Employee engagement and satisfaction, people enablement and empowerment, communication and culture – their impact on the company’s business results are both hot cakes and… hot potatoes. Future Processing does not claim that we know how to make the best of it all. If we did know, we'd have expanded from being software development experts and evolved into one of the top-notch HR consulting companies a long, long time ago. Still, we do have our own practical ways of marrying organisational culture and business strategy so that they may live happily ever after.
And we would like to share with you how we do it.
What is our guiding principle?
Our top relationship advice concerning culture and business strategy is simple: consistency and cohesion. In the context of current sceptical workforce and more and more sceptical customers, this is the only way to go. In effect, both marketing and employer branding are appropriately styled and served narratives, yet their core message remains nothing more than a description of reality. At FP we are convinced that you cannot overdo walking the talk. Ever. Even when you strut towards the altar, where a potential customer or candidate awaits you.
So what are we so consistent and cohesive about? Although there's a current trend that preaches “employees first, customers second”, FP’s answer is simple: we put people first, both our employees and our customers. “Since FP’s very beginnings, respect toward others is the basis for everything we do: talking with our clients, chatting with our colleagues while having coffee in the kitchen, solving everyday problems. In each and every situation that requires us to take action, we are mindful of others, their needs and opinions;” says Ewa Ebelewicz-Plaza, head of people at FP, “We put people fist – all people, in all circumstances.”
Asking questions and paying attention
The foundation stone each organisation needs to dig into the ground is to constantly ask its employees: “And what do you think? What do you want? What do you need?” We always wanted to know what all our colleagues understand behind such concepts as motivation, well-being, satisfaction, trust, quality, good salary and more. And one has to admit: it really is a strenuous task to comb through a cornucopia of qualitative and quantitative data from all possible sources. Their list is almost as long as Kate Middleton’s wedding train and covers input from quarterly feedback meetings taking place between team leaders and members, direct face-to-face feedback, short polls after meetings with company leadership, input we get via our MyFuture intranet and more. But it does pay off. Our crown source of information is an annual Happy Team survey, a regularly updated, extensive questionnaire, which allows us to delve into a multitude of cultural and organisational work-related areas such as support, co-operation, results, trust, appreciation, development, remuneration, benefits.
Listening and answering
Yet, it is never enough to hear. When you are at the altar, you either have to answer or you have to run! At FP we chose the former option and what really makes a difference is the cause-and-effect process: ask – answer – react. Let me give you a very recent and very concrete example. One of the aspects which our colleagues disputed in 2018 were remuneration rates. It was not a surprise, especially taking into account the latest sharp salary peaks we have been witnessing on the Polish IT market. Therefore, with Brexit and slight macroeconomic turmoil waiting outside the church, FP embarked on a journey with the destination: updating salary brackets and generating a solid salary increase budget. When recently, after careful analyses, the good news was finally announced, you could literally hear the loads taking off from managerial shoulders and flapping their wings towards the blue sky. It was a challenge, it was worth it… and we hope that it is still not our last word in this department.
Treating adults like adults
At FP we put faith in our colleagues and we chose to believe that they are trustworthy and competent professionals. Therefore, their inviolable right is the right to be briefed about the company’s situation and thus to be enabled to take well-informed personal and professional decisions.
All our employees, at all times, can find out and discuss the current key financial and HR performance indicators such as profit, earnings performance and employee voluntary partings/rotation, as they are easily accessible via the front page of our intranet. The values shared with employees come from a set of metrics that FP’s managerial team regularly uses to take decisions on the operational and strategic level.
Yet, we chose not to stop mid-way and far as is currently possible, we handed over the management of integration and development budget to our IT professionals. How does it work? A proportionate amount of money is allocated per team, monthly for integration and quarterly for employee development, and afterwards the team, guided by the leader, has the right of choice how to spend it. It is our employees then who share a joint responsibility for driving their professional growth and team-building. True to the philosophy of agility, we want people to feel empowered, enabled and accountable and we want them to do things together – share, discuss, and negotiate in order to arrive at the optimal solution.
Creating welcoming spaces
Everyone knows that a wedding party without comfortable, inviting facilities, nice design, and relaxing surroundings is quite unlikely to be a huge social success. Space influences moods, behaviours and thinking processes, and professional context is not an exception. Therefore, we try to make our office environment both functional and comfortable, but what is most important we play up the unique value of human touch. At FP it is quite common for teams to have their own rooms instead of endless open spaces. Team members are welcome to furnish their rooms and desks with objects they like, add a personal flare and decorations to make them truly theirs.
And the architectural design of FPark, the area where the company is situated, though modern and highly-functional, is of human scale, with its three-storey buildings spreading across a green spacious area. You can sit on a bench and relax in the sun, go for a walk, play some football or simply have a friendly chat with a colleague and reset your mind. The FPark space is not only about work. And the way we understand it is that couches, pouffes, egg chairs, fun rooms or well-stocked kitchens are not enough. Working in IT the way our people do it, with determination, focus and passion, is usually demanding and a huge effort for the mind. Therefore, we have here our own restaurant, fitness studio, a spa space, and a kindergarten on the premises – we treat adults like adults, but children are also invited to this reception!
Communicating and sharing openly
Is it trivial to say that communication is key? It probably would be, were it not for the fact that in so many contexts, it turns out to be just an empty catchphrase. At FP we opened almost all our internal communication channels to all our employees. They are not restricted to being receivers but enabled to be creators. Our common online space, MyFuture intranet, and many other tools like blogs, mentoring market, screens in hallways, photostories, etc. are very much used and alive. The communication we promote is uncensored, so each member of FP team is encouraged to share their opinion. Here at FP, it's like the wedding scene we all know from the movies at which someone stands up and protests after hearing the phrase: Speak now or forever hold your peace.
All rainbows and unicorns?
To some extent yes… we have a special programme for mums who come back to work after maternity leave, we have an onboarding programme, we are open and share important personal milestones with each other, we have company parties, meet-ups, even our own conference. But nope, it is not perfect. There are regular bumps and potholes along the road. But that's fine, because learning and evolving requires mistakes and challenging the status quo is what pushes us all forward. Some solutions do not work fully as expected from square one and require some tweaking or garnishing to end up fully functional on the table again. Examples? We have recently redesigned our feedback process and currently we are thinking about introducing some improvements in our training department.
Now let me address those two elephants in the room. Firstly, listening to your employees inflates expectations. The closer you listen, the higher they are. Is this wrong? No. It is just challenging and requires maturity from both sides to deal with it, the organisation and employees. Secondly, this all costs. Organisational culture costs, listening to employees costs, building all the mechanisms supporting team spirit, integration, knowledge exchange programmes – they all cost.
So why is it worth it?
In our Happy Team 2018 questionnaire, the things our colleagues at FP valued and appreciated the most were: atmosphere and team-spirit. And this is one of the pillars on which this company rests. It is so vital to FP’s core that we even treat it as one of our key competitive advantages and weave many of our strategic initiatives around it. And we are simply happy that we are in a company that can make the ones around us happy as well. The second pillar is more palpable and concrete and can be summarised in three bullet points:
70% of our customers are with us longer than three years
One of the most effective methods of gaining new business at FP are referrals
None of the customers who took part in our annual customer satisfaction surveys in 2018 have evaluated us worse than ‘above’ or ‘meeting expectations’ and this is not an unusual result for FP.
Our working hypothesis here is that there is a strong two-way feedback loop between customer and employee satisfaction. FP’s history shows that it is not only good to work here, it is also good to work with us. And this is exactly the happy ending we all wish for. Say yes!