Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
When it comes to staff selection, most managers need all the help they can get. Despite the creation of sophisticated psychometric tests, psychologists have yet to come up with a foolproof selection method – or even anything approaching perfection. Whilst larger organisations may have their own personnel departments to take responsibility for selection issues (or even bring in outside consultants), many SMEs rely on pooled knowledge and limited experience. Staff selec-tion at http://www.monash.edu.au/personnel/sdu/staff_select/index3.htm is a Web site run by Monash University in Australia that will be a real boon to such managers.
The site starts with a list of a "process management schedule" which is really just a glorified term for the selection paradigm. However, this paradigm is one of the most detailed I have ever seen, with a total of 22 stages. The process starts by reviewing the need for the position (a stage many miss out) and goes through the appointment of a convener, setting of selection criteria, agreeing core interview questions and finally offering feedback to candidates (again, another stage frequently missed out).
Each of these stages is hotlinked to its own page devoted to explaining that step of the process in more detail. For example, Step 2, "The selection committee", emphasises that at least one member of the committee should be trained in staff selection, that all matters are confidential, that equal opportunities issues should be attended to, that gender balance be achieved and that a clear process of reaching a decision exists.
The best page of Monash University's staff selection site for me, however, is the one entitled "Item bank of questions". This consists of dozens and dozens of tested and proven interview questions categorised under headings such as "communication", "planning, setting goals and priorities", "teamwork", etc. Bookmark this page, for these questions should become a valuable resource to you (why do all the thinking when someone else has done it for you?!). Examples of questions include "have you ever had to persuade someone to accept your point of view?" (communication), "can you give me an example showing how you deal with competing priorities?" (planning) and "in any position of leadership you have held, what have been the expectations of your staff?" (leadership).
Here's another interesting university-based site I have come across (some of the best Internet sites are university-based, since they are less likely to be marketing tools). Called "Organizational culture: a Web walk" (see http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/~vsvede/culture.htm), this allows the surfer to follow along and click on any marked areas that are of interest in the area of organisational culture. Hotlinked pages include "key questions", "an organisational culture framework", "diagnosing your own culture" as well as an extensive bibliography. What makes this site even more intriguing is that it was developed by two Master's students at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Although they give no indication of the grades awarded, the quality of the site suggests top marks might (or should) have been obtained. Examples of pertinent questions they suggest you ask in order to diagnose your organisational culture include: "can anyone ask a question, or is it just certain groups that can do this?", "are mistakes encouraged or forgiven if people learn from them?", "what drives staff turnover?" and "how is conflict handled at all levels?"
Finally, a site for those who belong to that most mysterious of all organisations – the virtual organisation. Or, more commonly, those belonging to the virtual team within a non-virtual organisation. According to site author, David Gould (who has based the site on his PhD thesis), virtual teams are "teams of people who primarily interact electronically and who may meet face-to-face occasionally". Such teams are becoming increasingly common due, he says, to organisation-wide projects or initiatives, alliances with different organisations in different geographical locations, mergers and acquisitions, telecommuting initiatives and the need to reduce costs. If you work within a virtual team, manage such a team or are hoping to establish one, his site is another one to bookmark.
One of the most useful parts of the site for managers thinking of establishing a virtual team is "strategies for virtual teams" where you are advised to hold an initial face-to-face start-up, establish interdependency among team members, establish a schedule of periodic face-to-face meetings and establish clear norms and protocol for dealing with assumptions and conflict. One of the problems with virtual teams (and one of the aspects that puts a lot of managers off the idea) is how to manage them and the site devotes considerable space to leadership in virtual teams. The material is presented in discussion format, rather than a "how-to" list, which I feel acknowledges the difficulties involved in virtual management rather than glossing over the problems. Many of the difficulties, according to the author's research, are tied up within communication problems and some tips are offered, including giving team members a sense of how the overall project is going, establishing a code of conduct to avoid communication delays and not letting team members vanish.
Virtual organization is at http://www.seanet.com/~daveg/vrteams.htm
Sandi MannUniversity of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK