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Helena Moore, director of people at Bromford openly talks about ‘acquiring’ ideas from the world’s most innovative companies. From Zappos to Netflix and Forbes to Harvard – there’s a whole host of global players doing exciting things. Question is, when you’re an ordinary organisation – how do you make these things work? Here she shares her thoughts on the big ideas of today; that could have a massive impact on your business tomorrow.

I suppose I’d describe myself as half-way between a nosey neighbour and kleptomaniac when it comes to sourcing new ideas from some of the globes leading brands. It fascinates me and it’s something I talk about with other organisations … a lot.

The only thing is, that when I do, the response I often get back from people ranges from somewhere between an uncomfortable cringe to a flat out “we can’t do that here” - and quite honestly, I don’t believe that. We’ve all got to change our mindset and look for the great examples out there and then try some of it out. If you’re an ordinary organisation, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever lift an idea directly from a Silicon Valley giant – but you can lift and adapt. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of the key things we’re thinking about at Bromford at the moment – proudly adapted from some of the world’s best known brands:

  • Starting well – This is the attracting, recruiting and induction part of the colleague journey. The key thing for us here is to appreciate that one size doesn’t fit all. For example, we used to have Recruitment in a Box, an attitude-based assessment that many will be familiar with. Now we have recruitment in a field or in a home depending on the role. So instead of testing everyone out in the same circumstances we’ll take (for example) an engineer out to a property with a scenario and test whether they're looking after the customer as well as the boiler!
  • Learning well – Getting colleagues job-ready as fast as possible is vital in terms of efficiency and protecting your brand’s reputation. But nowadays this isn’t about feeding people the information, as Bromford’s mantra ‘there is no spoon’ suggests. At home, people are more than happy to check out a You Tube video to learn how to bleed a radiator, or create a cracking Victoria Sponge – yet people are still struggling to carry this learning style across to their day job. It’s our job to ensure they do. I recently read an article where it likened the most progressive learning and development teams to Sherpa’s and I love this. It’s about supporting, guiding and helping colleagues, but the ascent up the learning trail in terms of appetite and pace is up to the individual.
  • Leading well – Leaders: A vital part of an organisations success, but leaders of the past are not necessarily leaders for the future. For instance, someone who was great at change management would have been a gift years ago, but instead today we’re looking for someone who’s agile, twisting and turning as we go rather than waiting for that one big decision. Our leadership programmes need to reflect this. We’ve just launched a new academy called High-Performance Leadership that aims to prepare our leaders for this changing capability, particularly as we’re likely to see five generations in the workplace nowadays. We’re shifting our leadership approach to embrace new communication skills, to have a much greater element of coaching. And this needs to be more broad than work but life coaching to manage and support the aspirations of all generations – similar to our approach with customers. Leaders need to understand that teams of the future will be more like collectives of people engaging with the business in different ways. There will be more people with portfolio careers and more freelancers for example, all requiring a different ‘glue’ to get the best out of the dynamic.
  • Growing well – In years gone by career development was about moving up the tree, following a very linear progression path. But this doesn’t necessarily provide your business with maximum benefit. Encouraging people to think more broadly about their career path – perhaps getting them to look sideways - can bring all sorts of benefits to them and your organisation. Around 18 months ago the majority of our directors moved around the business, taking on a different portfolio and this has unquestionably led us to be more agile, provided ‘fresh eyes’ and ensured we have a more rounded leadership team
  • Being well – Healthy mind, healthy body, high performance and optimum outputs. It’s time we all got serious about workplace wellbeing. I’d say it’s the one we’ve got a long way to go on – but the principle that our leaders need to be mindfully managing the energy of colleagues in their team on an ongoing basis, not just when they go off sick is vital
  • Performing well – Don’t confuse high performance with career progression. Not everyone needs to be the next CEO, but everyone needs to perform – there’s no room for mediocrity. We need to get better at giving and more importantly taking feedback to improve – this is something I particularly admire about Netflix. The ultimate impact of this is you could have fewer, but better paid people – have the very best.
  • Rewarding well – This is a current hot topic for us as we look for more agile ways to reward our people. We’ve already stripped out job families, but we need more agile ways to reward that consider both market conditions and fairness. We want to be as transparent as possible with our pay and reward, but we know that if we want to be naked we have to look good! 
  • Engaging well – Your organisation will only be its best when you have a highly engaged workforce. Again this has to be the job of leaders to provide the clarity of the mission and also the right culture, but it’s also about improving the communications within your organisation - that’s why social communications is so important at Bromford. Over 70% of our workforce are signed up and actively use Yammer to share work and non-work related posts and this social glue is invaluable. We’re also getting better at measuring engagement – supplementing the age-old annual survey with more regular Pulse surveys, to get a snapshot of engagement at any one time. 
  • Working well - Cut out the lazy space; those offices, rooms and desk spaces that see less action than that kitchen gadget you bought from Betterware. We’re moving to a ‘club, hub, home and roam’ model – shamelessly adapted from Amex. We’re thinking about work space, not office space. 
  • Leaving well – This is not just about ensuring that people leave the business at the right time for them and the organisation, but also making sure that you leverage the value in your organisation’s alumni. What are you doing to either encourage those people (along with all their added experience) back or maximising on that learning?

In all honesty, a lot of this stuff is work in progress for us at Bromford. We’ve identified what we need to do, but now we need to colour that in! But half the journey is recognising that these ideas are out there and you might be able to do something with them. Will we ever adopt full holacracy like Zappos? It’s unlikely – but we recognise the value in flat structures.

The key is to start thinking differently. Establish what your aspirations are for people that help meet your business’ objectives and go out and seek inspiration, adapting as you go.

Director of people at Bromford.  Always on a journey to create great places to work and do positive stuff in some small way. Lucky to work with an amazing crew.

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