Make sure that everyone feels included by getting to know people and providing support and care when they face difficult times.
Build a positive work environment - make sure that colleagues are physically comfortable and have all they need to do their job well.
Offer the best pay and benefits you can. Benchmark against your competitors to see how you measure up. Above all, be fair.
Be family-friendly and mindful of the extra pressures managed by working parents.
Look into flexible working and offer it where you can. It can also produce definite benefits for the business.
Make work a fun place to come to - it will help concentration and commitment.
Include your suppliers in the ‘family' of the company - it will improve the service you bring each other and cement a positive relationship.
CORGI: developing flexible working
Great companies understand the value of flexible working, both for colleagues and for the business.
When the government made it obligatory to offer flexible working to carers, CORGI sent round an e-mail to everyone. The company had offered this to colleagues for a long time, but they took this opportunity to put out a reminder.
Carol, a working mum with two kids, had been thinking for a while that she would really like to work part-time, but had been a little wary of broaching it to her boss. Encouraged by the e-mail she took the plunge. ‘How soon do you want to start?' was the immediate response.
Bob Henry believed flexible working was the right thing to do for the people, but soon discovered that it was also the right thing to do for the business. Changing start and finish times to suit personal circumstances provides their customers with a much better service - colleagues can be available for a much longer working day. Couple this with colleagues who are better able to balance their work and home lives and you have a win all round.
Communication that shows you matter
Communication serves the business but also conveys how people are regarded. Being available is a mark of respect and underpins the equality of great workplaces.
Gary Hogan does not have a PA, and nor does anyone else at Flight Centre. This comes out of their guiding principle that everyone is equal, which means that everyone does their own‘grunt work' rather than expecting it to be done for them.
Prioritising has to be effective - you will not survive under these conditions if you take on too much and do not deliver on time. In the light of the fact that the company publishes its performance weekly and rewards success extremely well, this is no place for ‘to do' lists that just grow ever longer. Which certainly serves to concentrate the mind and promote effective delegation.
Colleagues can speak directly to anyone from area manager to MD. Mobile numbers are available and call-back is within 24 hours. I had reason to call Gary recently and he really did do that - within the allotted time I had the response I needed.
Time is the most common reason for limiting availability. If you trust people and ensure that they can make contact when they need to, they will behave like grown-ups and not abuse the privilege. Because you are providing them with what they need to do a good job, they will show equal care for you.
Excellent teamwork means that people pull together to achieve a worthwhile task. Given respect and trust, they will set their own targets and provide a high-quality service.
So strong is Liz Walford's belief in the team, she
can guarantee that the teams who have their targets displayed on the wall will be the top-performing teams - definitely. Sharing where the team is going and making it visible to others is a really strong statement of intent.
She told me of a team that set its own targets around numbers of houses empty at the year end - a significant measure in the housing arena, since each empty home means loss of income and the year-end snapshot is an industry benchmark measure.
In contrast to the Bromford Group's ‘official' business plan target, the team set a ‘big hairy goal'.
At year-end we normally had 30 to 40 empty homes. This team said it would have no empty homes. Although an eternal optimist, I really did think this was ludicrous and that they would never manage it.
But the team came in with a zero.
It was amazing, and the ripple effect was huge! For instance, success depended on the challenge being jointly owned by colleagues working in various parts of the business - housing teams and maintenance teams in this case. It led everyone to look at what happens when someone moves out of a property - getting the repairs done, finding the next person to move in, looking at every part of the process. We had been talking about that kind of cross-team working for a while, but it had all been a bit theoretical. The front-line colleagues' setting their own truly aspirational target revived everyone's interest in the business result we needed and in improving the process behind it.
And it didn't stop there - achieving the zero whetted people's appetite, so they decided to go for it at the end of each quarter - they ‘raised their own high jump' and embedded the change into everyday activities. We now have much better results and for two years running have been the best in the country on that measure. I learned a lot from that team - they fundamentally changed my approach to target-setting.
Why would people take on a tougher job than they need to? It would have been easy to stick with the more limited target. Under the right circumstances it can be exciting to reach for a stretch target, finding out more about your limits - and when you all do it together, it becomes fun. Teams at Bromford built on the fun element to tackle the tough question of rent arrears. ‘It's a tough job when people won't answer the door and don't answer the phone.' The team thought they might have more success contacting people later in the day - so they started some themed evenings. ‘For instance, a pizza evening - something to make it fun to stay at work - to be there as a team, to get on the phones and work through a challenging task together.' So ‘knock ‘em dead with garlic bread' night was born, together with a really strong sense of belonging.
Real business ownership
Some companies offer share options or profit share to ensure that people take ownership of the company.
Giving shares or share options or operating profit share schemes are traditional ways of holding on to high-flying personnel. Some great companies carry this through to every employee to ensure that each person has a stake in the future of the business.
At Flight Centre, everyone is incentivised. The better they do, the more money they make, with no cap on the final amount. The result is a number of comparatively wealthy young people who would have had no chance of such high earnings in any other company at that age. Couple this with a superb track record of celebrating all that success and it is no wonder that they want to stay.
At Asda every colleague can be a shareholder once he or she has been in post for 12 months. There is also a discretionary bonus scheme so that managers can recognise good service and performance.
At TD Industries, as well as St Luke's, everyone is a shareholder. People take care of the company when they are part of it - you think twice about company expenses when it will affect your dividend at the end of the year.
To trust is to give a real gift. You show people that you appreciate them, value their skill and integrity and care for their well-being. Such care is always repaid in some manner.
When Richard had been at Hiscox for about four months, another company made a bid to buy them.
Rather than let rumours grow, Bronek and Robert called a meeting and told us all what had happened and let everyone ask the questions that were bothering them. They were probably sailing close to the wind with what they were sharing.
Clearly the leadership could not be totally democratic in their decisions about this issue, but they demonstrated beyond a doubt the level of trust they placed in their people.
At Richer Sounds, colleagues are given a bonus at the end of the week. Nothing unusual in this, except that they are encouraged to take it directly from the till so that they have some money to spend on a night out. This shows both immense trust and an understanding of the young, predominantly male workforce, for whom Saturday night is an important time.
People will step up when trusted. It improves the quality of the work while modelling a style of management and leadership that will lead to the building of trust throughout the organisation.
Be sure you understand your responsibilities in respect of flexible working. Talk with your HR department or go on to the website of the DTI for information. Find out what the options are for carers in your organisation and make sure your people know about them.
Keep a record of how available you are to direct reports/colleagues. How long does it take you to return a call or answer a request for information or support? Can people speak to you direct when they need to? If not, look for ways to be more available.
Include the team in setting objectives and goals. Listen to what they believe they can achieve. If it is below your expectation, have a discussion, put your point of view and reach agreement. The more you trust their judgement, the more likely they are to stretch.