We all come across several quotes of the business guru Sir Richard Branson as these are shared over and over again. A particular one says ‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’.
As an HR practitioner I am utterly and hopelessly in love with this quote, but the challenge comes when I ask myself… How can I do this without the revenues, estimated to £15bn in 2012, of Virgin Group backing me up? As much as we would love to, we cannot allow unlimited leave days or one year paid parental leave to our team members. So what do we do?
This is a question we kept asking ourselves during management and strategic meetings. It was only when we started to treat this issue like any other business challenge that we got our answers. Our journey kicked off with focusing on our core strengths and what makes us unique as an entity. Why should a prospective candidate choose us? Through surveys, one-to-one interviews and other research one particular subject kept cropping up, namely, ‘Back in the days we were a tight-knit team’. We kept drilling down and we found out that culture is what separates us from the rest.
Being a family-owned company we started involving different team members in the discussion for the pursuit of what makes us tick… because that’s what families do, right, working together as one team? We call ourselves the A-team because just like the A-team members, we too have people from different walks of life; each individual brings with them particular skills and character traits whilst working together to save lives.
For us keeping our employees happy meant tearing down the walls of bureaucracy and building up the human relations whilst professionally developing our A-team. I have never seen an open door policy lived like it is in this company, where at any point of the day, no matter what my role is, I can go to the company owners’ door to discuss any concerns or voice my suggestions. This great opportunity comes with great responsibility, so each one of us makes sure that the time we ask of our superiors brings value to the table. We have been investing time in breakfast activities which have been held every fortnight for the last three years, bringing together people from different departments to simply enjoy breakfast together, talk about any concerns and get to know each other. We have also set up a focus group consisting of team members working on-site to highlight concerns or issues faced by our team members since we do not all have the luxury of working in the same building.
Turning our old premises into a training academy was a natural step. Our field requires us to be constantly updated on technology and new trends which continually emerge in the industry we work in. Our line of work is highly sensitive and very emotional. Take, for example, this one customer who was painfully recalling her experience when on a normal day she was cooking in her kitchen, heard the front door open, called out, thinking it was her partner, but upon checking actually found someone running out of her house. I felt shivers down my spine just hearing it, let alone what it would feel like experiencing it first-hand. The emotional ordeal that these unfortunate victims live is too heavy; some tell us they do not even want to live in the same house anymore; others barricade the house or become obsessed about avoiding reliving such a horrible experience.
That is why we place such a huge importance on the recruitment and development of our team members. We want to be sure that whoever we are bringing in our A-team is capable of realising this and positively contribute to our culture and growth.
‘Is it utopia?’ some might ask. Definitely not! We have made mistakes along the way for which we paid a high price. But who has not? The secret is learning from mistakes and aim for consistent improvement. Our journey is still ongoing, but taking care of our team members is very high on our agendas. 2016 is expected to bring about a resource growth of 22% in our A-team which we are looking forward to with a tight-knit team backing us up.
Like John Smith (aka Hannibal) of the A-team says…’I love it when a plan comes together’.