Our last newsletter introduced the idea that freelancers, and other professional virtual team members, are likely to be more “engaged” and aligned with your business vision than many permanent employees. You told us this warranted further consideration – and we agree!
That’s why our current research project includes questions which ask business owners for their views on the performance of project teams and their expectations when it comes to engagement of internal (employees) and external (freelance) team members.
Many studies over the last 5-10 years have concluded that “engagement” is the key to innovation, performance and productivity and there are some truly compelling statistics (see below) that demonstrate both the positive and negative impacts of ensuring all team members understand, believe in and take ownership of the company’s future; the goals and the vision. Our own project will help translate this knowledge into useful insights actionable within the emerging, more fluid, employment landscape.
The UK Government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) commissioned a comprehensive report on the subject of Employee Engagement, quoting some fascinating statistics from such trusted international sources as Gallup, Tower Perrins-ISR and the Chartered Management Institute.
Did you know that…
Companies with the best levels of employee engagement (top quartile) can expect to see…
- 18% higher productivity
- 12% higher profitability
- An EPS (earnings per share) rate 2.6 times higher
…than companies found in the bottom quartile
Likewise, companies in that bottom quartile of employee engagement measurement suffer…
- Employee turnover 31-51% higher
- Theft or stock “shrinkage” 51% higher
- 62% more accidents in the workplace
…than companies in the top quartile
Not only this, there are many examples of British companies across various sectors that have quoted similar findings specific to their own operations and business models.
The Co-operative Group focused on developing employee engagement in their recent period of transformation, introducing a focus on engagement that changed their approach to internal communication which has underpinned the turnaround of the business.
Yorkshire based public transport provider Metro has developed an employee engagement program which has helped the company change from a traditional and bureaucratic operation to an award winning innovator with high rates of employee retention and customer satisfaction.
The construction industry was hit hard by the recent economic downturn, with sales figures dropping by 50% year in year JCB pro-actively managed employee engagement to ensure they have a sustainable business built around people who understand the strategy for ensuring they come out the other side ready to grow again.
Also the CIPD regularly quote the most recent examples in their workshops and presentations including major high street and supermarket brands like M&S and Tesco.
In my experience working with large companies, smaller businesses and as a business owner myself, generally speaking the people who are quickest to…
A – understand the concepts and strategies relating to a project/business vision
B – make valid and useful suggestions that will help refine the approach
C – get enthusiastic about action and the delivery of the objectives
…are those team members who have been business owners themselves, the freelancers who are used to thinking strategically about a range of different client business models, at the same time as completing actions to get a job done, making them both agile and adaptable. It can be far more difficult and time consuming to get a similar level of engagement (and therefore performance) from full time employees who have had a narrower range of experience with less strategic decision making – and perhaps even a focus on the security of a monthly wage, rather than delivering client value and trading on reputation.
Whether a team consists of internal employees, external consultants, freelance specialists or a mixture; the quicker you can generate and confirm alignment with the goal the sooner you can make progress against the objectives. Without a shared vision the risk of mistakes, confusion and inefficiency increases massively.
The natural process is to hold a thorough discussion with everyone involved to explore all aspects of where you want to go, getting input and ideas on how to get there and defining their role and responsibilities. It is important to test understanding in advance and along the way, so you can make decisions on whether individuals “get-it” enough to be involved.
That is the whole purpose of the task proposal and discussion elements of the Skills-Hive system. Putting people ahead of process to create more effective teams with everyone aligned to a shared vision.
“One of the key aspects of delivering great projects is making sure that everyone buys in to the goal and the vision. Only working with full-timers can be a false economy – in my experience including freelancers with the right skills can help get more done faster – as they are very delivery focussed – and often the quickest to engage with a great vision.”
Tom Ball – Founder of NearDesk “The card that lets you work anywhere”
Initial discussions with Hirers in our research project have helped us develop and refine our understanding of the importance of this element of team formulation. Building on the insights gained, we want to explore how best to take this aspect of the Skills-Hive ethos further, embedding the engagement principles deeper within the system. We can look at creating things like “alignment ratings” for Workers within the Hirer dashboard and evolving the feedback system to include a measure of how good people are at communicating a vision as a Hirer and engaging with it as a Worker, but more importantly we want to make it as easy and intuitive as possible for Hirers to communicate and explore their vision with team members, perhaps introducing mind mapping tools to aid the discussion. Any other ideas are welcome!
So, what do you think?…
Have you had experience working with freelancers on a project?
What was it like getting them on board in terms of vision and engagement?
What challenges have you faced when enthusing and aligning full time employees with the business strategy?
Maybe your experience has been completely different to what we have found out so far, we would love to hear from you! (just leave a comment below or head to our Facebook page)