How to nurture your most important asset – your people

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Written by Alan Powell

Published April 2019

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It’s a common problem for all businesses – how do you get the best out of your primary asset – namely the people in your business? 

While there are many different types of businesses, with many different roles, the fundamental challenge for managers at all levels remains the same. From the outset let me say that of course there is no simple ‘one size fits all solution’.  People are idiosyncratic, contrary, inconsistent, individualistic and complex: in an ideal world motivational processes and techniques would be uniquely tailored to the individual so that everyone felt that all of their particular needs were satisfied.  However, we also work in teams and social groups – so even this ‘ideal’ approach falls down in these circumstances when people see others being treated differently to themselves.

Encouraging ‘out of the box’ thinking

We in Pay360 by Capita, as a provider of high-availability, secure payment and optimisation services, face this conundrum in the context of being part of a larger business which is itself undergoing a major transformation to ensure it’s prepared for the challenges of the future.  This is good news, because an explicit part of this transformation is focused on changing the way that the business thinks about people.

In addition, Pay360 operates in a market that is undergoing pretty radical environmental changes as the global trend shifts from cash and card payments to a wider and more radical array of options.  For us to succeed we depend entirely on the capabilities of the people in our teams and their ability to thrive in the face of ambiguity and uncertainty.

What motivates your teams?

As an operational leader, I know that most people don’t work just to pass the time, rather they want to make a difference, they want to feel that they’ve done a good job, they want to be fairly rewarded and they want other people to recognise their achievements.   I also know that it’s the people actually doing the hands-on work who really understand what prevents them (and hence the business) from being more effective.

The key, it seems to me, is to start with really valuing the people (your colleagues) in your business and creating the environment to enable them to be the best they can.  For me, this comes in 2 broad parts – generating the right culture and simultaneously creating the operational frameworks that people can use to collectively build better ideas, processes, products and services.

Developing a ‘people first’ culture

Creating the right culture is clearly fundamental.  People need to know that they are valued, respected and that their voice will be heard.  They need to understand that curiosity, challenge and ideas are the most valuable qualities they bring to the business.  Everyone needs to remember that any business is only as good as the collective operations of its teams, of individuals collaborating, collaborating (and that isn’t a typo).  There are many other threads to this particular theme but you’ll understand the principle – for example, in the type of culture we aim to build, there must be an appreciation that when things go wrong, as they will from time to time, it’s first and foremost an opportunity to learn how to do something better in future.

Encouraging innovation

The role of the operational framework is less obvious – this needs to be in place to make it easy for individuals to make effective contributions in a structured way without stifling originality or the desire to take part.  This is connected to the operating rhythm that any business needs to be successful and there is quite a lot to it.  Encouraging people to share thoughts, experiences, issues and ideas, for example, can be achieved with regular stand-ups, planning sessions, updates and retrospectives that have the clear objective of facilitating the input of all involved.

Ensuring that individuals understand the best mechanism/forum for raising and analysing issues is key.  This allows people to anticipate the session and formulate their thoughts to maximise the effectiveness of their contribution. This also means that we need to recognise that, while structure and agendas are useful handrails, every session needs to include time to allow people to discuss something on their mind that may not quite fit in with the main theme.  Leaders have a real role to play here is terms of facilitation, encouragement and listening – and this is not always easy.

Ensuring successful collaboration between teams

We know that sometimes processes fail as they move across team boundaries, so our operational framework includes regular review sessions with representatives from the different teams.  For example, one of these review sessions looks at the operational aims and activities of IT operations, support and service management: there’s a standing agenda which is basically an action tracker with some metrics as well as a review of some of the key standing processes, such as client escalations and problem management, but the real aim is to make sure that the teams concerned are delivering for each other and develop reciprocal empathy for the problems that they each face.  This has really paid dividends in terms of driving up key performance indicators and improving the service that we provide to our customers.

For Pay360 to continue to succeed, we’re very conscious that we need to enable our dedicated and hard-working staff members to flourish.  To this end we strive to make sure that the culture is the right one and that everyone feels that there is an operational framework that enables them to be as effective as they can.  In this way, we can make the very best of our resources to deliver better products and services and continue to drive up the satisfaction levels of our customers.

 

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