This was a young and quickly growing specialist software company with little management experience and no experience of managing human resource issues. They were at a tipping point with a very high staff turnover of 25% and the very real potential loss of their biggest client due to missed deadlines.
While the project was sponsored by the part-time Chairman and MD and the Directors understood that to turn the business around required a major change, they saw no reason to change their own management style which was to blame.
A long-hours culture, unclear company and personal objectives and unrealistic timescales meant that staff were working in an atmosphere of confusion and stress, leaving them very demoralised.
This was a complex project with the need for some ‘quick wins’ to engage and motivate staff to remain with the company for the immediate future and so a number of strands were developed simultaneously.
Having quickly agreed the first priorities with the Directors, the next step was to engage and involve staff in the change programme. Staff representatives from each department were nominated to act as spokespeople for their colleagues and provide project support.
Throughout the period of the project communication was put at the heart of the change and included monthly project updates and a ‘pulse-check’ of staff morale, the introduction of management ‘open-door’ policy and weekly one-to-one surgeries.
A high priority was to stem the flow of staff leaving as each departure meant further delay to projects.
The first staff ‘pulse check’ revealed many of the reasons for low staff morale and poor performance in meeting customer requirements. To demonstrate that the Directors were committed to improving conditions following the survey, a ‘quick fix’ was implemented by slightly reducing weekly hours and flexibility in daily start and finish times. The remuneration package was also reviewed and improved to reflect team performance.
A review of the organisation structure showed that reporting lines were unclear with several staff reporting to all three Directors for different activities. A new organisation structure was implemented which provided clear reporting lines and aligned departments within the sales and support structures.
As the project progressed, further updates were implemented:
- Implementation of Company Competencies. A cross-functional team was set up to create a set of company competencies which reflected the culture and objectives of the organisation which would be used for recruitment, development and assessment
- Standard Job Descriptions and Person Specifications
Standard templates were developed and used for recruitment and for all and agreed for each existing role. Function heads were appointed with a clear remit of activities.
The introduction of performance management meant that each employee had an agreed set of individual performance objectives, aligned to the company’s objectives. All managers were trained in objective setting and how to conduct a performance review.
Directors received regular one-to-one coaching sessions to develop their management style, encouraging them to play a more effective role in managing their staff. All staff were trained in coaching techniques to promote a coaching culture.
All staff were assessed against both the company competencies and results of their individual performance review were fed into individual and company development plans
- Development Planning and Training
As a result of the skills assessment, company and individual development plans were agreed and implemented. Key programmes were developed to be delivered in-house, whilst others were sourced externally.
In addition, a standard Induction programme of activities and information seeking and giving was introduced for all new staff to accelerate integration into the company and to aid retention.
A 360o questionnaire was developed, based on the company competencies and feedback collated. Directors received individual feedback which fed into their coaching and development plans
- Standard Policies and Procedures
These had formerly been ad hoc and a structured approach was taken to provide a framework and consistency. These were subsequently developed into a staff handbook.
The initial expectation of this project was to introduce an HR process from zero base and to recruit and retain the right staff. This expectation, however, was far exceeded and at the end of 6 months the company:
- Had retained its customers and signed new customer contracts
- Staff turnover had reduced from 25% to 5% and morale was significantly improved
- Staff had the appropriate skills to continue to meet and exceed objectives
- Investors in People had been achieved, providing greater status with current and potential customers
- Directors had greatly improved their management style and actively managed staff