The role of a leader is, among other things, to ensure the continuous and stable development of the people in the organisation. This involves, among other things, helping to solve problems, enabling the acquisition of knowledge and experience, giving more and more different and interesting areas of responsibility, communicating appropriately or continuously sharing feedback.
In addition, a manager’s duties include looking after the organisation, results, customers, sales, processes, efficiency, the financial side, expansion, growth, quality, the pursuit of operational excellence or achieving strategic goals.
All this makes a manager’s job quite challenging, and it is hard to prioritise activities.
I often face similar issues, and I know they can be a nightmare. That is why I have decided to share my knowledge and experience on the most important directions a leader or business owner can take in the near future. In this article, I am introducing and describing the goals we have been implementing at Inwedo, which have been very helpful in our development. If you plan any activities for this year, they can be a valuable guide.
- People come first and should be at the heart of the business
- Areas of responsibility are better than delegation
- Support structure as a culture necessary for an organisation to thrive
- Enterprise processes the solution to many ills
- Development paths that value knowledge, experience and skills
- Self-directed employee development is the future of organisations
- Transparent meetings and speaking to the whole company have many benefits
People come first and should be at the heart of the business
In addition to my work at Inwedo, I do pro bono work to support young entrepreneurs. When they ask me what they should invest to keep their business stable, like a mantra (because I have been saying it for years), I repeat – “in people, because they, in any business, are and should be the most important”.
In well-functioning organisations, people come first. Everything in them should be centred around him and done with him in mind.
An employee who is cared for, aware of how the company’s processes work and how to use them, and who has a support structure (not to be confused with a hierarchy) is characterised by increased satisfaction and commitment and a higher quality of work.
An organisation can deliver even more quality and value to its customers with efficient teams and satisfied people. It can also move faster beyond its standard business profile. Increased satisfaction and engagement lead to greater creativity. This, in turn, can help the whole organisation become an inspiration to other companies or even a trendsetter.
Before planning for any other goals in our organisation, let’s start by taking care of the people in it (and contribute to it). By putting people at the centre and taking care of them, the set directions will stand a chance of success.
In a report by O.C. Tanner, which studied employee engagement and how managers can improve the workplace they create, we can find a very interesting conclusion.
When asked, “What is the most important thing a manager or company can do to get you to do a better job?” 37% of respondents answered that they would like to be noticed.
Getting people noticed in our organisations is worth starting by building authentic relationships with them. These lead to trust. This, in turn, guarantees security and the basis of business.
It is worth ensuring that you are present and focused at meetings. Be attentive to the other person, listen to them, analyse what they have to say. When necessary, try to help and, above all, never judge or jump to conclusions. It is also good to create a friendly atmosphere for cooperation. The feeling that we can come to work with our problems and burdens, be noticed, appreciated or find understanding at work (and not another source of problems) is one of the motivating factors for growth.
It is also worth enabling teams to build relationships with each other, for example, through team-building meetings or dedicated space. Let’s also ensure that the organisation remembers birthdays, anniversaries and important events. Let’s take care of the health of our employees – all sorts of health campaigns, medical packages and other forms of encouraging people to be physically active can help here.
Relationships (honest ones!) will not only increase the commitment of the teams but also make it easier for them to openly share their opinions and thoughts, which can improve the whole company. When planning to make changes, ask people what they think about them and let them know as early as possible. Knowing that you are an integral part of the organisation and that everyone’s opinion is important and considered is essential to building positive morale.
Areas of responsibility are better than delegation
I dislike delegating tasks and telling individuals what to do. This approach can be uncomfortable for both employee and manager and in the long run, builds relationships on fear rather than mutual trust. Additionally, it also leads to a reduction in self-development.
According to the Harvard Business Review, up to 52% of employees feel a lack of autonomy in their work.
I have spent the last year and a half at Inwedo arranging the organisation in such a way as to bring about increasing autonomy by defining many new roles within it. Both in terms of large and smaller areas of responsibility (these do not necessarily have to be non-project roles, becoming part of operations or administration).
This has led to a situation where decisions can be made much more quickly and agilely than ever before, thanks to the distributed structure. Teams and individuals directly impact the development of the entire organisation.
79% of employees are more engaged when they have autonomy at work. In addition, they are characterised by increased responsibility and efficiency. Autonomy additionally increases productivity by an average of 5.2%.
When we want to increase the decision-making autonomy of people in an organisation by means of the definition of new roles, it is crucial to remember the people taking on these roles and to create them within a framework of mutual trust, respect, security and previously developed relationships.
For my part, it worked perfectly:
- Meeting with the person with whom I wanted to establish the new role.
- Talking about it together, focusing on strengths and sharing thoughts, ideas, plans and goals.
- Working asynchronously and providing space to prepare the role description, where:
- this was done by the person taking on the role to describe it from their perspective,
- and also me describing the needs arising from the organisation and defining what they come from.
- A joint workshop where we combined the descriptions of one and the other, or removed what we found contradictory or strongly uncomfortable.
- We then gave each other time (maximum 1-3 days) to familiarise ourselves with the resulting description and possibly clarify or change elements.
- The final stage, if everything went well, was to announce the new role to the organisation. Then making the description and area of responsibility public, so that people in the organisation know what they can approach the person with.
However, this is not the end of the story. What should be remembered is to ensure that there are regular meetings where the person taking on the new role can find space to solve initial problems and receive the necessary feedback for further work. This is worth bearing in mind, especially as reports show that:
1 in 5 employees are not convinced that their supervisor will give constructive feedback on their work on a regular basis.
It is also important that each person who has a role in the organisation sets out a goal or goals they would like to achieve at the start of the new month. These are often strategic goals related to developing teams or the company. The following month, this person summarises their activities and shares with the whole company (on a dedicated channel in Slack) what has or has not been achieved. They also define what they will work on in the coming future. This principle also applies to management. It has a highly mobilising effect and allows us to stick or nimbly change our course.
A survey by ManpowerGroup Solutions found that almost 40% of employees (worldwide) said that autonomy was one of the three most important factors when making career decisions.
Support structure as a culture necessary for an organisation to thrive
Areas of responsibility cannot function without the provision of a support structure. A newly created role in an organisation does not always have to ‘report’ directly to a manager. It can, for example, be part of an existing department. If someone wants to change, for example, a process or show initiative, they know who they can come to for help or to enable them to make that change.
When companies describe their structure, they usually do so using hierarchical diagrams/diagrams (the smaller and still dynamic ones have a flatter structure and then their areas of activity can change).
Life has taught me that job-describing structures and a decision-making hierarchy in the form of manager, assistant, manager and employee at the bottom of the ladder should be long forgotten.
According to Gartner, 9% of employees surveyed felt more productive with less supervision.
For this, I am a big advocate of creating a support structure within the organisation. Teams are autonomous, and decisions are made directly within them, and anyone who wants to change something at their level or in the organisation) can do so and knows how. The people in charge of an area/department are there to provide support and make changes, not (just) to make decisions and delegate tasks. In this way, everyone in the organisation cares about outcomes and results, thereby improving the organisation’s performance.
We implement various initiatives by building a support structure (e.g., our own meet-ups/online integrations). We are improving the efficiency of the organisation in many areas. We are constantly working on updating salary, and to this, we are introducing more frequent team trips. We are emphasising people’s mental and physical wellbeing, meeting with experts, increasing external visibility, internal training, or increasing levels of cyber security.
Enterprise processes the solution to many ills
The support structure and areas of responsibility would be nothing if there were no processes in the organisation. These are nothing more than a standardised way of performing a task that can be repeated. However, processes are often mistakenly perceived as rigid and corporate procedures. This is a definite mistake. Well-designed and managed processes add value to our work. They reduce the risk of human error (e.g. we forget something), increase our productivity (we know what we are supposed to do) and allow us to manage ourselves in time better.
With well-written processes (e.g. onboarding or offboarding employees or when a project is about to go into production), we can ensure stability in our organisations and increase our sense of security. If the person responsible for a particular part of a process goes on leave, we can easily appoint a replacement for that time. The barrier to entry for a new person with knowledge of the procedures will be much lower. In addition, good processes can also contribute to:
- reducing the cost of doing business,
- increasing customer and/or team satisfaction,
- striving for continuous excellence (e.g. in production or operations),
- increased transparency,
- faster induction of new employees,
- or better implementation of the organisation’s strategy.
Meanwhile, as data from the latest Process Maturity Survey shows:
Only 5% of companies and institutions operating in Poland are at the highest level of process maturity.
The highest level is one in which we deal with an organisation aware of the processes that take place within it and in which strategic goals are organised and broken down into individual processes. The measurement system provides managers with information to increase efficiency through improvement activities.
79% of organisations struggle to find the person responsible for a process, in the main when that process extends beyond one department.
Providing the right support structure, as I wrote about earlier, can help solve this problem because:
89% of organisations identify strong senior management involvement as a success factor.
When creating and writing down processes, it is important to remember that they should be at least:
- well described,
- kept up-to-date,
- easily accessible (e.g. in our internal wiki/procedure database)
- and having a person(s) responsible for them.
Well-written processes, where repeatable (especially mechanically), can be attempted to be automated. Tools such as Zapier or similar no-code solutions may be sufficient to start with. By automating, we will free up huge amounts of time among our employees, enabling them to use their potential in places that require more creativity and cannot be optimised.
At Inwedo, we have automated, among other things, the application process for a job advertisement and when a person moves on to the next stage of the recruitment process. The system automatically informs the status of the person responsible for the process – e.g. technical recruiters of the need for a meeting to verify programming knowledge and provides the necessary information.
Development paths that value knowledge, experience and skills
One of the best decisions we could have made as an organisation was to create development paths for team members. They are a framework describing the directions that can be taken regarding development. They allow individuals in the company to develop their competencies and gain new roles and promotions. In their premise, they define possible levels, functions and badges. They show what levels a team member can be promoted to and explain what competencies a person must have to be “upgraded” to a higher level or get a badge for a particular role. With this approach, the employee does not have to come in and ask for a raise. They get a higher salary when they step up to a higher level, out of “automatic”. It is worth mentioning that we try to review the levels on which people are on an ongoing basis. As a result, the accompanying salary increases flow mostly from the organisation.
An effective development framework gives teams a sense of meaningful progression. In creating career paths, we wanted to prevent stagnation and misunderstanding.
According to SHRM’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, only 29% of employees are ‘very satisfied’ with the current career progression opportunities available to them in the organisation they work for.
Currently, we have defined pathways for developers, QA(Quality Assurance) and POs (Product Owners). For small departments or individuals, we still operate on targets set individually.
When defining paths, we can do so horizontally and vertically. This will allow us to either go deeply into a topic or look holistically at many topics at once.
For example, in the case of developers, the organisation is open to two possible versions of pathways:
- A domain expert, who ultimately gives direction to the domain in Inwedo. Has excellent programming skills both in terms of creating and explaining how software and products work. He is constantly developing his communication skills as his job is to reach out, listen and distil information.
- A developer who is not limited to one programming language or one technology stack/domain. He is a ‘programming polyglot’. He is not an expert in a particular programming language, but is comfortable with many of them. He knows how to navigate through different technology stacks to solve most of the technology challenges he encounters;
If you are interested in what exactly and in-depth these look like I cordially invite you here: https://inwedo.com/careers/career-path/developer/
Levels, roles, badges and seniority are visible to everyone in the organisation. In this way, development paths bridge the pay gap. All people in the company who are at the same level and have the same number of years of experience will always earn the same amount.
If, for some reason, we make a deviation from our paths for one person, we take this change for everyone. This means updating our salary formula for the whole team.
With this approach, organisations can value individuals’ knowledge, experience and skills rather than their negotiating skills. The company becomes transparent and provides a guarantee of continuous salary increases.
Self-directed employee development is the future of organisations
Employee development pathways will only be effective if we enable and teach people to use them.
Therefore, finding a responsible person who will help others in the company use them makes sense. They will then be able to verify the knowledge and skills resulting from the level and will be able to respond in real-time to the inaccuracies that arise from them.
The opportunity for professional development at work is particularly important for younger generations: according to a Gallup study, up to 87 per cent of Millenials consider development at work to be important.
It is also worth setting up a mentoring programme within the organisation. Find mentors and mentees and let them build a mutual relationship by exchanging knowledge and experience. Working with a domain expert can develop the necessary skills among less experienced employees at a very fast pace.
94% of employees would stay longer in an organisation if it invested in their development.
On top of this, it is worth defining a clear training budget within the company, with as few restrictions as possible, which can be used for, among other things:
- online and offline training (e.g. where, with an offsite format, once a year, accommodation and transport costs can be included in the budget),
- external consultations
- or books.
Providing employee development detached directly from managers will allow it to work on its own in the organisation. In addition, as the data shows:
Companies that invest in employee training earn 24% more.
Transparent meetings and speaking to the whole company have many benefits
Honesty and transparency are things that not everyone likes, but something that can take you further than if you were revolving around an imaginary and idealised reality. It is worth introducing a routine of regular and open synchronisation meetings in the organisation, where all teams can find out what is happening in the company.
Authentic communication is an essential but challenging skill in remote or hybrid working age.
86% of employees and managers cite a lack of effective collaboration and communication as the main reasons for failure in the workplace.
74% of employees feel that they lack good communication within the company.
At Inwedo, we have three main moments of synchronicity:
- On Monday, the PO, People Ops, people in strategic roles (including Head of Tech, Head of Processes, QA Lead, Agile Lead) and management meet. The purpose of the meeting is very simple. It’s to share information and update the common context on the events of the past week and the coming week. The focus of the meeting is around three pillars, ordered in order of priority. Keeping them in order is very important, as it gives us a sense of security and allows us to focus on creating an ever better place to work together. These are:
- People – are we doing well and the reasons why we are not.
- Customers – are we creating value for our customers and is there anything preventing us from doing so?
- The company – are we making the company grow as we would like through our work for our clients.
- Within teams – short (10m) daily meetings, and within departments twice a week (20-30m). The meetings allow us to exchange context and share information about what we are currently working on and what is blocking us.
- Every other Friday, we get the whole company together (for an All Hands event) and talk about everything going on in the organisation – plans, clients, projects, challenges, good and bad things and solutions we have implemented or can improve. It is also a moment when questions can be asked, and most importantly: a time of celebration and thanks.
Of course, it is important not to overdo the number of meetings and to reduce those that are unnecessary. The rest of the tasks, for the most part, can be completed asynchronously, e.g. using an internal communicator. This will give us all more time to work deeply and in focus.
By implementing the objectives mentioned above, leaders can observe an increase in employee engagement, greater operational excellence, high team autonomy, and the freeing up of a considerable amount of time.
In our case, this has also translated into more effective teams and better financial performance for the organisation. It has also helped to sort out reality, relieve the burden on decision-makers, increase the quality of our work and grow in competence.
The goals I have presented can be spread out over the year. The most time-consuming will be developing and implementing development paths and the remuneration formula, which can take two to four months. The rest of the things can be implemented as regular monthly goals.
However, it is important to remember that simply implementing them without ensuring they become integral to the organisation’s culture will amount to nothing. It is worth constantly and continuously nurturing, updating and adapting them to the surrounding reality.
Sources and supplementary materials:
https://techjury.net/blog/employee-engagement-statistics/ https://www.culturemonkey.io/employee-engagement/employee-autonomy-at-work/ https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/creating-a-culture-of-recognition https://www.effectory.com/knowledge/hr-analytics-autonomy-and-employee-engagement/ https://haiilo.com/blog/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know/ https://solutionsreview.com/business-process-management/business-process-management-statistics-you-should-know/ https://procesowcy.pl/portfolio-items/dojrzalosc-procesowa-polskich-organizacji-2020/ https://solutionsreview.com/business-process-management/business-process-management-statistics-you-should-know/ https://teamstage.io/training-statistics/