Plusnet CEO Andy Baker shares his tips from the top and how he seeks to keep satisfaction high, churn low, and the business successful
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to motivating colleagues, but I believe it’s all about striking the right balance between keeping people inspired and reaching your business goals and ambitions.
It’s important to remember that business is about people and having a happy team leads to happier customers and ultimately, business success.
Being a CEO is hugely rewarding, especially when you can see your team motivated and driven. During my career, I’ve had the privilege of heading up teams at big companies like Virgin and BT before taking my position at Plusnet. Each role has required an entirely different strategy to sustain employee satisfaction, but I’ve learnt a few essential lessons along the way. As part of the Plusnet Pioneers campaign – a programme of events, content and mentoring to help start-ups realise their ambitions – I want to share some tips that can be applied to businesses of any nature and size.
1. Make talent your top priority
Nurturing and retaining talent should be a top priority for any business. People are your most valuable asset and good talent is often more difficult to replace than material or financial resources. At Plusnet, we work hard to ensure people across the entire company feel satisfied in their jobs. It’s important that the team feel proud to work for your company and are motivated to get out of bed in the morning.
2. Create a distinctive company culture
As simple as it sounds, establishing a distinctive company culture helps to keep people motivated. We’ve found that our unique, family-orientated culture at Plusnet means people feel valued and work hard as a result. Establishing a friendly, relaxed and informal environment makes our team feel comfortable in their surroundings and subsequently happy in their jobs. Simple initiatives, such as celebrating achievements with employees, help to ensure they feel like they’re an important part of the team. Rewarding our people with small gestures and treats like cake and handwritten thank you and congratulations cards reminds them how important they are, and it goes a long way to putting a smile on their faces.
3. Have a vision that your team can buy into
Plusnet’s brand promise, ‘We’ll do you proud’, rings true as much for our team as for our customers. We’ve worked hard to maintain our values since day one – and 20 years later, we’re proud to strive for the same principles. We’re all about being a helpful, straight talking team that works as one through the ups and downs. At Plusnet, we’ve learnt that you can achieve so much more by working as one team towards a common goal.
As a CEO, it’s important to continually remind your team of your values and express them through everything you do. That’s why I have an open-door policy to encourage people to approach me with questions and ideas, no matter how big or small.
4. Communication is key
For a business of any size, communication is key to establishing mutual trust and respect among employees. Being open and honest means people feel involved, and consequently, are more dedicated to the company. As a business with over 1,200 employees, we take any opportunity to share information with our team through ‘The Wire’, a bespoke communication portal that runs alongside two weekly newsletters. We’ve witnessed the benefits of sharing news and keeping people in the loop by seeing the results of our anonymous bi-annual surveys.
However, the benefits of face-to-face interaction should never be forgotten. While ‘The Wire’ is a useful tool, we are also committed to a more personal approach to communication, hosting quarterly bulletins and company rallies. I also host regular forums and monthly ‘Welcome Breakfasts’ for our latest recruits so they can get to know me from the minute they step through the door. I’ve found it’s extremely important to practice what you preach and lead by example. For particularly important company news, myself and the senior management team will often walk through the office talking to staff, answering their questions and ensuring that they feel involved.
5. Giving back
Our helpful ethos means we also give back to the community, sponsoring the Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon Series and supporting a range of events including Street League, Red Nose Day and Dragons’ Den in schools across the region. We see the value in offering the team at least half a day off a year to support a range of fundraising initiatives and community schemes. This also makes them feel proud to work for a conscientious company that cares about helping others in society.
Giving back to your colleagues is essential too. Make time to reward people with perks and invest in new facilities to keep up morale. While financial rewards are important to make the team feel valued, it’s often the smaller, inexpensive extras that make all the difference. That’s why, in addition to pension schemes, annual bonuses and share save options, we offer many benefits to employees as part of the Plusnet Perks scheme. This includes free broadband, phone and TV packages, monthly and annual travel passes and free lunches. We also provide facilities like breakout areas and a games room for the team to unwind, relax or play leisurely games like table-tennis and pool. Allowing colleagues to enjoy breaks away from their desks keeps them inspired, motivated and in turn, more productive.
6. Invest in skill sets
Training and development often slips to the bottom of the list for busy business leaders. But investing in training not only supports personal development, it generates more knowledge among the team and strengthens the business as a whole. It’s a great tool to make people feel appreciated. We believe that allowing people to take time out of work to support development and improve ability is always time gained. At Plusnet, we offer 12-week training academies in key areas, such as digital, business intelligence and finance. We’re proud to have helped many of our colleagues achieve professional qualifications in CIPD, CIM and CIMA and more, enabling them to progress within the company and their individual careers. Personally, I believe there’s no better way to drive a business forward than by enhancing the knowledge and skill sets of the team.
Lack of progression is sometimes a reason for someone feeling demotivated. People like to be reassured of their own development and want to feel like they’re really going places. As an example, the Plusnet Career Pathway is a specially developed portal, which hosts hundreds of individually tailored development points, allowing our people to see their own progression path. We’ve also set up the Employee Assistance Programme, a confidential support service, which provides information, advice and training to help individuals deal with issues in both their work and personal life.
7. Don’t be afraid to question yourself
If you’re having trouble retaining people or keeping them motivated, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at wider issues within your business. It may be that there’s a lack of culture and integral values, or perhaps a hostile and rigid working environment has developed. Whatever you’re looking to achieve should come from the top, so if there’s something you’re not seeing in colleagues, it may be that they’re not seeing it in you to begin with. There’s no set formula to achieving job satisfaction among your team, but have faith and remember it’s often a matter of trial and error to find the right answers.