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Increasing Productivity

This Is What Happens When You Give Up Your Office

Employers who dispense with private offices can understand what it’s actually like to work for the company day in and day out.

Matt Straz

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Open-office plans have been bashed by critics, but done right, they can be effective. When my company, Namely, moved into a new space, I knew I didn’t want my own office.

That’s right – I’m the CEO, and I don’t have my own office. Instead, I move my desk around every few months so I can sit in a different Namely department.

Why? I get to know all of our people, to truly see what their day-to-day is like. That helps me be a better leader. Although a big office with windows overlooking the city is a dream for many entrepreneurs, leaders don’t need it. And, yes, open office plans have been criticised – particularly recently. But the truth is that breaking down the walls between executives and employees can create a better work environment and more effective leaders.

Related: Successful Entrepreneurs Are Never ‘Out of the Office’

Here’s why:

1. It gives employees a voice

As businesses begin to grow and add new employees, sometimes employers can no longer hear what everyone is saying. With hundreds of employees, it becomes harder for leaders to know and interact with everyone anymore.

In fact, a 2015 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of 600 U.S. employees found that only 37 percent described themselves as “very satisfied” with the consideration managers gave their ideas; and just 23 percent were “very satisfied” with communication with senior management.

In the early stages of a company, everyone has a voice. But as the company becomes more and more successful, that employee input and connection to company leadership gets lost. Stepping outside the CEO office can help you change that.

When leaders work alongside employees, they can welcome new ideas and insights while building relationships with workers at every level. It creates a work environment that welcomes collaboration, communication and idea-sharing. Without a formal office, there’s less of a traditional workplace hierarchy. Employees have a closer connection to leadership, and executives get a better sense of what their workers think and experience every day.

office-communication

2. It improves communication

The default communication method for senior leadership is email. Email seems like the fastest and easiest way to send out information to the entire company, so it’s no surprise that 89 percent of companies surveyed by the theEMPLOYEEapp in May 2015 said they communicated by email.

But, on the employee’s end, email isn’t cutting it. In the same survey, 30 percent of employees said they ignored emails from their employers, and 50 percent said they felt out of the loop.

By taking down the walls separating employees from leaders, employers don’t need to rely on email all the time. An open work environment promotes openness in the working culture, as well. Leaders will more likely be transparent with employees and keep everyone up to date on company happenings, if they’re sitting next to them every day.

Employees value transparency, and when walls are removed, the work environment becomes both literally and figuratively more open.

Related: Struggle To Stay On Task At The Office? A New Study Says You’re Not The Only One

3. It gives new perspectives on the business

As companies grow, leaders become further and further removed from the heart of the actual business. They become insulated from the process of selling, marketing and supporting the product. With more employees, CEOs focus less on the routine tasks that make a company run.

Traditional office settings increase this effect, putting actual distance between them and the day-to-day goings of the business.

While leaders can’t be involved in every little thing, they still need to have a good sense of the business’ inner workings – and sitting with employees can give them just that. Working alongside employees throws the CEO back into the middle of the business.

After you as CEO spend a few days of sitting with employees, you’ll find that your people forget they are working alongside an executive. That’s when employers can gain true insights into their business. Leaders get a better understanding of how the business runs, what works and what needs to change. They see things they can’t from their offices and view the company from a new perspective.

4. It creates a better work environment

Leaders strive to create a great work environment for their employees. But if they work from a separate area, can they really know what that environment is like for employees?

Probably not, judging from a November 2015 survey by Globoforce. Surveying more than 800 full-time U.S. employees, the study found that 47 percent of respondents didn’t think their company leaders cared about or actively tried to create a human workplace. That’s a big deal.

Among those employees who said they felt their leaders didn’t care about making the workplace more “human,” just 43 percent said they loved their jobs and only 32 percent called themselves highly engaged. In comparison, of the employees who said their leaders did care about instilling a human work environment, 89 percent said they loved their jobs and 51 percent called themselves highly engaged.

Related: Linda Trim From Giant Leap On Making Your Office Work For You

So, the message here is, strive for a more human workplace. Working in the same environment as employees can help leaders see the changes that need to be made to help their employees be more productive and happier at work.

Employers who dispense with private offices can understand what it’s actually like to work for the company day in and day out and what can be done to improve the workplace for everyone.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Matt Straz is the founder and CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world's most exciting companies.

Company Posts

Keep Up The Momentum 

The year has kicked off with a whirlwind ride and already the first quarter is done and dusted. It’s important not to lose the momentum. 

Uwin Iwin

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Motivational programmes that offer staff incentives have proven highly successful. They can generate a positive, productive atmosphere.

A powerfull driver

The statistics here are unambiguous and speak for themselves: Research shows that companies with motivational programmes outperform those that don’t by 30% to 40%. This figure is not to be overlooked. Increased productivity will mean, at the very least, lowered costs in production and improved profit margins.

Related: Have Your Incentive Scheme In The Palm Of Your Hand

The role of employee motivation is a significant element in the chain of value production. There are various means to increase drive, and ‘progression’ is one of the strongest among them. It’s important to note that ‘progression’ doesn’t only imply change, but the movement towards a target. This means that progress needn’t be confined to upward development: Instead, a manager may set up goals that an employee will find rewarding either in terms of:

  • Learning,
  • Personal development, or
  • Tangible returns.

This last element is where incentives come to the fore. Incentives provide recognition and material reward to those who have earned it.

As an incentive solution company, Uwin Iwin has the necessary experience in achieving the optimum results.

Stagger the awards

It has been a long few months since the Christmas bonus and January, February and March are traditionally ‘lean’ months. It might be a good idea to have quarterly award payouts to just keep employees motivated to perform.

Increasing normal rewards

There is nothing that destroys motivation as quickly as boredom. Instead of the normal incentive programme, introduce competitions and make it fun. Increase normal incentives by 50%, for example, to motivate sales channels to perform at the highest levels possible. Keep it interesting and you will keep the employees’ interest.

A targeted approach

When it comes to deciding on targets, realistic goals need to be set. Goals must be achievable and fair, and the best way to determine them is to ask staff members to suggest their own. This means that their commitment to achieving the target is greater because they take ownership of it.

Related: Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Businesses should not concentrate on rewarding top achievers in their workforce, but ensure the programme is designed to engage and improve performance across the whole team.

Reward categories could include Performance of the Month, Biggest Improvement, Best Comeback, to name a few.

Appropriate rewards

The challenge that many businesses face when planning their reward strategy is what type of reward to give. Cash is appreciated by most employees, but runs the risk of being an ‘invisible reward’ — forgotten once it hits the bank account and likely to be spent on day-to- day necessities.

Money uploaded onto a gift card that can be used anywhere is much more rewarding. Uwin Iwin has the perfect solution in the Kudosh card (www.kudosh.com) that offers exactly that — cash on a branded card accepted by any vendor that accepts MasterCard.

Rewards beyond gift cards

Out of the ordinary rewards can be a very good incentive. One option that works nicely is earning days off (increased leave) that can be used outside peak seasons. Sending out questionnaires to keep your ear to the ground when it comes to preferred rewards will give you great insight into possible solutions.

Communication is key

Communication about the incentive scheme is especially pertinent. Regular emails, SMSes and even hard copy pamphlets outlining the increased rewards serve as a constant motivation. The trick here is make the communications so powerful that they keep the momentum.

Incentives are an extremely powerful tool that business owners and managers can implement to assist with motivation and performance. It has to be done properly though, which is why investing in a professional platform is an imperative.

Ask Uwin Iwin to help you relook your incentive programme. We will come up with the perfect solution tailormade for your company. For more information, visit www.uwiniwin.co.za, phone +27 (0)11 557 5700 or email info@uwiniwin.co.za

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Increasing Productivity

5 Characteristics Of A Culture That Develops And Executes Breakthrough Ideas

Innovation happens by design. Build it in to your company, and it will show through in your results and relationships with customers.

Sonia Thompson

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Peter Drucker, the father of modern-day business management, noted that a business has only two functions: marketing and innovation.

Companies that have wholeheartedly embraced innovation – Amazon, Apple and Tesla among them – garner admiration, sales and additional marketing in the form of earned media.

And while businesses of all sizes know innovation is an important lever that will fuel their long-term success, many struggle to do it effectively. They get stuck in a rut of doing “what we’ve always done.” Others hop on the latest trends when they are forced to do so, rather than becoming pioneers in the space. No bueno.

Jeff Bezos credits a major part of Amazon’s massive success over the years to its people’s willingness to innovate. In his 2015 letter to shareholders, he explained the source of the $100 billion dollar company’s ability to innovate: “One area where I think we are especially distinctive is failure,” he wrote. “I believe we are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

If you want a business where innovation is the norm, you’ve got to create the right environment – one that’s conducive to change and diversity of experience as well as opinion. No matter your history, you can build a company that delights your customers with your products, services and experiences on a consistent basis. Here’s how.

Related: 3 Ways To Find Ideas For A New Business

1. Create a culture of experimentation

Articles, books, and other resources give the same account: Failure is a precursor to success. When you accept failure as a part of the learning process that helps you achieve your goals, you get more comfortable with this concept.

The key to making failure work for you is conducting experiments that are small enough you won’t be left shirtless if things go south. Creating a company culture that experiments on a regular basis thrives only when you’ve also developed a consistent feedback loop. This crucial communication tool ensures you’ll have the clues needed to iterate and produce something remarkable.

2. Make idea generation a habit

Innovation begins with an idea. And to exponentially increase the odds of producing a winning idea for your business, quantity trumps quality. Of course, not every idea will be a great one. But a large arsenal of thoughts from which to choose makes it easier to refine your understanding of what your customers want from you.

Whenever I write a new article, I generate 25 potential headlines. Pushing myself to generate more ideas forces me to think beyond the obvious and stretch my mind to come up with more creative options.

Work to make idea generation a habit in your business. Encourage team members to bring forth their own suggestions, and create a system to catalog what is presented.

3. Diversify your experiences

diverse-experienceWhen it comes to innovation, realise that homogeneity is a liability. Steve Jobs knew this to be true. It’s why he encouraged others to branch out to take the road less traveled. “If you’re gonna make connections which are innovative … you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does,” Jobs said in 1982, as he accepted the “Golden Plate” award from the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. He was 26.

Make it a point to step outside your comfort zone. Accumulate new experiences for yourself both professionally and personally. As you look to build a rockstar team, be intentional about seeking talent that brings to the table diverse backgrounds, experiences and ways of thinking.

The observations, skills and expanded frame of reference you obtain as a result will prevent you from being satisfied with the status quo.

Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!

4. Encourage dissent

Want to improve the quality of your ideas? Encourage others to tear them down. A capable team of people whose opinions you value will generate constructive criticism to help make your idea better. You’ll produce a much better product or offering than you ever could have done alone.

Research backs up this principle. Data from UC Berkeley demonstrates that conflict improves the ideation process. A team whose members cosign everything you say can’t help you or your company become more innovative.

Consider setting up regular team meetings to solicit input on how to take an idea from good to great. Create an environment that assures team members their opinions are valued and welcomed. Once you do, they’ll feel comfortable enough to be more vocal about using their expertise to raise the quality standard for whatever your business delivers.

5. Obsess over your customers

Your business exists to serve your customers. The more value you provide, the more they will reward you with their loyalty. When you focus your efforts on knowing your customers intimately, you’ll gain a tremendous amount of insight into how to solve their problems like none other.

Talk to your customers every chance you get. Take the opportunity to walk a mile in their shoes so you can develop a deeper empathy for their issues. Seek out pain points at every step of their customer journey and brainstorm ways to improve the experience for them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Employees, Not Consultants Or Executives, Are Your Best Innovators

Hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation? You’re ready for an EDIT.

Tania Fiero

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The insurance industry gets a bad rap as outdated and inefficient. But one insurance firm, CSAA Insurance Group, is bucking the stereotype with a strikingly modern approach to innovation.

This American Automobile Association-affiliated insurer caught the attention of the Harvard Business Review last August due to its all-hands-on-deck innovation strategy. As the article described, CSAA had harnessed the brainpower of its 4,000-person employee base to encourage systematic improvement at all company levels.

The results were astounding: Underwriters analysed the company’s call data to improve voice prompts and reduce misplaced calls… by 40 percent. Other employees jumped in to streamline online claims, improve the issuance of insurance cards – and more.

But CSAA’s approach wasn’t innovative just for the insurance industry. Top-down innovation has been tried over and over, and it just can’t hold a candle to the alternative: employee-driven innovation teams being used by companies like CSAA and my own human resources solutions company.  We like to call these teams EDITs.

Why an EDIT philosophy works

Industry insight and creativity aren’t exclusive to the C-suite, nor are they best purchased from industry consultants. In fact, they can be found in every employee, from the part-time package handler right on up the corporate ladder.

Related: Your Employees Are Your Greatest Asset – Manage Them Well

Sarah Miller Caldicott, author of Midnight Lunch (and great-grandniece of Thomas Edison), has been trying to tell this to the business world for years. So when I heard her speak at a conference a few years ago, I couldn’t help but try an EDIT at my own company.

All EDITs begin with a call from a leadership team sponsor who brings a business problem to the table. That person then invites volunteers to form teams of around eight employees each. Teams choose their own leaders, who then hold the rest of the team members accountable and ultimately deliver proposals to the executive team.

EDIT does more than make us a better company. Team members develop cross-departmental friendships; help boost everyone’s morale; and grow their own leadership, presentation and executive consulting skills. Rarely do non-managers have the chance to shine in leading roles the way they do with EDIT.

Another upshot of our EDIT? We began a new HR project, “Extending the Culture Beyond Our Walls,” in which we’re expanding our employee culture to our clients, contingent workers and broader community through employment branding.

The only down side? We wish we’d done this sooner.

Ready, set, EDIT

If you’re hungry for the fresh ideas that come from a collaborative, team-driven approach to innovation, you’re ready for an EDIT. Here’s how to get and keep the EDIT ball rolling:

1. Make the problem and ideal solution as concrete as possible

call-to-actionEvery EDIT begins with a problem outlined by someone from the organisation’s leadership team. Think of this like a call to action. What’s the problem or opportunity, and what type of action, process or technology will solve or capitalise on it? Be sure to also describe what resources the EDIT will have to work with, such as budgeted funds, fixed assets and subject matter experts.

The Arizona Department of Transportation, for example, was looking last year for faster ways to reopen Phoenix-area freeways after closing them for repair. ADOT workers designed a reverse stencil that protects painted surfaces from an asphalt finishing spray. For materials, they used just scrap metal and two trucks,

Now, a scrap stencil may not have been what leaders first envisioned as their “future perfect” solution, but ADOT’s employees certainly made smart use of their resources.

Related: 10 Ways To Make Your Employees 10x More Productive

2. Give diversity and inclusion space at the table

An EDIT is only as strong as its members are diverse. In other words, don’t assemble a team entirely of marketers, salespeople or denizens of any other one department. A study from Holton Consulting noted that people tend to come up with more interesting, exciting and unusual ideas when they’re not thinking about their own area of expertise.

Don’t worry if one EDIT has four people and one has 10. Team size doesn’t matter nearly as much as the diversity of backgrounds, departments and skill sets. With that said, do your best to not exclude willing participants. To this day, our company has never turned away someone who wanted to contribute to an EDIT initiative.

3. Provide structure, but avoid rigidity

Give your EDIT space to work, but don’t let it fly blind, either. Have the EDIT take its cue from agile development or the scientific method, whichever its members are more familiar with. Encourage the EDIT to hypothesise solutions, test them, iterate and then evaluate them against the “future perfect.”

When our company’s EDITs meet for the first time, they always begin with a brainstorm. From there, they test ideas in low-risk, low-resource experiments. For example, a team suggesting a casual dress policy might survey or visit other companies with such a policy: The point would be to see whether changing acceptable workplace attire affected productivity.

The goal? To get real-world feedback on potential solutions, narrowing them down until the only top performer is left standing.

In our industry, there’s no greater cliche than “Your employees are your greatest asset.” But nothing has driven that point home for us, like EDIT. The soon-to-be-released enterprise-resource planning system that our employees spearheaded is proof that these people are, indeed, our strongest innovators.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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