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5 ways to build entrepreneurial teams and cascade HR’s ROI

Your organization is always in need of recruiting better employees who will sustain better productivity and returns on their HR investments.

6 min read



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Turnover kills teamwork, frustrates clients, and erodes profits. So why are “rock star” employees so hard to find, train, and retain?

Whatever your field of endeavor, your organization is always in need of recruiting better employees who will sustain better productivity and returns on their HR investments. So why is above-average compensation so painful to engineer and afford?

Companies with high turnover and a history of poor teamwork or un-productivity not only suffer from fundamental HR structure and HR priority failures, they suffer from a lack of return on their HR investments. They also tend to not pay very well, or offer the chance to earn far more.

From the teachings of Vince Lombardi to modern Navy SEAL training and psychology, it’s been proven that the more pressure and challenge your employees embrace and surmount together, the more cohesive and expert your teams will be as they work together going forward.

Once the very best, most qualified people are hired and compensated, how does your company convert top HR investments into cascaded revenues and earnings?

Here are five ways to begin the process of engaging top employees, using a framework of escalating challenge that will help “ratchet” or cascade their results:

1. Watch a challenging, team-oriented film together. Movie nights or afternoons are easy to plan, simple to cater, and last only a few hours. Make a short list of ideal films, documentaries, or keynote industry speeches your business or project teams would benefit from watching together within the next few weeks.

2. Read a challenging book together. One of the first ratcheting methods I require in company turnaround situations is that the entire team must read and discuss a relevant book (or three) together immediately. “Blue Ocean Strategy,” “Good To Great” and “Medici Effect” are great examples, yet the list of potential titles is entirely up to you and your field of endeavor.

To test any new turnaround team, I would require a three-page writeup of each book title, by each executive, so they could articulate how their role or future pipeline of projects will be improved based on the frameworks, concepts and ideas in each book. The results of these writeups shared as a team were both astonishing and time-saving.

The process requires choosing titles carefully, supplying each employee with a copy of each book, and meeting 1-2 times per week to discuss and finish each book uniformly. Those who blew off the assignment were “removed from the bus.”

3. Write and produce a challenging article, blog post, speech, or video presentation together. Producing an industry-relevant presentation, either for internal training or targeted social media, is a more complex PR challenge, especially if it’s a professionally produced speech or video. Start the process of articulating a C-suite strategy, selecting team members to take the lead, and assigning the work / budgets to complete the project.

The turning point and result of producing a formal industry-relevant presentation is the exposure of your tier 1 teams to top customers, industry peers, academic leaders in your field and various media sources. Advancing an analytical, academic presentation –– perhaps at your next industry conference or university recruiting opportunity –– is something most companies and organizations in trouble have never even dreamed of doing.

4. Host an exciting event that involves serving food to a larger group. Cooking or catering for a group of people beyond your team is a truly humbling experience. There’s a reason why politicians and CEOs often put on an apron and serve it up to their constituents. Be it a casual company BBQ, charitable cause, or elegant annual gala, successful events require serious team planning, budgeting, paperwork, and labor from everyone.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting demeaning side work beyond normal working hours, or washing dishes without pay. What I’m positing is that your company or organization should figure out how to put on a creative and exciting company event that showcases how your company works together, serves others, and potentially hires top talent from within.

5. Plan a challenging “work hard, play hard” trip that involves your team traveling together. Whichever your organization’s field or endeavor, make a list of the top industry conferences, including relevant colleges and universities, that specialize in what your company does. Scheduling “work hard, play hard” excursions around top industry conferences or strategic university outreach efforts is both smart and fun, for your company and your people.

Now that everyone has perhaps bonded over a movie, read a few books together, written a short paper and given a formal presentation, hosted a sit down meal or company event, and ventured into industry conference and top college recruiting together, your C-suite can now begin to more accurately see who should remain “on the bus.

Once your team’s good work is done, enable them to hit the snowy slopes, a sunny beach, the nearest golf links, or go celebrate on the town as just reward. Great people need authentic C-suite leadership, compelling compensation, and due recognition.

Takeaways: America is suffering from numbingly boring workplaces that lack a culture of innovation. Retail and commercial real estate-based businesses are plummeting, mainly due to the Internet. Stagnant business models abound. Turnover is high. Great employees and executives crave challenges.

No matter how hard the Zuckerbergs and Musks of the world try, humans will never be robots. At every desk and cubicle, more clever and entrepreneurial thinking is required.

The good news is that the smartest people are typically busy studying or working inside the world’s top universities, or preparing to deliver freshly minted white papers or remarks at top industry events or VIP gatherings around the globe. The collective idea is that your company’s top teams must still be able go anywhere, get involved, give prepared talks, recruit new people, take the lead, and ultimately land a few new clients, entrepreneurially.

Of course, work beyond normal working hours or the scope of standard employment agreements must be considered and compensated accordingly. I also realize that postal or Pentagon workplaces may not take too kindly to such entrepreneurial efforts and ideas beyond standard 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday hours. This framework should certainly be tailored to your specific workplace, startup, newsroom or agency HR policies.

Team building, teamwork, and HR ROI each require comprehensive workplace strategies that escalate and expect more results as time progresses. Perhaps the problem facing your skull-blocked company or HR department is diminishing incentives, as opposed to escalating compensation? The best people do tend to gravitate toward the best paychecks.

So how is your company, city or state making plans to find, hire and compensate your top people consistently?


Baron Christopher Hanson is the principal and lead strategist at RedBaron Consulting, based in Washington, D.C., Charleston, S.C., and Palm Beach, Fla. A former rugby player, honors Harvard graduate, and expert on turnaround management and revenue growth, Baron has written for Harvard Business Review, SmartBrief and Switch & Shift considerably. Baron can be reached for consulting and speaking engagements via [email protected]..

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