As we approach the end of 2014, Christmas is looming and everybody is looking forward to celebrating with family and friends,. it is natural for us to begin to reflect and look back on what we have managed to achieve in the year, giving ourselves time to think about our new year resolutions and ensure we have executed everything we promised we would do this time last year. As well as a time for nostalgia, it also gives us the chance to set out our main goals for 2015 and drive ambition throughout the business.
For me, Christmas presents itself as the perfect opportunity to ask my staff if they are happy, if they feel valued in their role and ultimately, why they still work for me, and you should be doing the same.
Take advantage of the Christmas social calendar, reconnect with and remotivate your staff. Remind them why your business is a great place to work, take their comments on board and if you're brave enough ask them the question: Why are you still working for me?
If their answer to the question is weak and you are not convinced by the response, you should be starting to think about how you can adapt your working environment to re-motivate them and provide an environment where they can flourish. Also, think about how you are communicating the businesses ambitions and vision for the future. If you own a business, or are in a leadership role, the business vision may be clear to you, but how well is that being communicated to your staff who are dealing with customers day to day?
Start with asking your employees what they do and don't like about working with you, how they work best and what you can do to help, and see if they are clear on their role within your organisation. By doing this you are diminishing any feelings of fear or anxiety and enhancing your personability.
Don't worry, I practice what I preach - just this week I had a one to one with Deepak our Chief Investment Officer. As my longest standing colleague, we have been working together for 10 years so we have inevitably built a very strong working relationship. When I put the question to him, he reaffirmed my vision of the company and his role within it and said:
"I like the challenge of working at Hamilton Bradshaw because every month is different, there is no limit to what I can do, I am able to take my own initiative and I know you trust me to make the right decision - but even if I don't, we both treat it as a learning curve. The rapid growth of HB also allows me to develop and aids my mental stimulation and curiosity".
It is really important you gain an understanding of how satisfied your employees are in their role and asking this question can help you do that. Remember, if someone is reluctant to give any feedback or they seem to have some underlying issues, they are a prime target for headhunters.
Motivating staff is the key to creating a happy, productive environment. At Hamilton Bradshaw, I ask all of my employees to send me a weekly report of their projects, highlighting what they have done to make a difference that week. I find this helps to establish purpose as my staff feel valued in their role and know that I am interested in their progress.
I find that working in an open planned office also adds to this mentality. The benefits of working collaboratively in an open planned office are endless for employees and employers alike. Working alone at a desk can be very lonely and disheartening. A lack of physical barriers in an office space makes it easier for employees to interact with each other on a regular basis and this constant intermingling encourages camaraderie and teamwork.
At HB, there is no hierarchy - I purposely sit opposite my communications team so I know what's happening with the brand at all times and this shows I am available for anybody to ask for advice or assistance without having to knock on a door or plan a formal one to one - this way interactions in the office are more frequent and informal.
This increased collaboration often lends well to business innovation, a key component in entrepreneurial environments like what we have at HB. When I asked Deepak, he agreed and said:
"One of the best things of working at HB is the fact that you sit across the room from me so when I'm working on a project, instead of spending an hour drafting a four page email and waiting aimlessly for a response, I can just pop over and ask for your thoughts."
In this sense, colleagues are offered autonomy and flexibility in their roles. Everybody is encouraged to take their own risks and new ideas are always welcomed. The only thing I ask of them is to have a plan of action and proof of value. This means they can go beyond their defined areas - they are not boxed in their job role. I always say the only time you're doing something wrong is when you're not doing anything at all.
So don't be afraid to be open and ask your employees why they are still around and why they still work for you. The insight you gather from this exercise could be the difference between your staff thinking 'new year new career' or 'new year I'm happy here'.