It’s a commonly held misbelief that company culture is just a bunch of motivational adjectives (brave, creative, innovative *delete as appropriate) graffitied on the walls of funky/industrial looking offices with pool tables, Nespresso machines and beers on a Thursday at 5pm (look how relaxed and fun we are)…. However I’m afraid I’m here to burst this bubble. If culture really was that easy to nail, every company in Shoreditch would be winning the Best Company’s award and constantly turning away the cream of London’s talent pool.
So what is a company’s culture?
In its most simple form, a company’s culture can best be described as the way you do things as a team and how you behave towards each other. There is no point having ‘be bold’ emblazoned across the wall in flashing lights if every time someone takes a risk at work they are chastised by senior management for not seeking several layers of approval first.
How do I define ours?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I passionately believe your organisation’s culture is the backbone of your business and what I’m about to say next is probably my best piece of advice on the topic…
*** It’s OK not to be Facebook, Google or Airbnb when it comes to culture ***
In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s mandatory (unless of course you are Facebook, Google or Airbnb in which case, as you were!). Culture is about being true to who your organisation is, stating what kind of company you are and working out what it is about your company that makes people join (and more importantly, stay!) then singing that tune from the rooftops!
The best way of working this all out is to…. ask people
It’s that simple. From the co-founder who’s been by your side since day 1, to the newbie who kicked off their induction yesterday and the leadership team who make critical decisions about the business every day. Everyone will have a view and you’ll probably find a handful of similarities running through what they say – that’s the foundation of defining your culture.
Once you’ve got this key information from your team, it’s time to decide if it’s in line with what you really want the culture to be. If the answer is yes then great, good work! You can now focus your time on how you’re going to spread that message to both current and potential employees (employer branding, your recruitment page on the website and sure, why not paint those words on the wall in the canteen, after all you know they are true now!)
But what if my view of our culture is different to everyone else’s?!
There is of course the chance that what employees currently say about your business, doesn’t really align with how you want to be perceived (for example: I was told at interview that this company values work life balance but if I leave my desk on time then my manager makes comments about me being a part timer).
Look for the trends in what people are saying
It’s tempting to dismiss these views, ‘oh the manager is just mucking around’ or ‘god, she’s being way too sensitive’ but this isn’t advisable. Whilst it’s important not to dwell on every negative piece of feedback you might get (that’s a pretty destructive and depressing way to live your life after all), the silent killer of culture is saying one thing, and doing another.
Take definitive action to get things back on track
So, armed with the definition of your ideal culture and this knowledge of what reality may well be like, it’s time to address the way you do things and how your team behaves so that it’s more in line with what you want your culture to be.
I won’t lie, this can be challenging and will probably take a fair amount of time. You won’t change people’s deep set behaviours overnight. A few tips from me on the topic? Lead by example, call out people when you see them acting in contradiction to the desired culture (but do so in a way that’s in line with it too!) and of course, reward people who do demonstrate the company values – this will encourage more people to follow suite!
Here at The HR Hub we’ve worked with a wonderful array of businesses at every stage of culture definition (from the head scratching start up phase of ‘who do we want to be’ to the exciting growth phase of ‘how do we scale our business whilst keeping our culture strong’) and we love nothing more than helping a business to align its actions with its words. So, why not give us a call to discuss how we can help your business to define, manage or enhance your culture?
Within SMEs, career development opportunities can seem few and far between. And within a small team, their impact can be huge. Here are our top tips on how to go about promoting from within – whilst keeping your team intact.
Succession Plan For All Roles
Take it from me, any time taken away from the coal face to think about the development of your people will never be wasted time. Think carefully about who will be the successors for all roles – including yours – and don’t just go for the obvious. This strategic thinking could impact not only on your recruitment over the next few years but also on your team’s engagement and business strategy as a whole. As a small business grows, many early team members will be concerned that their impact may be diluted by a whole new senior team being recruited externally, so be open with the team about what opportunities there may be in the future and how they may be a part of this.
Be Realistic About Skills Gaps
Where possible, I would always try and recruit from within. If an internal candidate has 70% of what’s required to do the job and that extra 30% can be learnt in house – what are you wanting for? Give them a chance. Witnessing hard work and talent being rewarded can have such positive effect on the whole team. But sometimes, particularly with technically specific roles, to keep ahead of the competition you’ll need to bring the talent in. This can be huge investment, so make sure you do it properly with a well thought out recruitment campaign , carefully considered on boarding programme and (crucially) with the buy-in and/ or involvement of some of your existing team.
Create A Personalised L&D Plan For Each Individual
For every potential internal promotion, think carefully about how you as leader can help individuals get the skills they need to move up. Sometimes this may involve investment in external training. But in my experience some of the most valuable learning opportunities can be provided in-house. Mentorship programmes and job shadowing for example can be hugely valuable, for all parties involved. Empower the team to take ownership of their own learning too. One of my favourite ways to do this is to let each employee expense the odd ebook/podcast/periodical relevant to the business or their function and share their learnings with the team.
Bin The Annual Review
For me, yearly reviews have always seemed pretty pointless. Meet once a month if you can, but at least once every few months. Whilst catching up on operational issues and where team members are vs targets, check in on where they are at with their own development too to make sure it’s moving forward. There’s little point in having an personal development plan if that’s all it remains…. If you demonstrate to the team that their personal development is a priority for you (and action anything you’ll say you do promptly) it’ll be a priority for them and become part of the culture at your organisation.
Be Conscious Of Those Left Behind
Seeing a close team member move up to a new role without you can be hugely demotivating whether you were in line for the role or not. Communication here is so important – and you must be in control of the messaging. The last thing you want is for your employees to find out about an internal promotion through the office jungle drums. Once you’ve made the decision, let them whole team know asap – ideally at the same time – what is going to be happening and why. And where possible, try and turn what could be a perceived set back into an opportunity for everyone, positioning it within the context of a team re-structure with enhanced roles/responsibilities for all. If you’re aware of a particular individual who might take the news especially badly, take them out for a chat to discuss specifically and head this off. Making sure its you they vent to (rather than others in the team!), will give you the chance to offer some explanation, words of support and help those sour grapes taste a little less bitter.
For help or advice on any HR issue get in touch today at email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 to speak to our team direct. We’re offering a free initial review to help you understand how to make the valuable changes to best support your business.
Whilst the everyday discussion of performance does not (to most I hope) harbour potential disasters of such epic proportions as the explosions common to any one of the Mission Impossible series of films, confidence and success in this area for many businesses can seem as unattainable as overcoming a threat against the annihilation of all humans or being able to recreate ‘that’ memorable heist scene which saw Mr. Cruise landing just a couple of inches from the floor. And be just as sweat inducing too…..
Over 60% of our clients here at TheHRhub in the last year have had concerns and challenges with their team in the area we’ll collectively call (for the purposes of this post) ‘performance management’, reflecting our experience as in-house practitioners that this is one of the most common areas of concern for business leaders and showing that despite its many evolutions or size of company, most have just not cracked it yet.
Most leaders instinctively understand that being able to share what they’re trying to achieve, what they see each person bringing to that party and that having a transparent way of checking progress against this is going to be key to keeping everyone’s performance on track, yet far from providing clarity over a way of doing this, somehow wrapping it all up in the term ‘performance management’ and creating a process around it serves only to confuse matters.
So before people lose the will to live over finding the perfect ‘process’ (there isn’t one btw) in what is too important an area not to take seriously in a business, we share what we feel are some fundamentals to bear in mind in this area.
Purpose matters when it comes to any new process, so be clear on why you’re you’re spending time having these conversations. Is your vision clear to all and will this help? Trying to give the team support? Are you you trying to get alignment? Trying to build communication? Drive accountability? Transparency? Or all of the above and more. You may not get it right initially but by being clear to the team over your expectations in any performance management process, you’re taking a very important first step.
Timing is also important (but don’t let it drag you down…). I’ve always been a fan of the little-and-often approach and you’ll have no doubt read countless articles in the last year or so on how the annual appraisal is ‘dead’, not applicable to today’s workforce and not a thing which millennials would dirty their hands with….. However if once a year is currently the only time that you meet with your team members, then for goodness sake make sure you keep that diary appointment!
There’s nothing wrong with starting with the basics. If you don’t feel you have the dedicated time, skills or energy to pull together a bells-and-whistles program, then start little (and often) with every manager having 1-2-1 conversations to build on. By talking to your team members regularly and agreeing what they’re going to be focussed on, how you’re going to both communicate progress and what you need to do to remove any blockers in doing so, you’re doing better than about 70% of businesses.
To ‘rate’ or ‘not to rate?’ is a much debated question. And to be honest, there’s no real right or wrong here. Personally speaking I find that when discussing how someone is developing in their role, understanding what motivates them and how they can deliver more of what they do well in a business, that then distilling said efforts and the results they’ve achieved into one single number doesn’t exactly elicit the spike in motivation for the majority of cases. True, being given a ‘high’ rating is probably likely to a smile inside many, but then the same can be said for some well thought out feedback which shows encouragement and recognition. And if you are going to go with ratings? Maybe stop shy of having the 15 (!) levels one particular business I know constructed in their process….
Online tools can help manage the consistency side of this for you too (nudging you when it’s time to chat just in case you forget, giving you tips on how to discuss issues) but I’m afraid that nothing is going to replace good old fashioned practice and regularity in this regard. Manage this and your teams will be flying. Because whilst many may complain about form filling or query what their objectives were, I’ve never ever heard an employee say that they didn’t appreciate spending time with their manager and discussing how they can do better.
Like many sound practices, it’s not impossible to achieve results in this area in a reasonably swift time, but it does take focus, persistence and regularity.
Think you’ve cracked it? Congratulations. And now might just be the time to answer that advert for MI6 you saw encrypted….
For others who want help in unlocking your team’s performance, give us a bell for a free chat to discuss how we can help you via firstname.lastname@example.org 0203 627 7048.
You may have noticed that over the past few weeks, the nation has been gripped by ‘Bodyguard’ fever: the television series most watched on the BBC all year, which has been the topic of numerous ‘water cooler’ conversations at work. Centred around the ongoing threat and execution of terrorist events and the impact of these on the Government, Security Services, Police and Armed forces, at the core of this drama is the concept of ‘loyalty’: who has it and to whom are they faithful?
So far, no different to a myriad of other dramas attempting to draw viewers. Here however the storyline is brilliantly balanced (and just a little bit too close to real life events we’ve seen to be dismissed as never-gonna-happen-here…), the acting even better and the ending…..well, far be it for me to unlock any spoilers for those who haven’t quite caught up on iPlayer, but suffice it to say it strikes again the right proportion of the believable and the shocking. And that’s because across all the goodies and baddies we meet in the series, across all the multiple plot lines, flaws and strengths are presented to us which are uniquely human and recognisable, with many coming from the type of loyalties which we see in ourselves in everyday life.
Of course, before we take the analogies too far, most of us after all aren’t likely to ever need or want to ‘take a bullet’ for our leader (it would bring a whole new meaning to ‘taking one for the team’…) however people take all sorts of action and inaction in the name of loyalty: they defend, attack and work hard for those they are loyal to. If your team are loyal to you, they’re going to care if you win the deal or not and put in the hours to help you secure it. If your team are loyal to you, they’ll travel to the ends of the earth for you (or even to that meeting in Bognor Regis someone’s slipped in their diary for 4pm on a Friday night…). And if your team are loyal to you, they’ll think twice about replying to that message received from a recruiter who’s been stalking them on LinkedIn…..
There are many ways to inspire and earn the type of loyalty which will transform your business but we’ve cherry picked our favourites below to give you a headstart:
- Include others in the conversation. Listen to what your team are saying ( and also to what they’re not saying) as a healthy team is one where constructive dialogue and challenge is welcomed. So if your team is tight lipped or never offers anything more than a murmured ‘whatever you say boss’ to everything you suggest or ask, then now might be time to do a bit more listening than telling. Not sure how to do this?
- Be a little bit vulnerable yourself: you certainly don’t need to take the lead from Hawe’s character in Episode 3 and have a ‘pre-conference’ moment yourself with a member of your team (in fact please don’t unless you want someone to take the lead in bringing some sort of harassment allegation against you) however disclosing information about yourself, including how you feel and what challenges you also may be up against, helps others to feel that they themselves can open up themselves a bit more too. It helps build trust and cement good relationships.
- Stand back. People will not show you their best selves if you are looking over their shoulder constantly or lurking in that Google doc you’ve shared with them watching every keystroke and willing it to populate (yes, they can see you doing this – that’s why they’re called ‘live’ documents!). They will instead show you signs of anxiety and (probably) frustration. But never the flourish you are looking for. Period.
- Treat people with respect: this includes not hiding bad news when it surfaces and not avoiding difficult conversations. Many years after I left one particular company I would have gone out of my way to recommend them as a brilliant place to work, despite the fact that my exit came shortly after writing my own redundancy letter*. The reason? Despite the P45, throughout my time with them, they had always been upfront with the bad news and treated me like an adult. And you’d be surprised at how uncommon that is….
But the biggest way to inspire loyalty? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the people working for you who should be taking on the role of Bodyguard. As their leader, it is you who should have their back. The one who should support and look out for them. Any team who doesn’t feel they have the support of their leader is not one which will feel loyalty. And in turn, all honesty, performance and discretionary effort flies out of the window along with all those ideas which may just help you become the next Apple, Google or Amazon….
For help in inspiring your own brand of employee loyalty in your team, drop us a line via email@example.com or 0203 627 7048.
Image: Photo by Paulius Dragunas on Unsplash
*It’s very common in HR-land to do this I promise. I mean, who else are you going to ask?
Even the most well-meaning of leaders can fall into habitual behaviours that can have a negative impact on their people. It’s the same as eating or drinking too much, it’s only when things spiral out of control that you realise you’ve got a problem.
Here are some of the bad HR habits we’ve witnessed over the years. And the good news is they’re easy to fix….
Carrying Out Annual Reviews On An Annual Basis
Hang on a sec – why exactly is this a bad habit?? Shouldn’t you be making sure that performance discussions do take place?? Of course you should. But if they’re only happening once a year, then you’re missing a trick. Managing and improving performance needs to be built into your everyday working practices. If it’s not, then you can’t realistically expect to improve productivity.
Getting Stuck In The Filing Cabinet
You don’t need us to tell you that the world of business is moving faster than ever before. You’re probably using online tactics when it comes to your sales and marketing, for example, but what about HR? It could be time to ditch the notion that HR lives in the filing cabinet, and bring your business up to speed. Online systems with good security are as secure as any filing cabinets and will often save you time and hassle with your HR Admin.
Thinking That Training And Learning Are One And The Same
There’s no denying that training can be expensive. Send a few employees to a conference, book in some places on an external course, or bring in a professional trainer for a couple of days, and your bill will be hefty. Sometimes, formal training is essential and/or advisable: when you’re rolling out new software, when your team require a recognised qualification etc. But what’s arguably much more important is ongoing learning within the workplace. Nurturing your talent isn’t a one-off event – it’s about what happens in your business on a day-to-day basis. So get to it with those lunch and learn sessions, involve all the team in what they can all learn from each other and challenge your team to show what they’ve learnt on an on-going basis.
Hogging All The Decision Making
As the boss you may be thinking: but that’s what I’m here for! Obviously there are some key decisions that only you and your top team should be making, but imagine how much time you would free up in your life if others around you came up with a range of solutions to the things which had been stopping you from sleeping for most of the previous night, gave you ideas for your next product or sorted out problems they had about the office move between themselves…. Allowing and encouraging your team to make decisions (or at least contribute to them by involving them) inspires trust and confidence which can pay you back massive returns in terms of loyalty and engagement, not to mention the innovation which can come from a varied viewpoint.
Being self-aware enough to recognise and correct your own bad habits is a hugely positive example to show your team. Even more so if you’ve had the courage to ask for their opinions first.
For help or advice on any HR issue get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0203 627 7048 to speak to our team direct. We’re offering a free initial review to help you understand how to make the valuable changes to best support your business.
Time flies when you’re running your own business. One minute it’s January and you’re hiring your first few team members, telling yourself you’ll align their progress with the rest of the business, and then the next, you find it’s Summer already and all your good intentions have never not quite translated into any sort of strategy ….
Very Few Startups & SMEs Allocate Time Once A Month To Focus On HR
And whilst it’s likely that you’ve kept a regular eye on your sales and finance tasks in a structured way every month, when it comes to your people, chances are that any structure has been left to happen ‘naturally’. If you’re close to the team, check in regularly as a matter of course and have spent time building relationships with them from the word ‘go’, then this is all good news as you’ve built some really strong foundations already despite no mention of the words ‘HR’. However if you’ve left all checkups and communications aside as you have your head down, there not only may there be a risk that the next “have you got a quick minute?” directed your way, might just be a complaint or – worse still – the dreaded resignation letter, you will also be missing a trick in planning and investing in your biggest asset: your team.
Our Monthly HR Checklist For Startups & SMEs
To help you structure what can sometimes seem a daunting task, we’ve created a monthly HR checklist for you, designed to make sure you keep your business and your people on track. Nothing heavy. And nothing daunting. But a few things that – if you review on a regular monthly basis – will significantly help boost your team’s productivity and your overall leadership, saving you oodles of time and hassle in the long run.
1. Step back and do a quick people overview (as you would your sales or finances): What are its strengths and weaknesses? What does your team look like this year in size, shape, roles and productivity? More importantly, what do you want them to be doing differently in the next 6 – 12 months to meet your own overall goals?
2. With 1) in mind… how you want to develop the team and what are the 1, 2 and 3 priorities you will be looking at for the coming 6 months with them?
3. Set up some simple KPIs to track in relation to your team. Basics ordinarily will include things such as headcount, salary bill, absence rates etc (which track directly to your finances), right through to those which might tell you a little bit more in the long run & will take a bit of time to start yielding the insight you’re after. In this latter category, you need to put your thinking cap on about what you want to measure (employee satisfaction, time you spend with each employee, number of new ideas/ initiatives generated by the team etc) and why it’s important.
4. Clarify to the team what the company goals are and what progress is being made towards them. Too busy for an All Hands/ Town Hall/ Company Meeting? Whilst face to face is often best in this regard, we find that the ‘little and often’ approach works best to get the message across and make people feel involved, so just make sure that there is some communication on this each month, even if via Email/ slack/ video etc
5. Get feedback from the team on how they are finding each project/ progress against the goals. Whilst there are now many different software programmes which can help do this for you in a regular and structured way, at the very least, add on a question to all at the bottom of any team wide communications that make clear that you want to hear from people or walk around the office and ask people face to face.
6. Put together a simple action plan to address any queries which arise. And forecast for the team over how their roles might change, what their risk profile is and how you can support and motivate them
7. Make the team see you as human: take them out to lunch to chat away from the office and stay connected. One former CEO I worked with liked to take afternoon tea with his team & another took each person out for lunch in their first week to find out more about them, both delightful traditions appreciated by all.
8. Review the behaviours of your current team. Look at what the qualities of the team are displaying are and what channel they joined you via. When it comes to recruiting, referrals can be a really good channel & work wonders on those KPIs. Share recognition about great performance: your team will love you for it (even if they’re a bit embarrassed initially…)
9. Take stock of what learning may be needed for individuals/ teams to support your goals. This doesn’t need to be expensive (we have heaps of ideas in a previous blog ‘Learning on a Shoestring’) but as a no.1 area for motivation as well as often being needed to adapt to a changing business, getting a clear idea on where people can develop is key.
10. Talk to the team and bounce ideas off people who don’t have a direct interest in your business to get some objective advice and open your mind to trying out new ways of doing things. But whether you’re are start up with just a couple of employees or hitting the big time and your headcount is getting into triple figures, it’s never the wrong time to focus on getting the most from your team and providing a great environment for them to thrive.
If you’re struggling however with getting the full benefits from your team and finding the time to develop your ideas, help from a switched-on HR professional could be what you need.
For help in getting (and keeping!) your business on track with it’s team please email email@example.com or call 0203 627 7048 and speak to our team. We’re always happy to help and offer a free initial review to help you understand how to make valuable changes to support your business.
TheHRhub: helping restless business owners create and manage good working relationships with their staff in a direct and pragmatic way. #employeemagic