As they navigate company onboarding processes, new employees can find themselves at sea in their first few weeks at work. In this, their teams are their inside circle which hold them steady.

But what happens when there’s too much going on within the team itself? For instance, everyone’s energy is drained from putting out fires, or there are clashing personalities and work-styles. A newcomer who walks into this will constantly be on his/her tiptoes, unable to fathom the team dynamics or rely on the peer group. S/he may feel like an outsider because s/he does not share the ‘history’.

Enter the team playbook. It’s similar to the corporate playbook, but for teams. It contains a set of ‘plays’ or ‘plans-of-action’ that help respond to specific instances – arising from customers, other teams, competitors, and even technology (in the form of buggy code or programs).

Team playbooks improve the team’s efficiency as they suggest what ‘plays’ to activate every time a situation comes up. For example, referring to a play that describes the order of priority in which to deal with requests from other teams can help a new employee understand what to focus on, when the workload is heavy. This, even without a peer group member or senior explaining it to him. Teams across Atlassian, CA Technologies, and other companies use this to stay productive. When everyone ‘plays’ the prescribed way, cohesion improves. There is alignment of objectives and trust grows.

For a newcomer, team playbooks offer three key benefits:

  1. They bring visibility to its functions and make onboarding easier. 

    Since the playbook documents every strategy the team has, new members soon turn familiar with how the team works. They also understand the different activities tried in the past. For example, a new employee trying to resolve code problems does not have to try six different ways, if the team playbook mentions the specific method to deal with the bug. No need to reinvent the wheel.

  2. They help asses what’s wrong, before things get toxic. 

    Teams work as an organism, and its members might not initially realize when things are going wrong with cohesion or trust. Regular assessments using playbooks help identify these issues before they affect the team culture. For a newcomer, joining a team that’s murky with unspoken concerns can be quite demotivating.

  3.  They are inclusive. 

    Very often, new members feel uncomfortable for a while, even if everyone is socializing with them. Working on a project or two is what breaks down barriers. Playbooks help new teammates get straight to work and join the fray. And by adopting plays, they feel they are on the right track and are contributing.

Retaining the right talent and creating diverse, well-knit teams might sound like an HR mandate. But teams need to help too – because diversity spurs innovation. And teams that bond over the right plays can retain as well as leverage new talent better.

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