Real business story

Getting the most out of your best people

You utilise hours and numerous resources to track down the best people for your vacancies, but once you’ve found them, how do you ensure that you get the most out of your latest employee?
Zak Edwards, Prezzybox

One of Prezzybox's values is around innovation, so allowing people to flourish is important for founder Zak Edwards

Staff are the driving force behind your business, which is why so much effort goes into ensuring that the best people are hired for the role.

But ensuring that staff have the opportunities to exercise the ideas that made them so outstanding at interview can be a challenge for many companies.

Reward high achievers with partner status

At strategy insight agency Opinium, they’ve taken on a different approach to ensuring their employees put their utmost into everything the company drives towards: awarding shares.

“At the beginning, the original investors believed the equity scheme would help build the business by attracting great talent and encouraging them to join us on the journey,” said managing director James Endersby. “To have 25 per cent of equity with our employees is unheard of in our industry, but we find that those high levels make [the staff] more motivated and engaged. It boots performance because, with ownership, comes more responsibility.”

Each employee has the opportunity to become a partner, but it is usually awarded to the employee with the greatest individual performance. “We had an intern join us around four years ago who, because of their performance and contribution to the business, is now a partner,” explained James. “But it is not only rewarded to those who are the highest revenue earners, it is based on who has added value or efficiencies to the business. There is no single rule.”

James went on to say that there were also plenty of possibilities for staff to develop on a personal level which, in turn, boosted the productivity of the business overall. “Our junior researchers work on projects alongside our directors. It is a very collegiate feel and, again, that’s not the norm for the research industry,” James reported, before adding, “We also encourage our employees to explore passions by carrying out their own research and producing thought papers.” He cited the success of a piece some of his staff had done on multicultural Britain which led to an on-going collaboration with the Labour MP Chuka Umunna.

Empower your best people to do more

See what extra energy they can bring to the business

Utilise your team's skills effectively

Of course, not every business can offer shares as a reward for achievements, but there are plenty of other ways to ensure your best employees remain motivated and engaged, as Zak Edwards attests.

As founder of Prezzybox, Zak found that his team were being unmotivated and disillusioned in their roles. To stimulate change, he began by looking at the assets the company already had, and realised that the skills that his team possessed weren’t being utilised effectively, especially their tech capabilities.

“One of our values is being innovative, so allowing people to flourish is important. We don’t like to put staff in pigeonholes,” Zak explained, “We want to encourage them to think of solutions to problems that we have – and, by default, problems facing the industry.”

By focusing on tech, the company found themselves working on unexpected opportunities, such as an online rewards system and a tool to assist with GDPR compliance. “One of our guys recently developed an online tool around GDPR that we can use internally,” Zak reported, “but we’re now looking at marketing that as a separate business because it’s so awesome.”

In response to the successful side projects, Zak has set up an umbrella company that sits above all the company’s different divisions. He’s excited about the future now that the business’ profits are up by 25-30 per cent.

“There’s a lot of development opportunities for the staff to be involved in some really exciting things – it’s certainly motivating. Everyone is buzzing about our new direction and really on board with it.”

“We don’t like to put staff in pigeonholes. We want to encourage them to think of solutions to problems that we have – and, by default, problems facing the industry.”

Zak Edwards, founder, Prezzybox

Allow your staff to innovate autonomously

Similar to the innovation scheme developed at Prezzybox is the move towards autonomy at technical consultancy Amido. “For us, motivation means giving employees autonomy. We pay good money to smart people and they don’t want to be micro-managed,” said chief executive Alan Walsh.

“Staff own the projects from the start,” he went on, “If we don’t treat them like adults and let them find the work which will properly engage them, then they will leave. It’s a challenge, but we need to do it.”

Alan theorised that, by allowing staff to guide their own projects autonomously, the business was becoming more successful. “Test engineers will gain a variety of experiences on their individual projects, but once a month they get together with their peers to review and discuss learnings to help improve the whole of the test engineering community at the company. It is about sharing their experiences and learning and growing with each other. Again, it is the concept of autonomy and not being dictated to by senior management.”


Top takeaways

Give staff the opportunity to use their skills and innovate autonomously

Reward staff with greater responsibility within the business

Don’t restrict staff to a specific job role or description – allow them to expand