Anyone who has ever run a business, or one of its major functions, will be able to testify that some of the best work done is done in smaller, more focused groups rather than larger, more faceless hierarchies. However, as firms grow, a disjunct appears between this high value placed on small teamwork and the need for a larger workforce to carry out tasks. With the Office for National Statistics saying that 64.9% of jobs are at “high risk” of automation, perhaps now is the time to reconsider just how to make the most of the human capital within an organisation.
Rethink big numbers – consider increasing automation
It used to be the case that the only way to build a successful multi-million turnover business was to hire lots of staff. This was partly because, in the pre-automation age, more people were needed to carry out all of the tasks that computers couldn’t do, and it was also for reasons of appearance and image: large staff sizes are proof of a good cash flow, at least.
The legacy of this is still in force, and that means that developing a nimbler, yet still highly profitable staff structure could give an organisation a competitive advantage. That organisation would need to act fast, though: figures from the Office for National Statistics show there are 3.5 redundancies for every 1,000 employees in the UK, suggesting that more and more organisations are considering cutbacks. Rather than hiring additional finance staff, scalable and integrated finance and accounting software can help a firm to ensure that its investment priority is as targeted as possible.
Keep briefs clear to maximise productivity and efficiency
Unclear briefs can be damaging – and in a small group environment, employees may avoid voicing concerns over the clarity of a brief in an attempt to save face. For that reason, tasking a client team or small group with some work requires very clear and precise instructions. “Be innovative” could be one of the instructions – so a move like this doesn’t necessarily have to stifle innovation.
In recent years, the concept of the “intrapreneur” – or someone who encourages innovation and vision while being an internal employee of a firm rather than self-employed – has taken off. Deloitte cites statistics which suggest that a fifth of all employees demonstrate some level of entrepreneurial behaviour – suggesting that this is more common than might be assumed. Embedding a search for intrapreneurs into a firm’s hiring process is a smart move: recruiting people with skills like advanced problem-solving abilities is a great way to ensure that the company gets a good return on investment.
Focus on company culture
Company culture refers to the intangibles of working in a particular organisation: it’s the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and ultimately the feeling of being valued – or not – by one’s employer. It’s highly prized by employees: one study from Glassdoor even claimed that 56% of workers care more about company culture than they do about the grade of pay.
In organisations with multi-million-pound turnovers, though, company culture can quickly be forgotten about as the hierarchy swells – and with so many people clearly valuing it, it’s important to act to preserve it where possible. Giving employees a chance to air their views to management can help to create a positive system in this regard. It’s wise to create feedback loops which allow employees to ask, clarify or vent: creating buddy systems for new starters and implementing a system of dedicated personal managers as well as line managers are two great ideas here. Additionally, conducting regular surveys which allow employees to share anonymous thoughts is wise, as it’s a low-cost way to increase employee engagement and gauge whether they are happy and enables you to deal with any concerns they may have.
Building a successful business doesn’t necessarily mean that an organisational leader has to sacrifice dreams of a visionary, agile and flexible company that can respond with ease to consumer demands. As the examples of successful yet innovative firms such as Apple show, becoming a corporation does not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive with the entrepreneurial – or even “intrapreneurial” – culture of a much smaller start-up.
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