In this chapter we present a system for the management of team building and team update activities in the current human resource management scenario. The proposed system presents three important characteristics that appear particularly relevant in this scenario. Firstly, it exploits a suitable standard to uniformly represent and handle expert skills. Secondly, it is highly distributed and, therefore, is well suited for the typical organization of the current job market where consulting firms are intermediating most job positions. Finally, it considers not only experts’ technical skills but also their social and organizational capabilities, as well as the affinity degree possibly shown by them when they worked together in the past.
In the last years job market and organization have undergone deep changes. In fact, centralized job organization, where a company directly recruits its experts and assigns them to its activities, has been substituted by a distributed organization, where a company outsources most of its activities to external consulting firms. These last are often very large and complex; moreover, they frequently share the same clients or, even, the same projects and, consequently, they are enforced to cooperate. In the current human resource management scenario, most of available experts are recruited by these firms that send them to their final clients to run specific project tasks. It often happens that experts belonging to different consulting firms work together in the same project of interest to a final client (Meister, 1997).
In this highly distributed and flexible scenario, team building activities play a crucial role (Becerra & Fernandez, 2006). Interestingly enough, these activities are often known as task allocation activities (Dash, Vytelingum, Rogers, David & Jennings, 2007; Manisterski, David, Kraus & Jennings, 2006; Rahwan, Ramchurn, Dang, Giovannucci & Jennings, 2007). However, in the context of human resource management, team building problem presents some specific features (West, 2003) that make it more difficult and delicate to be handled w.r.t. the more general task allocation problem. Specifically, there are at least three main challenges to face.
The first challenge regards the highly distributed context; in fact, if experts of different consulting firms are enrolled to work together, then centralized team building approaches do not appear adequate.
The second challenge concerns the need of a standard for representing expert skills and capabilities (Hefke & Stojanovic, 2004; Harzallah, Leclere & Trichet, 2002; Biesalski, 2003); in fact, if consulting firms and/or their final clients use different ways to represent the skills of available experts and/or the skills desired for a project, then the comparison of experts and the matching between expert skills and project requirements may become difficult and unclear (Colucci, Di Noia, Di Sciascio, Donini & Ragone, 2007; Hefke & Stojanovic, 2004); as a consequence, there is a high risk that constructed teams are not adequate for the projects assigned to them and, consequently, that final clients will be unsatisfied.
The third challenge regards the type of expert skills that must be considered during a team construction. In fact, technical skills, even if extremely important, cannot be the only criterion for choosing team members (Coutts & Gruman, 2005; Mehandjiev & Odgers, 1999). Indeed, other skills, such as social and organizational ones, appear equally important (Drach-Zahavy & Somech, 2002). As a confirmation of this claim, it is currently well known that a team wholly composed by technically talented experts is often characterized by a negative form of competition because its members tend to assert themselves each other by nature (LaFasto & Larson, 2001).