09/09/2014

By Heather Newton-Lewis, Head of People and Organisation Development, Rockpool Digital


How do you get the best out of an already motivated, highly skilled, ambitious and altogether incredible team of people?

Is it enough to give your people free beer, bacon sandwiches, a generous amount of holiday, as well as interesting clients and projects to work on? Does an office Google Glass to play with mean constant productivity and innovation?

The perks, benefits and fun bits aren’t there to make everyone work harder or to motivate your teams. They are in place because it’s important everyone enjoys coming to work. But that doesn’t always translate into everyone enjoying their roles as fully as they could. Or indeed, being the best they can be.

A traditional hierarchical structure can stifle creativity and create bureaucracy, which can be damaging when you pride yourselves on agility and innovation.

Companies can remedy this by removing traditional management roles. No more 121s, no more appraisals and no more convoluted chains of power. Give power to your people. Trust your teams to self motivate and innovate. Take away their safety net and encourage your teams to develop problem solving skills. Encourage everyone to be brave and fail harder.

Without an automatic chain of command, there’s a need for more communication and collaboration where everyone is more accountable to their multi-disciplinary teams. The teams can be made up of those with the best skills for the project and that might not necessarily be the role they were taken on to do. Whether it’s a flair for languages, a love of creative writing or a passion for photography, it is important to harness those skills and use them for the benefit of the company and client.

Trust your people to be grown-ups. Reducing policies to the bare and legal minimum helps to remove the barriers to innovation and success. Encourage project teams to take ownership of the way they work and allow them to plan their projects around what’s right for the team, the company and of course the client.

To avoid total anarchy, it’s important to hire people who are all pulling in the same direction. Educate them on the business parameters; taking six months on a small project is never going to pay the bills. It’s not rocket science. And when you make profit, share the love and share the wealth.

By implementing a 360 feedback for everyone throughout the year, it helps identify where individual strengths and weaknesses lie. These work best when they aren’t attached to any pay rise or bonus schemes. By keeping it as pure, unadulterated feedback, it gives people the chance to reflect and learn about themselves and how others perceive them. And then it’s up to them if they want to develop and improve.

Everything else doesn’t just fall into place. There is always a settling in period and there are always things that crop up. It’s a good idea to deal with these things quickly with an open and honest conversation. See if you can sort it out like adults. Most of the time you’ll find that you can but you have to accept that sometimes you can’t. That’s what the fallback policies are for.

It isn’t right for everyone. You need to be brave, like a challenge and a beer. But the payoff is exponential — you get out what you put in.