Helping Staff to Understand the Bigger Picture

Here is a confession: when I first started as a brand ambassador, I was rubbish. All of a sudden at 18 I was being hired to work these random shifts with super fun co-workers and no helicopter manager around. It’s not that I wasn’t doing the job, it’s just that I didn’t understand my role nor value its importance.

Fast forward a few years and I was better. I showed up a few minutes early and handed out all the samples, delivering my lines as memorised.

A few years even later? This time with experience as an account executive, I got it. Suddenly I understood the dedication, the extreme planning requirements and the delicate client relationships that all boiled down to the moment that the brand ambassadors were in action. Now when I was booked on field work, I showed up early. Handed the samples to the right target demographic. Understood the brand message and how they wanted us to represent them.

If only every temporary staff member could come with this experience already, a huge hurdle would be overcome in the often crazy world of booking staff. Based on my experiences, here are some ideas on how you can be helping staff to understand the bigger picture:

Encourage field staff to work in the office

Have a bit of extra, straightforward booking that can be done? Or even some general admin work? Encourage your field staff to come in and experience the office. Not only are many field staff looking to gain more permanent, office work meaning this would be a great opportunity to give it a try, but just being there in the hectic environment, listening to the conversations with clients, picking up on just how much work bookers put into each shift – it’s guaranteed to leave an impression.

Host social events between managers and field staff

Create links between the field staff and the managers. Not only will friendships be built, but a sense of wanting to do good for another person and loyalty will follow. A sense of trust between each end will help to provide better results.

Provide thorough briefs with fresh text

Reading the same brief with a different <<client name>>  and <<briefing details>> inserted each time gets dull. It also conveys the message that each job is the same just for a different brand and we all know this isn’t the case. Each event is unique, each client has different requirements and this needs to be translated for staff and communicated clearly.

Follow up with specific feedback

Whether from an event manager, yourself, a mystery shopper or even the client, personal feedback will show the value each staff member has to your business. Specific comments – whether good or reflecting the need for improvement – will encourage staff, help them develop their careers and show them that you’re willing to invest time to help them better themselves.

Help yourself – and your clients – by showing staff the grand picture. They are the final step in a very long process involving hundreds of people and huge sums of money, and all this effort boils down to their efforts in those crucial hours of work. Only by involving them in the process and valuing field staff as individuals can they also invest as much energy as you do.

5 Tips to Optimise Your Health at Work

Great staffing doesn’t just come from having processes in place and fantastic field staff – the booking team are the people making the magic happen behind the scenes, so this article is just for you guys.

I’m guessing you spend most of your work day behind a computer – building jobs and booking staff on Watu, of course. Mouse-hand pulled forward, your back in a relaxed arch with your neck craning towards the screen. A little something like this:

hunched skeleton
Does this look familiar?

 

Can you catch yourself doing it now? Yes? Then read on for 5 tips to optimise your health at work:

  1. AK stand up deskMove every 15 minutes: I’m not saying go for a jog; just grab a glass of water, do a lap around the office, stroll outside to the corner and back. Do anything that will get you out of that chair.
  2. Have a stand up/ sit down desk: Make point number one even easier by having a desk that can be either a stand up or sit down area. Not possible? Sit working at your desk, stand working at another location in the office – maybe on a bookshelf? Sitting all day is being compared to smoking such is the negative affect on your health. I’m not saying stand up all day, but just remember to mix it up.
  3. Make it a walking meeting: Can you spot the theme here? Daily movement throughout the day is your goal. Even if you’re a gym-goer, that doesn’t negate the side effects of sitting. Plus, walking stimulates the mind so your might finish the meeting bursting with ideas!
  4. Let your eyes relax: When staring at the screen, one part of your body working really hard is your eyes. Looking at close objects means your eyes are contracted. Give them a break by looking into the distance every now and then. Maybe even during that walking meeting…
  5. Roll your feet: Do you stand up feeling stiff and bundled up? Grab a golf or lacrosse ball, slip it under your desk  and slowly roll your feet over it with deep pressure. Do this for 2 minutes each foot a couple times a day, and walk around feeling looser, lighter and more flexible.

Try out just one tip, a couple or even all five. We don’t have to all sit like turtles at our desks, so challenge your body to feel the benefits for life – then drop us a line to let us know how it’s going!

Increasing productivity by 500%

Herman Miller, the makers of the acclaimed Aeron chair, produce a new chair every 17 seconds.  13 years ago, they were producing a chair every 82 seconds.  Here are some of the facts:

  • 500% productivity gain
  • 1000% product quality gain
  • Safety has increased by a 6 multiple
  • Quality metrics have increased by a factor of 10 
  • The production of an Aeron chair now takes only 20% of the labour resource it did in 1998.

So how have they done it?  Through the disciplined application of Kaizen (“improvement”), the famed management technique used by Toyota as it built itself up to be the largest car company in the world.  Kaizen generally refers to the practise of continuous improvement across all functions of the business, from the CEO right the way through the business to include external stakeholders when applicable.

Contrary to what one might assume would be the nature of a continuous efficiency drive, kaizen actually drives hard at humanizing businesses, eliminating overly hard work by teaching employees how to spot and eliminate waste in business processes.  This waste not only costs money, the symptom of an over worked, inefficient work force is increased absence, fatigue induced errors, low retention rates and high recruitment costs as a result.   For kaizen to be truly effective the human resource side of the business has to be nurtured as successful implementation relies on the participation of workers in the improvement

Utilising the same labor force, Herman Miller produces 17 chairs, up from 5, and lead times have dropped from 2 months to 10 days.  These improvements have been reached, and continue to be reached, a quarter to half a second at a time, month after month.

This is our assertion at watu.  Staffing agencies have acres of opportunity to create additional efficiencies through the application of Kaizen.  From the recruitment and on-boarding of temporary staff, through to the booking of shifts, the confirmation of contracts, the dissemination of shift details and the overall communication between the office and the field, there are minutes (not quarter or half seconds) to be saved.  Minutes that add up to hours that add up to days.

Save days in increased efficiency and you reduce both costs and the burden of work on your team, increase their happiness at work, turning staff booking time in to client facing time and increasing the time spent talking to staff and building relationships.  As the principle of kaizen states, external stakeholders should be included when appropriate.  No industry requires external stakeholder participation more than the temporary staffing industry and yet so little is done to create efficiencies around collaboration, transparency and the sharing of information.

The application of kaizen in staffing is immensely exciting and will be hugely profitable to the teams that implement successfully.  Successful implementation requires awesome technology.  We’re building that technology at watu.

Reference: www.fastcodesign.com

You could outsource your build…

As we start to bring founding customers on to watu we are having numerous conversations about the difference between out sourced build (when the customer partners with a web design agency to build an application) and buying a SAAS product such as watu.  Here’s the difference:

1.  Wiping the slate clean: Great product is achieved through a process of building, breaking down and building again.  It is an iterative, learning process that requires the validation, and often invalidation, of ideas in order to get to the very best conclusion.

This very process is incongruent to the business model of a web design agency.   By quoting a price for a product, they immediately restrict the trial and error options fundamentally needed to build the best solution.  Their quote, based on an allocation of time and resource, runs in to trouble if they find a problem.  Economically, they have to build a patch as a complete re-think and re-build just isn’t in the budget.

Product businesses such as watu have the luxury of complete focus on one product.  If we believe that there is a better way, our business model demands that we throw away and start again.  We’re only a success if we build the very best product.

2. Focus: When you outsource your build, you usually do so to an agency that counts you as one customer amongst many.  You get assigned a project leader, a set amount of coder and designer time.  After a couple of brainstorms and a functional spec, they go off and build.  You are one project in a long line of projects.

At watu, we’r building one product.  Every moment of every day is spent on this mission, to build the very greatest staffing application for our customers and their staff.  Every brainstorm, every learning, all our user generated feedback, our resource, energy and ambition is focussed on one product.

3. Specialism: Web design agencies are good at web design/application projects.  They know how to build and design good product.  To build GREAT product, they rely on the customer to not only understand the problem they are trying to solve, but to understand the process and be able to easily work alongside the dev team to execute on the idea.  Not easy.

At watu, our team consists of hugely talented developers (our Co-Founder started coding at 7 years old and worked at Google before joining watu) and a CEO who owned a multi-national temporary staffing business, as well as a permanent recruitment company.  Together, they have insight and knowledge across the entire spectrum, from product vision through to awesome execution.

4. The very best coders tend to work at start ups: So there may be a few that don’t, but in the vast majority, the very best coders work in start up land.  Why? Because start up land is about invention and it requires the very best.  Invention requires huge leaps of faith, awesome processing power to visualise and execute on the path to success, exciting exposure to risk and for the few who make it, glory.  Where would you rather work?

5. Two scenarios:

a. You outsource a build and have delivered, a few months later, your £20,000 application.  It requires maintenance and constant iterations to get it where you wanted it to be, purely because you realise as you start to use it, what works and what doesn’t.  The product ages over time and becomes a frankenstein patchwork of add ons.  Technology continues to move forward, but your product stands still.

b. You pay a monthly subscription fee to a cloud hosted application.  The company who build the application spend every waking moment improving the product to the benefit of it’s users.  The technology stays current, the application becomes greater every day, and your monthly fee stays the same.  Two years from now, watu will have had over £500,000 of resource application applied to it and will still only cost a small monthly subscription fee.

You could outsource your build, but why would you?

Why staffing agencies shouldn’t build their own technology

Here’s what happens when staffing agencies build their own databases:

1.  Agency decides that their particular requirements are unique and require a bespoke solution.

2. Agency sources and shortlists 3 web design companies and briefs them on their needs.

3. Web design companies conduct a brainstorm with the project team from the agency.  The brainstorm brings up the macro problems and highlights some obvious efficiency gains but it fails to address numerous opportunities that are only learnt through trial and error.

4. Three quotes are received, reviewed and one agency chosen.  A further brainstorm wrings out a few more opportunities and the build commences.

5.  Gradually, the product takes shape, each development bringing new opportunities and questions, each with their price.

6. Product is deployed.  £10 – £35k spent.

7. Agency starts using it and creates a list of ‘nice to haves’ that got missed out in the brainstorm.  Average nice to have is anywhere between £500 and £2000.  Agency spends approximately £6-£8k per year, excluding hosting to try and turn the original build in to something that really nails the problem rather than 70% of it.

8. Two years later, the agency has spent another £16k or so on top of the initial outlay and the product is two years old, two years out of date.

9.  Finally, security.  Features are added when money is available, but bugs happen all the time and security bugs will appear in the custom code or the libraries and services used by the application and without a team constantly looking into the app and the infrastructure, constantly updating it, keeping track of new releases and security advisories, the system will become vulnerable to attack. And it doesn’t take a targeted attack to take it down, there are computer programs scanning automatically for systems with vulnerabilities to take them over and generally use them to send spam or do phishing attacks.

But the technology is proprietary so surely this adds value to the business?  Simple answer, not really.  In fact, if the business gets bought, the clunky old software might be one of the first things that gets reviewed and the whole process starts again.

Don’t build your own technology, it’s a false economy.  Your problems are often not unique.  Find the very best cloud hosted application for that particular need, review their pricing model (often a low monthly cost) and sign up for a trial.  They usually don’t have contract restrictions so you can jump on and off with little hassle.  Every month, their product will get better, your price will stay the same, and your company will be run on an up to date, ever evolving, super product from now on in.

Some applications you might want to check out:

CRM – www.highrisehq.com

Project Management – www.basecamp.com

Task Management – www.asana.com

Staffing Database – www.watu.wpengine.com

Easy Newsletters – www.mailchimp.com

* The article above is based on the experience of three different promotional staffing agency founders, two who have tried to sell their businesses.