As leaders and sales leaders, we should all be hell-bent on creating the best working environment and conditions for our single most important asset - our people - and moving away from the Draconian-style leadership, sales management behaviours and attitudes which unfortunately are still so common in our industry.
I am extremely passionate about and obsessed with development and employee happiness, building a great company culture and a better company for people. I am aware that culture can be difficult to define. The easiest way to describe it is that your company culture is the experience employees have working at your company or within your team. Am I a hippy who thinks work should always be full of grassy meadows and flowers? Have I listened to All You Need is Love by the Beatles on repeat, or have I watched Jerry Maguire too many times? No to the first point, and probably yes to the other two.
The UK has one of the worst levels globally for staff satisfaction, according to a study by global recruitment company Robert Half.
The research demonstrates that the top drivers of employee happiness vary by country. In the US, UK and Canada, the highest-ranking factors were having pride in one's organisation, feeling appreciated, and being treated with fairness and respect.
According to the results, happy employees are more engaged and driven to succeed and by taking the time to offer feedback and show signs of appreciation, employers can increase staff engagement and satisfaction, leading to higher levels of happiness in the workplace.
Some of the contributory factors to the worst levels of staff satisfaction within the UK, and particularly the channel, are:
Micromanagement and Lack of Development
Managers who watch people like hawks. They enforce rules and policies to cover every situation, measure every keystroke and every minute spent on any activity, instead of trusting people to rise to the challenges they encounter. Sound familiar?
At 64TEQ we remove the control mechanisms which actually keep people from using their intelligence and ingenuity, by offering a flat structured environment that encourages learning and growth. We foster people development and we operate in a state of continuous improvement. All our staff have coaches, not managers, who provide feedback, tips on how to best engage clients and customers, how to close a sale, and how to provide great customer service. Our team is focused on their mission and shared values, and being customer focused is much more important than measuring everything in sight.
Having had first-hand experience working with a fear-inducing boss, I can honestly say that trust and fear cannot co-exist in the same workplace. People who pretend they can co-exist are afraid to admit what they actually know, which is that managerial fear overpowers trust every time. Either the leaders in an organisation trust their employees, or they don't.
We have a culture of development through which we can help our people achieve their personal and professional goals and firmly believe that we should "light a fire within people and not underneath them".
Holiday Shaming and Guilt
White-collar workers have an uneasy relationship with holidays, and many channel employees are laden with guilt and don't feel free to take holiday time. This generally results in increased sick leave, due to people burning out. When they are constantly burned out, they feel unhappy and will eventually leave.
We recognise that people are responding to emails on weekends and that they do in fact solve problems online at home at night, so we offer an alternative approach and we make holiday time an important part of workplace culture by offering 30 days annual leave plus bank holidays. The equation is simple: when team members get downtime, they in turn can better serve clients and the company.
Extend Company Culture Beyond Office Walls
The popularity of remote working is dramatically rising and it is clear that company culture is no longer restricted to the office. One of the main reasons for managers not embracing the 'remote revolution' is the fear of losing the ability to track employees. There are pros and cons, but thankfully, there are far more advantages with a remote workforce.
Some of the immediate benefits we have seen at 64TEQ include much higher levels of productivity due to homeworking reducing stress levels, no more soul-crushing commutes thus helping the work-life balance, zero office politics, and the hugely positive impact on how our people feel, given that they are trusted to carry out their work from any location. However, a remote strategy is not easy. It requires ongoing investment, commitment, a responsibility to look after your people even though they are not physically in your presence, and constant communication.
There is nothing more unfair than if you are doing exactly the same job as a co-worker, but they are being paid more than you. There are companies in the channel where you have two people with exactly the same title and experience, but one is earning less than the other. It could be the age-old problem of women earning less than men, or newcomers being offered more to switch from a rival company. Of course, staff are encouraged not to discuss remuneration, but these things have a habit of leaking out. And it causes huge problems.
All our staff are paid equally, but when the company does well as a result of their efforts, they all benefit financially. It might sound like a utopia, but our staff feel valued and they know they are all treated the same.
To make the workplace a happy one, we should be constantly experimenting with ways to better serve not only our clients but also our people, by having more flexible, freedom-intensive approaches to our workplace culture. We, as leaders, need to start seeing things through the eyes of our people.
In the words of Jerry Maguire: "Now. If you come with me, this will be the moment of something new, and fun, and inspiring in this GOD FORSAKEN business. And we will do it together. So... who's coming with me?"
Bandish Nayee is managing director of 64TEQ
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