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Five Habits of Highly Effective Companies

The glass is half-empty?

If only…

Inflation, supply chain problems, cost of living crisis, interest rates, possible trade war with the EU, the war in Ukraine almost certainly lasting into next year, a global food crisis…

And that was before England kicked off against Hungary.

Let us, therefore, do the only logical thing – and be resolutely optimistic, upbeat and brimming with new ideas.

Some of you, I know, read and its articles for American entrepreneurs. I was skimming through the site the other day – I skimmed rapidly past the one on the ever rising price of petrol - and read about the companies that avoided 'the great resign:’ the best companies to work for in the US and what makes them different.

If you had a pound for every article that’s been written on motivating staff over the last four or five years you’d now be on your own tropical island. Your butler would be bringing you a cocktail. Your yacht would be bobbing gently at anchor…

Re-design the office, fresh fruit, classes on every subject you can imagine (and plenty you couldn’t…) Let everyone work from home during the pandemic. Zoom, Teams, flexible return to work…

Of course there were the outliers. Churlish bosses like Elon Musk who demanded that everyone do 40 hours a week in the office – ‘otherwise we’ll assume you’ve resigned and you’re pretending to be working somewhere else.’

But gradually the dust has settled. There is a new normal and, as I’ve written previously, the Millennials and Gen Z who now make up the bulk of the workforce do want very different things to their parents’ generation.

And the ‘best companies to work for in the US’ have identified five of them. Five behaviours or benefits that their staff really want: that set them apart from the chasing pack. To paraphrase Stephen Covey: five habits of highly effective companies.

The first of them is paid paternity leave. How much time off did I have when Dan and Rory were born? It was measured in days, not weeks. Paternity leave in the UK is now – by law – up to two consecutive weeks, depending on how long you’ve been working. Clearly this contrast sharply with some European countries – and, like many benefits coming into the workplace – it’s very different for companies that employ seven people rather than 700.

But I’d absolutely advise everyone running an SME to go as far as they can on paternity leave, and to understand not just what people want, but the demands of a new baby. As Greg Harris, CEO of Quantum Workplace says in the Inc article, ‘Organisations that have installed feedback loops to understand human capital are winning.'

Or as Ed Reid says, talk to people…

The second one is unlimited time off. Understandably many bosses react with horror to those three words. In fact the evidence increasingly suggests that employees with unlimited time off actually take less holiday. For me, it’s not the time off that’s the benefit, but the fact that a company is willing to introduce it: that they’re effectively saying to the people that work for them, ‘we trust you – and this is how much we trust you.’

Next up was a stake in the company. When Facebook went public it was variously reported that the company created anywhere between 300 and 1,000 millionaires. There isn’t a member of TAB UK that’s on course to do that (not yet, anyway) but the principal is obvious. Everyone should share in the profits of the company and have the right to be rewarded if and when the company is sold.

We’ve all worked for companies where the owners had a top of the range BMW and a personalised number plate while half of the staff wondered how they were going to make it to the end of the month. Not any more: if the pandemic taught us anything, it taught us that we're all in it together.

Fourth was paid time off for community service and, in many ways, this was the most interesting for me. We know that Millennials (and take Gen Z as being automatically included) want to work for companies whose values they share. But they also want to contribute – to feel that they’re playing their part in society.

This isn’t something we’ve so far done at TAB UK but is it on the agenda? Emphatically – and I suspect it will be a win/win. Committed, enthusiastic members of your team taking your message into the community. And in turn learning and experiencing things they’d never have done in the office or at home.

Finally we come to time management and wellness. Again, it’s not time management and wellness per se, rather it’s an acknowledgement that the people who work for you have lives outside work. That they have friends, families and commitments – and that sometimes these might impact on their working lives.

I know a lot of members of TAB UK are already ticking all or several of these five boxes. I know a lot more will do in the near future.

These are tough times for owners and directors of SMEs – mercifully there’s nothing to add to the third paragraph since I started writing – but they’re interesting times as well. We’re all facing challenges we couldn’t have imagined three or four years ago. But as the optimism round TAB tables proves, we’re rising to those challenges and we’re enjoying the journey – and taking our teams along with us.



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