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While most focus may go on dealing with members of staff not pulling their weight, business leaders must be careful to not ignore their best performing staff who are the most important assets.

Businesses which help talent flourish can improve retention, motivation and financial performance. To find out how, our productivity partner Be the Business spoke to two companies benefiting from giving employees the opportunity to provide regular feedback, suggest new product or strategy ideas, develop their skill sets and choose their own working patterns.

Verve trusts people to choose their own working patterns

Finding working patterns which keep talented staff happy, motivated and feeling empowered is practised by word-of-mouth sales platform Verve. Co-founder Callum Negus-Fancey has created a particularly innovative working culture where all meetings are optional and everyone can take as much holiday as they need in order to perform at their best.

"We have offices in London, Los Angeles and most recently Las Vegas. In each we spend a huge amount of time and resources in setting the culture,” he explained.

"We have created an environment based on the drivers of intrinsic motivation which are freedom, ownership and mastery as we believe this gets the best out of people. Freedom and ownership is about working in the way that gets the best results; our team have clear goals and the ability to choose how they reach them, including when and where they work, the meetings they attend and how much holiday they need. Mastery is about helping someone understand the overlap of what they love and what they are best at, and then working with them to get there."

He admitted that this new way of working does take people time to adjust to. “It’s a behavioural change and a process of unlearning what they have experienced before,” he said. “Our culture is built on unlocking people’s passion and potential because it creates better results."

Maxi Haulage takes an innovative approach to talent development

Assault courses, marathons and go-kart racing might not be many business owners’ idea of talent development, but Ayrshire-based transport group Maxi Haulage believes it’s been the best route to better performance.

Alan Miles, the company’s managing director, explained that these energetic activities are part of the company’s annual development scheme, which sees mostly younger employees take part in an intensive two-week training programme.

“We are in the fifth year of the programme now and part of it challenges the delegates to raise money for charity. They have to find a way to do so as part of a team using networking, analytical and creative skills. It gets their brains working and over the five years we’ve raised £40,000 for charities,” he said.

The programme also teaches the staff more about the business – such as how it gains work, works out prices, makes profit, develops customer relationships and fits in the wider industry.

“They hear from me and other experts in the company about our careers and the mistakes and good decisions we’ve made during them,” Miles explained. “We take up to eight every year and they are mostly, though not all, from our younger members of staff with between two and four years of experience. They apply and are chosen for the course after an interview process and psychometric tests. We are looking for people with potential. We find that in our industry that it is difficult to hire from the outside, so we want to develop our own young talent.”

After the programme, Miles said, he looks for delegates to “immediately impact profits”. This is ideally done by building closer relationships with each other, come forward with ideas, mentor and look to be mentored and “develop a passion for a specialist subject”.

He added: “We’ve had 38 people go through the courses to date. They get to know themselves better and develop a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses with some progressing to managerial positions. By empowering them and giving them confidence, it has helped the business, which is growing turnover by ten per cent each year. Our retention rates have also benefited, with only two people of the 38 leaving us for elsewhere.”

Key takeaways

  • Your best-performing staff are a business’s best assets – don’t neglect them.
  • Trusting people to work flexibly or even choose their own working patterns can help motivate and empower your workforce.
  • Investing time and effort in promising team members can help drive innovation and growth.

About the author

Be the Business

This article was produced by our productivity partner Be the Business. We’re working with Be the Business to help businesses across the UK improve their productivity and boost their performance.

Find out more about Be the Business.


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