It’s jobs focus week on Bdaily. Dr. Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA, the trade association representing the UK’s games industry, advises how to encourage performance and inspire loyalty in an agile workforce.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday ‘revealed’ that a group of business leaders had written to the paper to argue that flexible working can boost business as well as benefit employees, and announce that they were launching the Agile Future Forum (AFF).The aim of the AFF is to encourage workforce agility because it can offer a competitive advantage for companies and for the UK economy.
The accompanying report argued that the realisation of these benefits requires a new approach, one that doesn’t characterise ‘flexible’ working so narrowly as a benefit for employees and a cost for employers. If implemented successfully by business leaders, so they say, workforce agility can offer sustainable business performance and engaged employees.
This struck a chord with me, partly because as the chief executive of TIGA, the trade association representing the UK games industry, I run a virtual company with all staff working from home or remotely. This has reduced our cost base significantly, but it’s also meant that no-one has left since 2011 (and that was because they wanted to start their own business) and no-one has taken a day off sick in the last four years. This, in addition to the increased performance and success of TIGA over time has made me a passionate believer that workforce agility really can be an operational model that benefits the organisation as much as, if not more, than staff.
I also echo the view that the right leadership is essential to ensure the success of workforce agility; the right culture must be created from the top down. As John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School says, culture is nothing more than the behaviour of leadership. And so I’d like to share the five principles I’ve found to be most effective in encouraging performance and inspiring loyalty in an agile workforce.
1. Establish a shared vision and over-arching objectives.
The key to helping your team work creatively, flexibly and innovatively without micro-management is ensuring they understand and are committed to a big, overarching goal – something you’re all striving for together which is about more than just quarterly profit figures or bonuses. IBM’s overarching goal is to build a smarter planet, but you don’t need to have such a grandiose objective.
The crucial point is to have a clear, compelling vision, for example, TIGA’s is to make the UK the best place in the world to do games business.
If the organisation’s objectives are clearly articulated and supported, then a strong team spirit is generated, which is reflected in high levels of motivation and team cooperation. I also believe this inspires loyalty, because it makes people’s work meaningful, and gives them a sense of purpose and shared responsibility.
2. Ensure your team know how much you value them.
Another key consideration is to make staff feel valued. This means recognising and feeding back on the difference their contribution is making, welcoming their ideas, and treating them with respect and gratitude. Value is also reflected in your commitment to their development. Even if you can only afford a small training budget, just making that investment will go a long way to getting the most out of your staff and fostering a sense of mutual commitment and respect.
3. Hire people with flexible working in mind.
Effective agile working takes a certain character. Choose people with the attitude and skills needed to operate with the minimum of supervision. Gauge how passionate they are about the role, check for previous evidence of a sustained and intelligent proactive approach to their work.
4. Trust agile workers to win their own way
Giving your people the autonomy and flexibility to contribute to that overarching goal in their own way, and encouraging them to meet their own goals is also essential. For any boss, empowerment is the best benefit you can offer your staff.
5. It’s the small, everyday things that matter most.
To conclude, I’d like to add that making agile working work, and providing true leadership is not borne of gimmicks or gifts. Rather, it’s the small things you do consistently every day to show people they’re making a difference, and that you appreciate it.
Fortunately, no matter what size your company, or what industry you operate in, these are all principles you can apply, if you so choose, to help your business and your team succeed together.