David Saul, managing director of leading serviced office operator Business Environment discusses the importance of employee development.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” the Chinese philosopher Confucius once remarked.
Few would say that’s bad advice, but then few would say there is ever a day when their job does not feel much like work. It is, however, an unarguable truth that employees perform better if, on the whole, they enjoy their jobs.
A team pulling together, passionate about their work, ready to support each other through particularly difficult or busy periods, is a team that gets results.
As I think back to all my previous jobs, I can vividly recall how the way each company treated its employees, whether good or bad, affected my motivation.
At Business Environment, we know that our employees are central to our success, and we are determined to create a company culture that reflects this.
We are proud to have won the annual Business Centre of the Year award for the last three consecutive years, and we are equally proud to be one of the very few companies to appear in the Sunday Times ‘Best Small Companies to Work For’ list for the last four years.
These aren’t unconnected accolades – our success as a serviced office operator is hugely dependent on our ability to recruit and retain the best people.
Our employee retention rate is 94 per cent, which I strongly believe is the result of our company culture, one which has been created through implementing simple measures that could be applied across any industry or sector.
In most organisations, there are times when employees are called to go above and beyond the call of duty. Whether it’s working late to meet a deadline or just going that extra mile to ensure a project is executed to the highest quality, most people would say they have had to work slightly beyond the exact letter of their contract.
It is so important to adequately recognise this, which is why we have created a reward system for nominating exceptional work.
Will your workforce perform worse if their hard work seems to go unnoticed? Perhaps not, because there are plenty of people who believe in the importance of always giving their best. I wouldn’t, however, be at all surprised if they started looking for a job elsewhere.
It is critical then that employees receive the support they need from their employer – this helps to work out any issues as they arise. At Business Environment the role of mentor is taken very seriously – with weekly mentoring calls and day-to-day support helping with learning and development.
A company’s approach to annual reviews and appraisals is also key. These can offer a really important opportunity to ensure that team members receive annual achievable goals, discuss possible training programmes and jointly create a plan that supports their personal development.
There is a huge gulf between an appraisal in which a manager reels off a list of areas where they want to see improvements, and an appraisal in which a manager lists the ways they plan to help a member of the team to reach their potential. At Business Environment, three to four annual goals are agreed that may be personal development or role related, which are reviewed every six months and then performance pay awarded for results achieved.
We also actively encourage staff to take external qualifications and courses to aid development with the company paying 100% of the fees and giving staff paid time off to complete them.
Effective rewards systems and appraisals should almost come as standard, although all too often they don’t. At Business Environment, we’ve also introduced a few more unusual extras to engage our staff. One of these is the offer of three days paid leave, on top of their usual holiday allowance, to give our teams the chance to carry out charity work. Where they previously may have struggled to find the time, a great number of our employees are now making a positive difference in their communities, with our full support. Other perks include free gym membership, free cakes every Friday, free team nights out, a family fun day at Knebworth House and birthday leave and gifts.
We offer these perks because recognising the efforts of the people our success depends on is simply the right thing to do. Our approach also helps us to get the best out of the best people. It really is a win-win situation, with no discernable downside at all.
Indeed, even an organisation thinking only of its bottom-line should be taking steps in this area.
Because, as Confucius might say, if you choose a job with a company that values your efforts and looks for ways to support your development, you’ll perform better and enjoy your work more.
David Saul is Managing Director of Business Environment.