Is it time to rethink your employee wellbeing strategy? Part1: “do less”

Rethink Wellbeing

Is it time to rethink your employee wellbeing strategy? Part1: “do less”

Rethink Wellbeing

We think so…

We’d like to offer a fresh and challenging perspective on the hot topic of improving employees’ wellbeing, mental wellness and workload.  Controversially, in a world where leaders are being constantly sold must have services, apps and interventions in this space, our view is that in the main, a “do less” strategy will give greater benefit than launching yet more initiatives.

Achieve less by doing more?

Employers are doing lots more these days to try and improve the well-being and mental health of their employees – we are cheering them on all the way, for the intent at least.  However, we wonder if they aren’t addressing these issues from the “wrong end” and in a way that is “bolt-on” and not built-in.  We’ll try and explain:

“Wrong end” refers to strategies focused more on the treatment of symptoms as opposed to prevention.  E.g. providing a free counselling service or encouraging meditation practice whilst at the same time over-pressurising and micro-managing people.  Or offering resilience training; helping people cope with the stress and uncertainty of the latest top-down change programme where they will have to reapply for their jobs.  Or running financial wellbeing awareness training whilst not offering a living wage or wage increases that keep up with inflation.

“Bolt-on” by this we mean the universal layering-on of more stuff that employees are expected to engage with, regardless of whether they like the idea or not.  Having free fruit in the office, a laughter station, subsidised gym memberships, or having an app that bombards you with questions, tips and reminders will be great for some of us, but for others it can be impersonal, sometimes seen as tokenistic and by some, even disingenuous.

What is the evidence that the “do more strategy” works?

The providers of bolt-on interventions parade all sorts of seemingly compelling evidence about the human and financial benefits of adopting their services. At the same time, an independent review of all the academic research to date finds that there is little strong evidence that bolt-on initiatives make a significant or enduring difference. The headline finding is that “There is some evidence that workplace interventions can improve mental health and wellbeing outcomes, though the size of the effect is often small. Negative effects of interventions are observed in some instances.”

What do we know about the effectiveness of workplace mental health interventions? Kings College London. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/policy-institute/assets/what-do-we-know-about-the-effectiveness-of-workplace-mental-health-interventions.pdf

Funnily enough, not too many instances of burnout are attributed to a lack of fresh fruit or insufficient desk yoga sessions

 

What are the causes of poor wellbeing that work creates?

Thankfully, much more is known about the causes of poor mental wellbeing at work than about the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the interventions intended to improve it.   Interestingly, none of the causes identified are a lack of the things that the “bolt-on” interventions provide.  They are, perhaps unsurprisingly, consistent with the causes of employee disengagement[1] and inversely correlated with the accepted conditions for high levels of intrinsic motivation[2].     

[1] https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/182792/managers-account-variance-employee-engagement.aspx

[2] https://www.danpink.com/2010/06/whiteboard-magic/

Achieve more by doing less?

Doing less managing that is. Or less command and control managing to be more specific. By significantly reducing or removing the top-down imposition of programmes, initiatives, targets, coercions, superheroes, quotas, deadlines, reporting requirements, rules, ways of working, etc. and allowing more freedoms and autonomy you will be acting directly on the common causes of poor wellbeing and deteriorating mental health of your people. An additional happy consequence is it leads to the release of time, both for those making the demands and those following them. This, in turn invites the question of what to do instead?

 

Many of us experience being “overwhelmed”; simply too much to do and not enough time.
A direct benefit of the “do less” strategy is that it results in a lightening of the “bureaucratic load” imposed on people…

 

Devote the freed-up time to develop more human-centred approaches.

What we are suggesting here is not an initiative, it is better management “built-in” as opposed to accessories “bolted-on”.   It is not more work, it is different work, or perhaps “work different”.  Current research and our own observations point towards the following as good preventative practices:

  • Actively working to create a climate of ever-higher levels of psychological safety[1]. That includes people feeling comfortable saying no.
  • Humble leadership[2]. Power distorts relationships, therefore, leaders need to actively work on building open, equal and equitable relationships that put people first.
  • Autonomy and decentralised decision authority – Allowing more freedoms and enabling people to make more of the decisions closer to the action
  • Greater transparency. This is more than just relaxing the access to files and folders on the company’s servers.  It is about leaders and those with influence talking candidly about failures and their own hopes and fears.
  • Create awesome jobs – End-to end jobs where people have the opportunity to see things through to the point where they have an impact.
  • Encourage experimentation.  Creating an environment where there is space and time for “safe to try” experiments and where it’s okay to fail and learn.

But where to start and how?  Getting real change happening in each and every team in just some of these areas can feel daunting.  Added to which many of us have been conditioned to default to a programmatic approach to change, which is exactly what we don’t want to do.

There is another way.  The Vitality Index (VI) identifies for each team in the organisation the three areas of practice that if changed will have the greatest benefit.  Our external and impartial facilitation creates a safe space for the teams to explore the insights and commit to change. The Organisational Vitality Playbook inspires and encourages them to come-up with changes that they are truly bought into.  

What results is ever-better practices and management with the ingredients for your employees to experience better mental wellbeing “built-in”.  How about that for a strategy?

[1] https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/6/e044133

[2] Humble Leadership: the power of relationships, openness and trust. 2018 Edgar Schein, Peter Schein

This is a co-authored post.   

Mark Williams is Mark is a successful FTSE 250 HR Director turned consultant and VitalOrg Associate. 

Ben Simpson is a Co-founder of VitalOrg and leads on client operations in the UK.

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Avoiding the speed wobble as you scale-up

Avoiding the speed wobble as you scale-up

Small is simple

When you were leading a start-up of 20 people, decision making was quick, people genuinely all knew one another and helped each other.  Such was the level of connectedness between people, the need for much in the way of rules and procedures was little to non-existent.   Now that there are over 100 people working for you, the above statements become less true.  It can be an uneasy feeling, people you don’t really know are making decisions on your behalf; duplication and gaps begin to appear; perhaps worst of all, for many people work is not nearly as much fun as it used to be.

You are not alone

If this resonates with you, you are not alone.  The unease that you have about your organisation’s culture since you had >100 on the payroll is usual.  Dunbar’s number is a piece of evolutionary psychology theory which seems to indicate that the “speed-wobble” you are experiencing is very normal and predictable.  Studies of all sorts of human groups over the centuries and all around the globe seem to indicate the presence of a tipping point at around 150 people where the communal dynamic changes profoundly.  There is general agreement that the reason for this is that we humans can only really maintain personalized, caring relationships with that number of people.  Great, but what to do when you need to grow beyond 150?  Good question, and one that we’ll return to…

Some of the inevitabilities of organisational life are not inevitable

Many of us founders understand all too well the realities of corporate life; most of us grew up in big business and many of us set up on our own because big business no longer thrilled us. The instruments of management that are commonplace in those businesses have not changed much at all since they first emerged during the industrial revolution.  Control was, and still is, the de facto purpose.  Hierarchy, functional specialism, rules, procedures, authorisation thresholds, incentives, budgets, decision authority being held by senior people at the centre, and performance reviews are just some of the practices employed in pursuit of the ever-elusive goal of control.   The reality is these practices are much more effective at eroding people’s energy, engagement, commitment, and creativity than they are at gaining control.   Despite bearing the scars of life in over-bureaucratic corporates, many founders feel that layering on the red tape is an inevitability as their business grows.  Spoiler alert: we don’t!

 

If we set out now to invent the norms and mechanisms of our organisations based on what we know about humans and human performance, what we’d come up with would bear no relation to what we see in most organisations today. 

 

What if we set out to build our scale-up to be human-centric, not control-centric?

Since the industrial revolution our understanding of neuroscience, psychology, sociology, and anthropology has progressed way beyond what was imaginable then.  And yet that scientific evidence is still not being heeded in most organisations today.  A moment of self-refection tells us, in the majority of circumstances, we humans do not respond well to being controlled.  Can you think of a time in your working life where you needed to be controlled to do a good job? Think about that before you adopt more controls; your organisation can be and should be different.

But beware: removing or avoiding bureaucracy tends to leave a void where chaos likes live 

The best way of dealing with this problem is not to treat it as a problem in the first place; “prevention is better than cure” as the old truism goes.  It is control and bureaucracy that exacerbate the unavoidable limits of social intimacy and acquaintance.  You are a young, vibrant, scale-up business, you have got this far without too much in the way of bureaucratic process, you can go a lot further without needing it too.   However, organising with a minimum of bureaucratic control as you grow through the 100s of employees is in and of itself certainly not a recipe for success; it is more likely to bake you a nice big serving of chaos.

So, if not more bureaucracy, then what?

Here we return to the $M question; what should we be doing to avoid the perils of the speed wobble?  I could write a book at this point, but I won’t.  Instead, here is a handful of randomly selected human-centric practices; things that will help maintain a great culture, bring the business results you seek AND avoid the red tape.

Have a “no rules” rule.

Prescriptive rules come with a whole heap of downsides.  They tend to alienate, they reinforce a ‘parent / child’ as opposed to ‘adult to adult’ dynamic, they constrain, and no rule can ever hope to appropriately fit all situations. The alternative approach is to work with people to generate broad guidelines, defined around purpose.   These are more adaptive to the wide variety of situations. Also, they give people the space to use their knowledge and skills to deliver customer value, to innovate through experimentation, to share ideas and resources and to become more closely engaged with the business.

Power to the people; reconnect decision making with the work

If you were given the choice of decisions made on rich, first-hand information or on regurgitated, second-hand information which would you choose?  What if those first-hand decisions were quick, and the one -step-removed decisions slow, which then?  It takes a degree of trust to delegate decision authority, but for those organisations and leaders who actively push the responsibility for decision making towards the action and not hold it tight at the top, there are all sorts of upsides.  Not least of all is trust.  Trust itself is a powerful thing and a two-way street; by demonstrating your trust in others, commitment and loyalty come flooding back in the other direction.

Be super-clear on purpose; let your people determine the how, the when, and the who

Why does your business exist? If each and every person you employ were asked that question, would the responses be strong, consistent with each other and said with some feeling?   If not, then it is your job to make it so.  Purpose also exists at a team and individual level; ask a corresponding question to every team and every role.  What is their purpose, their contribution to the bigger purpose?   A useful tactic is to give people the space to work out the purpose of their own role, and then give them even more space to get on with delivering it.  Try it – it works.

Design for agility, not efficiency.

In those corporates that we loathed and left, ‘designed’ organisation structures distribute resources and the power to assign them – and control the money.  ‘Designed’ organisation processes distribute tasks and the responsibility for delivering them – and create coherence.  Thus ‘design’ is about providing efficiency, stability, predictability and repeatability (and nothing about creating a great place to work).  Efficiency etc. is great for snapshots in time but also does a fantastic job of preventing change and innovation, and in these increasingly uncertain times that can be fatal.  

Regardless of what the org-chart says your organisation is a network of relationships between people, working together in pursuit of the purpose, and by the way, the network looks nothing like the org-chart!   Your job as leader is to nurture that network, create the environment where it can be strong and flourish.    

What on earth does that look like in real life I hear you ask.  It depends, but here are some examples of changes you could try:

  • Avoid functional measures and targets, instead measure “what matters to customers”.  
  • Encourage curiosity about “who could I work with to help improve how this works?”  
  • Help your people see their every-day work through the lens of customer value and not internal performance.  
  • Internally crowd source for the generation and prioritisation of improvement ideas.  
  • Create an inviting and exciting “space” for people with different specialisms to come together and experiment, innovating ways of working AND product / service development ideas. 

 

“An individual without information can’t take responsibility. An individual with information can’t help but take responsibility.”  Jan Carlzon

 

Be transparent with everything

The larger the organisation grows, the harder it becomes to prevent unhelpful “them and us” divisions based on power, even if it is informal power.  One way to prevent this is adopting a mantra of radical transparency.   By making all, or very nearly all of the company’s information accessible to all employees is a healthy demonstration of trust, an advantage in itself, it also helps garner wider input to decisions, supports collaboration and nurtures a helpful “big picture” perspective.   There is more to transparency than changing the permissions on electronic files and folders though.   Leaders also need to demonstrate openness and honesty, often about mistakes and other unwelcome news.  Uncomfortable? Quite possibly.  Preferable to hiding stuff and being found out? Almost certainly.

We hope that at least one or two of those has sparked your curiosity.  None of these ideas are without risk, and no one will ever implement them anything like right first time.  My hope is that you get started with something.  

In the speed wobble it is the leader who has the steering, the brakes, and the gas.

Speed wobbles, or even the mild pre-tremors of them can be really scary.  In order to emerge safely on the other side, you need to be brave and bold.   For a leader this can be daunting.  Where to start?  With whom? How to avoid inviting chaos were control once was? There are many things you could do, but what things will work best for your organisation?  And then there is the question of how?

As a leader, would you like to make those decisions based on data and research as opposed to “a stab in the dark and hope for the best”?   Would you like to be able to identify what to change and how to change it based on a proven analysis of your organisation at this moment in time?  What if that precision were not only available for the organisation, but for every team within it? What if that data could be collected within a couple of weeks?  What if teams could start on their change journey within days after that?

If these sorts of benefits have appeal, then The Vitality Index might just be for you.  We look forward to talking things through with you.

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5 Ways to Maintain a Strong Small-firm Culture as You Scale

5 Ways to Maintain a Strong Small-firm Culture as You Scale

In the early days of your startup, good company culture might happen naturally- but as you plan to hire at pace, culture will be something you have to actively curate.

Here’s 5 ways to maintain a small-firm culture as you scale.  

Define and embody your values

When it comes to your company values, you need to practice what you preach.

In your early days when you are making a lot of the hiring decisions yourself, you might have an idea of what’s important to you.

And this might work when you have a team of 10 who all get on, but as you scale, this needs to be translated into a clearly defined set of brand values that are lived by your team.  

Establishing what these values are will not only help you to roll out effective marketing and build relationships with your customers, but it’ll also define your hiring strategy and align your team to your company mission.

Make considered hires

A startup is only as strong as its team, and a bad hire can send shockwaves across your business.

So instead of focusing on bringing in the best talent, look to hire the right talent for your company.

And involve your team in the process. If there’s poor representation in your hiring team, this will be reflected in your future hires.

When it comes to assessing talent, don’t fall into the trap of making snap decisions off the back of CVs. Your best hires will be people who are aligned with your company values- not just those who have attended a big-name school.

Use scorecards to assess each candidate against a pre-determined list of requirements and consider using technical tests and gamified assessments to add another layer of objectivity to your hiring.

Clear communication

In today’s remote and hybrid world, a lot of people don’t want to return to the office full time.

This is a cause for concern for startups trying to establish good culture with teams that have never met face to face.

Establish what methods of communication work for your team and then put this into action. This might be daily team calls, weekly catchups, regular one-to-ones, or even social calls that are in the diary that don’t centre around work.

And with every new hire, make sure that it is clear who to go to with any questions or support. Don’t drop the ball on onboarding just because you’re no longer sat together in an office.

You may not be able to keep up with every individual win from your team, but encourage people to shout about what’s going well, and to celebrate as a team.

Appreciate different people work differently

Not everyone’s cut out to be a leader. And that’s okay.

Understanding your team and taking the time to talk through their progression plans will help you to put the right people in the right positions.

Talk to your team about long-term and short-term plans, and the steps they need to take to get there. Not only is this great for company culture, but it also helps boost retention and employee motivation.

The natural career progression route puts senior team members into leadership or team lead roles. But sometimes this does more harm than good.

The skills involved in software development or design etc. are very different than the skills needed for leadership and people roles.

Not everyone wants to be a leader, and not everyone makes a good leader.

People stay in their jobs because of people. Culture is such a huge part of any role, that making one bad leadership appointment could cost you more than you bargained for.

Remember your why

Every company has a why at its core.

If you’ve done your hiring right, this should be a mission shared by your team.

Scaling your company will never come without its challenges. But keeping your why at the heart of what you do will help keep you on the right track.

And if you want help with your hiring, we’re happy to help.  

This blog was guest authored by Róisín Phelan, content writer at ISL Talent. ISL are an award-winning UK recruitment company who partner with startups and scaleups in their growth journey | Strong teams, built better.

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Stop press – people LOVE working in progressive organisations

Stop press – people LOVE working in progressive organisations

Right now there is much to celebrate in the world of progressive organisations… 

Haier, the world’s largest networked organisation (at 75,000 people) is enjoying both unrivalled growth in their sector and great notoriety given its story of organisational innovation.   Spotify has had to do a lot of things right to become a $46Bn dollar business and the most used music streaming service on the planet, a sector which is riddled with the corpses of other services that couldn’t make it.   One of the earliest progressives, Gore, (of Gore-Tex fame) was founded in 1958.  From the beginnings it has sought to relentlessly innovate its approach to management and how it organises itself, with the belief that that product and market innovation will follow.  With a product portfolio including everything from guitar strings to synthetic medical implants to outdoor apparel, they have proved their point.  

What mostly gets written about these organisations are their strikingly radical organisational designs.  Haier a “an ecosystem of entrepreneurial micro businesses”, Spotify also championing team autonomy but with a different approach where “squads, tribes and guilds” are the order of the day. Gore have always aggressively minimised bureaucracy, a big part of which is to have a very different approach to hierarchy, one where it is the teams who decide who they want to be led by.

If, as a leader, you would like to emulate these organisations and the innovation, growth and employee experience they enjoy you may well be wary of a step into the unknown by pursuing a new, radical organisational design.  And well you should. 

We have been researching and working with organisations who have the innate ability to innovate, change and retain the best talent, and those that cannot, for decades.

Our research found that the single strongest determinant of success in these three areas was not structure, size, sector, or age of the firm; it was management practices.  This has been borne-out by Gallup’s recent research which indicated that management practice was the biggest single determinant of employee engagement at around 70%.

Therefore, our strong advice would be not to restructure as a first step.  The biggest gains can be made by comparatively small (not necessarily easy; old habits are hard to break) changes in how we “show-up” as leaders; what we do, how we do and the decisions we make.  But where to start? Who has influence, what things should we change, what changes to make and how to make them? 

This is where The Vitality Index© comes in; it is able to zero-in on the management processes, practices and behaviours, that, if changed will have greatest benefit in engendering not only high levels of engagement, but also enable an innovative, change enabled culture to emerge.  These are specific to each organisations context at a precise moment in time and can be filtered by any attribute; region / business unit / function / team etc.

The Vitality Index© diagnostic is different to polling your people by way of the “employee engagement survey” in a number of different ways:

  1. Such surveys tend to ask direct, judgemental questions. Whilst, on the surface this may seem to be appropriate, these types of questions invite a significant amount of bias, both conscious and unconscious, and this data contamination severely affects the validity of the output.  Improvement actions informed by unreliable data are unlikely to bring the desired impact.
  2. Engagement surveys usually don’t have a diagnostic capability; they aggregate 1000’s of responses into visually appealing bar charts, depicting the respondent’s judgement of various symptoms that they experience. By contrast, The Vitality Index© diagnostic capability is based on our own empirical research of organisations, through this artificial intelligence is able to pin-point the specific and addressable management practices that reside below the surface level symptoms.
  3. Indexer offers concise, actionable insights. A typical Investors in People “Insights Assessment Report” runs to around 50 pages of words, numbers, charts and graphics.  In our experience, at this weight, most with line management responsibility leave them unread, and even if read, unactioned.  In contrast, a line manager on the receiving-end of The Vitality Index© output only receives the information that s/he needs to make improvements, things they can get started with that hour.  
  4. Many of the most commonly used employee engagement surveys guide organisations towards a “gold standard” that is anything but “progressive”, aligned to a style of management more relevant to the world of work in the 1910s. This was a time when repetitive manual labour was the norm, this is not the management we need if we wish to create an environment where highly intelligent and skilled knowledge workers can bring their very best creativity and intellect to the fore. Enlightened leaders know this, they are looking for ways to break away from a “parent-to-child” relationship prevailing in the management dyads of their organisation.  The Vitality Index©directs organisations towards management practices based on what science tells us, not what we’ve always done.   A working environment where everyone, regardless of their role or status shows-up in an adult-to-adult climate, able to speak freely and give of their best.

If, as a leader, you are thinking about pursuing a more progressive approach to the point that you are ready to commit to change yourself, then we hope this article has been useful and we are cheering you on all the way.  Beyond that, if you think some guidance in identifying knowing exactly what to do, and how to do it, based on causes (not symptoms) specific to your organisation at this precise moment in time might be of interest, then please get in touch. 

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Just how do you preserve your culture as your organisation grows?

Just how do you preserve your culture as your organisation grows?

You can only grow your business at the rate at which you can scale its culture.

This statement is an interesting one, and both right and wrong.  What is undeniably true however is that as owners grow businesses from employing 10’s, to 100’s and then 1,000’s of people, often one of their constant concerns is how to maintain the healthy, creative and innovative culture that has been the engine room of their success to date.

A quick bit of research into organisations that have been successful in this over the long term reveals some interesting patterns.  Going back to 1958, Bill Gore left his highly successful career with DuPont with the idea of creating an entire organisation that was as innovative, fun and creative as the R&D functions that he had worked within.  Sixty years later WL Gore has revenues of $3.5bn and employs 9,500 “associates”.  In more recent times Spotify has had to do a lot of things right to become a $46Bn dollar business and the most used music streaming service on the planet, a sector which is riddled with the corpses of other services that couldn’t make it. 

What mostly gets written about these organisations is their strikingly radical organisational designs.  Gore pioneered the lattice structure where it is the teams who decide who they want to be led by as part of their aggressive approach to minimise bureaucracy.  Spotify also champions team autonomy but with a different approach where “squads, tribes and guilds” are the order of the day.   The reality is, however, that having a radical org design is just one of many vital ingredients that make up a truly holistic way of working in these “progressive” organisations.  At some stage it might be appropriate, but in and of itself structure alone is woefully insufficient, and certainly not the first step.

At VitalOrg we have been researching and working with organisations who have the innate ability to innovate, change and retain the best talent, and those that cannot, for decades. Our research found that the single strongest determinant of success in these three areas was not structure, size, sector, or age of the firm; it was management practices.  This has been borne out by Gallup’s recent research which indicated that management practice was the biggest single determinant of employee engagement at around 70%.

This seems to echo wider research about highly innovative organisations who have grown to a large scale while preserving the fun and creative culture that they had when there were just a handful of employees.  What we notice about these organisations is the priority they give to innovating management practice first, knowing that innovative products and services will follow. So, we need to innovate management, to break free of the tacit assumptions that were developed 100 years ago but still live on today in the vast majority of organisations and contemporary HR practices.  But where to start? Who has influence, what things should we change, what changes to make and how to make them? 

 

That is where The Vitality Index© comes in; it is able to zero-in on the management processes, practices and behaviours, that, if changed will have greatest benefit in engendering not only high levels of engagement, but also enable an innovative, change-enabled culture to emerge.  These are specific to each organisation’s context at a precise moment in time and can be filtered by any attribute; region / business unit / function / team etc.

The Vitality Index© diagnostic is different to polling your people by way of the “employee engagement survey” in a number of different ways:

  1. Such surveys tend to ask direct, judgemental questions. Whilst, on the surface this may seem to be appropriate, these types of questions invite a significant amount of bias, both conscious and unconscious.  This leads to data contamination which can severely affect the validity of the output.  Improvement actions informed by unreliable data are unlikely to bring the desired impact.
  2. Engagement surveys usually don’t have a diagnostic capability; they aggregate 1000’s of responses into visually appealing bar charts, depicting the respondent’s judgement of various symptoms that they experience. By contrast, The Vitality Index© diagnostic capability is based on our own empirical research of organisations; through this, artificial intelligence is able to pin-point the specific and addressable management practices that reside below the surface level symptoms.
  3. The Vitality Index© offers concise, actionable insights. A typical Investors in People “Insights Assessment Report” runs to around 50 pages of words, numbers, charts and graphics.  In our experience, at this weight, most with line management responsibility leave them unread, and even if read, unactioned.  In contrast, a line manager on the receiving end of The Vitality Index© output only receives the information that s/he needs to make improvements, simple things they can get started with that hour.  
  4. Many employee engagement surveys guide organisations towards a “gold standard” that is showing its age, aligned to a style of management more relevant to the world of work in the 1910s. This was a time when repetitive manual labour was the norm. This is not the management we need if we wish to create an environment where highly intelligent and skilled knowledge workers can bring their very best creativity and intellect to the fore.   Enlightened leaders know this, they are looking for ways to break away from a “parent-to-child” relationship prevailing in the management dyads of their organisation.  The Vitality Index© directs organisations towards management practices based on what science tells us, not what we’ve always done.   A working environment where everyone, regardless of their role or status shows up in an adult-to-adult climate, able to speak freely and give of their best.

Returning to the opening statement; perhaps the real question is not one of “scaling culture”, more a question of making informed and deliberate choices about how we lead, organise and manage that will enable the positive evolution of your healthy culture appropriate to the scale and maturity of the organisation.  If your aim is to keep the vibrant culture you have created alive, our strong recommendation is to actively avoid adding bureaucracy (rules, procedures, central controls).  This can be achieved by adopting principles instead of rules and distributing decision authority within your growing firm.  If you are interested in how to get started down that path or to find out more about how The Vitality Index© can bring insight to those decisions, please get in touch.

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The Vitality Index – A Force for Good Management

The Vitality Index – A Force for Good Management

By prioritising a positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment, Bcorps are leading the way for business and being a force for good in this most crucial time in the planet’s history.  Meanwhile, the wider business community has struggled for at least two decades with poor and stubborn-to-shift levels of employee engagement.  A contributing factor to this has been the hangover of a “shareholder value maximisation” mindset.  Employees are not energised by this; they have known for a long time that in order to be truly intrinsically motivated they need to feel they contribute to a higher purpose, beyond profit.

Many Bcorps have benefited from this; they are better able to attract and retain talent, and vitally tap into those levels of motivation that prevail when we know our efforts at work are contributing to a greater good.   This is great news for all, but unfortunately in and of itself it is not sufficient. Recent Gallop research indicates there is one single factor that influences employee engagement more (70%) than all the others put together: management.

That is where The Vitality Index comes in. It is able to zero-in on the management processes, practices and behaviours, that, if changed will have greatest benefit in engendering not only high levels of engagement, but also enabling an innovative, change-enabled culture to emerge.  These are specific to each organisation’s context at a precise moment in time and can be filtered by any attribute: region / business unit / function / team etc.

The Vitality Index diagnostic is different to polling your people by way of the “employee engagement survey” in several different ways:

  • Engagement surveys usually don’t have a diagnostic capability; they aggregate thousands of responses into visually appealing bar charts, depicting the respondents’ judgement of various symptoms that they experience.  By contrast, Indexer’s diagnostic capability is based on our own empirical research on organisations and how they are led, managed and organised. From this evidence base, artificial intelligence is able to pin-point the specific and addressable practices that reside below the surface level symptoms, thus the things to start experimenting with.
  • Indexer offers concise, actionable insights.  A typical Investors in People (IIP) “Insights Assessment Report” runs to around 50 pages of words, stock images, numbers, charts and graphics.  In our experience, at this weight, most with line management responsibility leave them unread, and even if read, un-actioned.  In contrast, a line manager on the receiving end of the Indexer output only receives the information that s/he needs to make improvements, things they can get started within an hour.
  • As mentioned above, recent data from Gallup, the leading authority in employee engagement globally, identifies that 70% of resultant employee experience can be tracked back to management and management practices.   It is at this causal level that Indexer operates. It is so far as we know the only engagement survey that does this.
  • Getting insights from employees is relatively easy compared to getting hearts-and-minds change to happen informed by those insights.   In recognition of this, we integrate a package of support that ensures that there is follow through and systemic change results.
  • Many employee engagement surveys guide organisations towards a “gold standard” that is showing its age, aligned to a style of management more relevant to the world of work in the very early 1900’s. This was a time when repetitive manual labour was the norm. This is not the management we need if we wish to create an environment where highly intelligent and skilled knowledge workers can bring their very best creativity and intellect to the fore.   Enlightened leaders know this, they are looking for ways to break away from a “parent-to-child” relationship prevailing in the management dyads of their organisation.  Indexer directs organisations towards management practices based on what science tells us, not what is conventional and what we’ve always done.   A working environment where everyone, regardless of their role or status shows up in an adult-to-adult climate, able to speak freely and give of their best.
  • Most employee engagement surveys have a strong benchmarking and “league-table” element. This has held great appeal with conventional leaders who have been conditioned to have a scarcity mindset.  Younger leaders and more progressive organisations have realised that an abundance mentality -sharing, learning and collaborating – is a much better way to go in the current era of business.  Our service is very much aligned to the latter; the emphasis is to improve from where we are as an organisation, as opposed to trying to beat or emulate other organisations, whose context is very different.
  • Such surveys tend to ask direct, judgemental questions.  Whilst on the surface this may seem to be appropriate, these types of questions invite a significant amount of bias, both conscious and unconscious, and this data contamination severely affects the validity of the output.  Improvement actions based on by unreliable data are unlikely to bring the desired impact.

 

If you are the leader of a Bcorp, or a leader finding your own way to having a more holistic and positive impact, we are cheering you on all the way.  You are already committed to enabling your people to do the best, most rewarding work of their lives, and give them the best possible employee experience.    That desire is commendable.  However, desire is one thing; knowing exactly what to do, and how to do it, based on causes and not presenting symptoms is much more challenging.

If you would like some help, then it fits perfectly with our purpose to support you. Why not get in touch, we love a good conversation.

 

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