Monday November 15, 2010
Caroline White looks at how organisations can gain by thinking outside the box.
Sometimes a company does something that makes them stand out from the crowd. In today’s uncertain times, it is refreshing to see a business try out new options, especially when they are a remarkable success.
There is a restaurant in Covent Garden which always has the most delicious meal laid out on a table outside. To start with, I thought it must be there waiting for a customer but I soon realised that it is there all the time. They even lay it out in winter. Often the meal consists of an enormous bowl of steaming mussels accompanied by a great loaf of rustic bread and a dish of proper butter.
What a great marketing technique. I believe they are the only restaurant in the area that does that which shows originality and initiative. What’s more with that one plate of mussels they are tempting in customers and showing exactly what they deliver. With one fell swoop they are being original, simple, straight forward and highlighting their assets. The additional trade from passersby must easily outstrip any costs incurred which cannot always be said for other forms of marketing.
Originality, simplicity, being straightforward and highlighting assets without breaking the bank; these concepts can be transferred to people management too.
In his book, ‘Purple Cow: Transform your Business by Being Remarkable’, Seth Godin writes, ‘Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable’. A business can’t be remarkable unless its people are too.
CIPD recommend Training and Learning Needs Analysis (TLNA). They define it as looking at gaps in ‘skills, knowledge and attitude of employees’ in relation to this company’s strategy. Once gaps have been highlighted, original ideas need to be found to make the team even more remarkable. This does not need to be expensive. Coffee meetings, online training courses which employees can fit in when convenient for them and even reverse mentoring (e.g. where the younger generations help older employees get to grips with technology) are all examples of cheaper alternatives to traditional training courses.
Simplicity is key in these busy modern times. With a report by CIPD and Simplyhealth finding that stress is the most common cause for absence from the workplace, steps should be taken to ensure that employees’ lives are as stress free as possible.
Keep work processes simple and effective. Ask employees at all levels for their opinions on how improvements can be made. Online surveys and appraisals can be effective as they are quick and easy for people to fill out and all the data can be kept in one place.
Employee benefits can also be used to combat workplace stress. A survey by Employee Benefits magazine found that cutting the costs of benefits while at the same time ensuring they maximise employee engagement levels were the top two issues shaping employers' benefits strategies in 2010. However some of the most economical benefits can also be the most cost-effective, particularly with Generation Y employees who, as a rule, value work-life balance over financial gain. Ideas could include flexible working hours, allowing longstanding employees the opportunity to go on unpaid leave to fulfill travelling desires or honouring particular values that they have. Honouring values can also add new angles to your business offer. If an employee wants to ‘make a difference’, get them to research how company products can be made more ethical. Allowing them an afternoon off to volunteer at a hospice or time to organise charity events can increase employee engagement and also mean that the business is contributing to the local community.
Being straight-forward is all about communication. And if there is a lack of clarity in communication to employees, they may not understand the company purpose and this will transfer to clients too.
Employee roles need to be clearly defined. Let employees know when they are doing a good job and explain to them how they are performing against key competency criteria so they know where improvements should be made. CIPD state that one of the main reasons talent leave is due to a lack of opportunities to develop and grow. So if there is not room for promotion, be honest with them. Explain that there are no current opportunities for them but assure them that they will be first in line for any development and offer special projects and training to prepare them for when that role occurs. It is also important to have an open door for any queries or concerns.
PricewaterhouseCoopers suggest that UK companies are lagging behind their US counterparts in human capital return on investment (HcROI). So after investing time and money in the team, why not show them off by winning an award? learnpurple has worked with many of its clients to help them be recognised for their people achievements; the most recent accolade being Lexington Catering achieving a gold status for the Investors in People award. Working alongside social enterprises, schools or universities to develop apprenticeships and work placements are ways of attracting motivated individuals and also gaining publicity for the business. A recent Ofsted report suggested that these sort of schemes also improve talent retention as employees are impressed by the company’s commitment to training.
This is just a snapshot of suggestions that businesses could use in order to set them apart from the rest. Other ideas could work well for some and not for others, for example, Google engineers are allowed to spend 20% of their working hours working on their own projects whereas Molton Brown are allowed longer honeymoons when they get married.
For more information about how learnpurple can make your people remarkable please email firstname.lastname@example.org