We’re constantly told that we share more about the business than any other leaders our staff have worked with – we’re transparent about our strategic plans (personal and professional), the financials, the hiring plans, the challenges (from hiring issues to debt collection). We have nothing to hide, everything to share, and want everyone to be excited about ‘being on the Futureheads’ bus’ with us.
We’re motivated by creating a succession plan in the business and every hire we make has the opportunity to rise, seize opportunity, and contribute to the company’s future. We would prefer to promote from within than hire externally, so that drives a relentless training and development plan!
People-led lateral thinking about career paths
So many career paths lead to people management yet not everyone is great at it. We are into understanding each person for their skills and strengths, and creating opportunity based on those strengths, rather than being cookie-cutter about progression opportunities. So a consultant in our business could achieve a senior role as an industry figurehead, if that’s where their strength lies, whereas another could be an operationally strong people manager. It is about people, not functions. At the same time, it’s important that we give people structure and clarity, so we are constantly communicating about options, parameters for progression, what it will be like when they get there. Balancing flexibility with structure is key.
We spend as much of our time thinking about personal progression as we do professional progression, as we see the two as interlinked. We get to know our people well, so they tell us things they would never normally tell their bosses. This gives us context to their work performance and helps us counsel and coach. We have lots of examples of going above and beyond to support our staff members’ difficult personal situations – whether extended time off for family illness, counselling support for emotional health issues, or flexibility for those moments when life just gets complicated. We are creating a family feel – if your sister’s ill, you do what you can to help – so that’s what we do. We have hand-picked our people, so it’s no wonder we genuinely care about them.
Ignore anyone who says you should hire based on a 40-minute meeting
Gut feeling is, of course, important when hiring. However, so too is getting the match right and you can’t really know if someone is right after one or even two brief meetings. It is unfair, inefficient and uneconomic to all parties concerned to ‘take a punt’ on a hire. Our team fondly teases us about the depth and rigour of our hiring process (invariably three stages and with a range of staff, from peer to director level), but it’s a formula that has worked. We have a loyal, engaged staff who trust us. They also want to have a say on who else we hire because they want great peers. The bar is set at a high level and, as our business grows, it should only get harder to get a job with us.
Deliver on everything you promise at interview. The experience the new employee has, from the moment they arrive on day one, should be consistent with what you have ‘sold’. Welcome lunches, peer-to-peer buddy systems, structured training with a range of colleagues – director, manager, peer, support staff – all are essential to the induction process.
Be brave as leaders
Keep stretching yourself, get out of your comfort zone, and share your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader. We recently went through a 360 degree feedback process where we invited all staff to assess our leadership skills. We each came out of it with clear strengths as well as clear development areas. We are open about those development areas, and ask for help and feedback from the team, which is exactly how we would like them to behave.
Give people time to ‘do good’
Our team have got a lot out of partaking in various corporate social responsibility initiatives, from fundraiser film screenings, to charity bake-offs, to encouraging our recruiters to run workshops for Broadway London (www.broadwaylondon.org), helping the homeless get back into work.
Celebrate good news, be honest about bad news, but have fun
We have a weekly ‘Good News Friday’ session over a glass of wine/beer/cup of tea. Each team shares good news from their week, which offers a great opportunity for public recognition. We also talk openly about the not-so good stuff – what went wrong and how we can do it better next time. Our industry sector is very high pressured, which is why we regularly share progress and frustrations alike. There is nothing that diffuses tension like laughter and fun, so we put a lot of energy into ensuring we let off steam as a team. For this reason, we have a Social Committee which is charged with regularly reminding us about the lighter side of life, via unusual outings and eclectic events.
Let the team contribute to strategy
We run quarterly team meetings, which are generally about refining our service or hatching a plan for how we tackle a business problem. For example, at out last quarterly meeting, we ran workshops about our new marketing material, where all staff was given free rein to brainstorm what they wanted it to be. Innovation plays a key role here, as we encourage our team to come up with innovative ways of attracting top-calibre candidates, keeping them engaged, ensuring we communicate effectively to ensure we offer them consistently high service levels.
Visit website www.wearefutureheads.co.uk for more information on the company. For more on the Great Place To Work Institute and awards, visit www.greatplacetowork.co.uk