited.
- Get permanent folks who like to learn. Technology changes a lot – that better be fun for the person knee deep in it.
- Find consultants who are willing to teach. Not all of them are. Don’t expect your web developer to teach staff html – but they should be willing to teach them how to make updates to the site, or maintain a Facebook page or understand a Google Adwords campaign. As a consultant I’ll tell you that with social media the voice and immediacy are very important so having someone on staff who can do the daily updates is the perfect world solution.
- Get folks with experience or at least an interest in your industry. Social media plans are very different for different industries. This applies to permanent staff and consultants.
- Find people you trust and listen to them. Website analytics look very scientific, but there’s a lot of art to analyzing it. Someone may visit your site for only 20 seconds because they hated it or because they really only needed the phone number and found it right away. Finding someone who will focus on trying to determine what that answer is and not what makes them look best is key.
- Be realistic. The hot shot consultant may suggest a strategy that budgets 20 hours a week on maintaining your online presence. That’s not going to work if your main driver on staff is also the head chef. Find people who understand that balance and can work with you based on your time and budget restrictions.
- Have room for mistakes so long as you learn something and the risks are mitigated. With a field that changes so drastically there are great rewards for people who take risks but not every campaign will be a winner. Again it’s a matter of balancing risk and reward – determining that balance in advance helps optimize the expense.
- Find people you understand. I was one hired to simply explain another consultants proposal. If you don’t understand what they are proposing, how will you know if they succeed and how can you learn from them? I find that someone unwilling to use a common language often doesn’t understand the business implications or applications for social media.
You can keep everything in house, but for most small businesses I think this can be a false economy – unless you have someone who really wants to get into it. I often say hire out if you only need to do something once – like build a website. Consider internal support for daily/weekly maintenance and if it’s good use of staff time. Having some expectations for your digital team and measuring against them will help you determine if it’s good use of staff time.
Again I think the original HBR article is great and the attributes are spot on, but thought I’d add a twist for smaller businesss too. Hope it’s helpful.