Motivation and engagement – the holy grails of any business. With productivity levels languishing in the UK, companies need to get real about this. Just a few, well-chosen initiatives can make all the difference, unlocking up to 40% more effort in every employee. And certainly, if you’re looking to scale-up, you need to get fanatical about driving up engagement.
There are many aspects that influence engagement and I’ve blogged before on using praise as a motivator, building psychological safety in your business, prioritising happiness and measuring engagement levels. But here, I want to focus on Rockefeller Habit #9 which is specifically about employees knowing, quantitatively, whether they’ve had a good day.
Why is this important? Because it links with the first question of the Gallup Q12 engagement survey, ‘Do you know what’s expected of you at work?’ More than anything, staff need to know the game they’re playing, the rules and their score in real-time. Absolute clarity on these can massively impact their motivation levels. Suddenly they’ll see their direction of travel, the steps they need to take and their ultimate goal.
So how do you make this a reality in your business?
Do you use KPIs? When clients first come to me, they sometimes have hundreds. This is pretty pointless. If it’s the same for you, you need to whittle them down to the KPIs that genuinely make a difference – the ones that, when you hit them, directly impact on your results.
The ninth Rockefeller Habit suggests every employee should have one or two individual KPIs. These are likely to focus on the guts of their job - the core activity that makes a difference day in, day out. For a salesperson, this might be a lagging indicator such as sales order intake. Or it might be based on leading indicator activity such as the number of sales calls made. As CEO, you want to know, at the end of each day, that every employee has done the things that lead to success in their role. In Support, this could be how many top scores they got in NPS® and maybe they’re measured on the number of times they hit three 10s in succession.
These individual KPIs should be clarified and tracked. Then, when the member of staff sits down with their manager for their weekly one to one, they’ll instantly know whether they’ve had a good or bad week. They won’t need to be told. They’ll also know the obstacles that got in their way and their manager can coach them towards improvement the following week. Now you’re on your way towards a more productive workforce!
Here Rockefeller Habit #9 focuses on critical numbers – every member of staff should have one measured number that aligns with the company’s quarterly theme. Again, this is all about clarity of direction.
Before you start working this out, you need to get crystal clear on your strategy. When I start working with clients, we nail down their Three Year (3HAG) and One Year Highly Achievable Goals and functional objectives. I take them through attribution mapping and activity fit maps and define the three to five differentiators that are going to make their 3HAG a reality. From this, we work out the milestones they need to hit over the next year and break this down into the functional and cross-functional objectives for each quarter. Then, and only then, can we look at individual employees.
So you’ve done the big-picture strategic stuff. Now, sit down with your executive team and work out the one critical number or metric that needs to shift during the next 90 days to take your company towards its annual milestones. Examples from companies where I’ve worked have included on-hold times for customer support, opportunity creation for sales or the amount of time engineers record in the ticketing system. Then, go a step further, and work out a critical number for every member of staff that links with this. Now all staff feel part of the bigger picture and, even better, see their role in hitting the company’s goals.
When I was UK MD at Rackspace, our company-wide critical number was monthly recurring revenue. We needed to increase it. I worked out that every minute our sales team spent on the phone talking to a client was worth £1 of monthly recurring revenue. But their average time on the phone per day had fallen to 1.5 hours. Not good enough!
I asked them what they thought the minimum standard should be. Their best person averaged four hours per day so, in the end, they settled on three. My advice was to time-block their day – that way they knew they were spending enough time on the phone. We put up screens all around the office and, through the day, they scrolled through individual scores and team averages. Instant, real-time information – they always knew the score and whether their day was going well. This is how you motivate people to succeed.
Another quarterly number might focus on pipeline. Perhaps your leading indicators have shown that it’s worryingly empty. So, the whole organisation needs a drive on opportunity creation over the next 90 days. Wherever an employee sits in the business, if they touch customers, they should go looking for a new sales opportunity. You might decide on individual critical numbers that target volume of calls or other ways of creating sales opportunities. This continual drive can have a huge impact on your business.
Typically, when I’m working with CEOs and their teams, we’ll look at individual OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) for each executive, taking this as our framework. Having ironed these out, I suggest they publish their OKRs within their business. Then each member of staff can decide, with their manager, where they’re going to align their own priorities.
For any member of staff, I deliberately encourage whittling down to only three to five priorities per person. There will always be way more stuff they have to park or put further down their list. Each employee will have their top five objectives for the quarter, and the ones that relate to an organisational objective get given highest priority.
Out of the list, a couple of priorities will come down from on high and the rest are formulated by the individual member of staff and their manager. You don’t want everything to be imposed on staff as that leads to a culture of command and control. Staff need to identify their own priorities, based on their function.
I suggest one priority is always linked to personal development. Recent examples include reading a book per quarter, being more present with their kids or even getting fitter. Once all are defined, managers can use them in coaching conversations during daily huddles and weekly one to ones, ensuring they directly link with the company’s priorities. It’s about creating a structure of success for every one of your staff.
Ah yes – coaching. So important. This should be prioritised from the very bottom to the very top of your business. I’m a great one for building the neural networks of businesses. By introducing a peer coaching programme, you’ll see new pathways being forged and relationships being strengthened.
The final part of Rockefeller Habit #9 advises that every executive and middle manager should have an accountability coach for behaviour changes. This links with last week’s blog on building a scaling-up mindset – it’s vital. You’re much more likely to stick at something if you do it with someone else.
It’s important to have a coach who isn’t your direct line manager. I’ve seen with my own eyes the unconscious bias that creeps in between managers and employees. Some execs might think someone’s amazing because, due to their dyslexia or ADHD, they think outside the box. Unfortunately, this employee’s line manager can’t bear their lack of structure and disorganised approach. It’s important that they are coached by someone else. You want a diverse workforce with members of staff who think differently, tear up the rule-book and make mental leaps - that is how companies get ahead in competitive markets.
Make no mistake, this stuff is hard. If you really want all your staff to know, quantitatively, whether they’ve had a good day, you’re going to need to think creatively and be very clear about your objectives. As I said earlier, staff need to know the score in real-time – this is fundamental. If you haven’t got the right systems in place, it’s going to take investment. But it’s an investment that will pay you back immediately with valuable productivity gains.
Dominic has spent 14 years working in sales, marketing and business management within the IT sector. He has held executive positions at Peer 1 Hosting, IT Lab and Rackspace. At Peer 1 he built the UK business to £30m run rate in 5 years. He won many awards for creating a great place to work. At Rackspace Dominic built the UK company from four to 150 staff, and increased annual revenues from £595,000 to £25 million in just four years. Under his management, Rackspace was recognised as one of the most outstanding workplaces in Europe, and won several service awards for its Fanatical Support TM. Dominic has a BSc in Agricultural and Food Marketing from Newcastle and a MBA from Sheffield Business School. Dominic is also a regular public speaker on creating great places to work and achieving continuous client satisfaction and an assessor on the Sunday Times Customer Experience Awards.