What price loyalty

from Roger Timms, Chairman and Founder of The MCSA Group – November 2013

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Roger, reflects on the value of staff retention and what lies behind it.

Towards the end of the summer in 2013 I had the great pleasure of presenting Long Service Awards to thirteen colleagues who have been with The MCSA Group for ten years plus. More than half of these were for twenty and twenty-five years! These occasions always give me cause to consider how we seem to do a pretty fine job of retaining and developing our people.  It’s something I’m pleased and proud of for at least two reasons. Firstly, having a job is a basic human need and I don’t mind confessing that it gives me a sense of satisfaction that I lead a business that makes it possible for some 140+ people to fulfil that need.  The feeling is made all the warmer when you consider the challenging trading conditions that we’ve all been faced with over the years.

My second reason for allowing myself a small smile of satisfaction is that I believe that keeping and developing existing staff is generally more beneficial to the business than consistently hiring new ones; and the experience and knowledge that longer serving staff develop can make them valuable assets. In the relationship driven environment that we operate in, I know clients stay with The MCSA Group because of our technical ability, our service and our approach to delivering exceptional customer satisfaction; and I know none of this can be achieved without people who care. Yes of course people do come and go, but history shows that I don’t subscribe to the Jack Welch theory that annual spring clean is mandatory. Over the course of the last 35 years I’ve found that there are more productive ways to stop the house gathering dust. Here are four of my basic housekeeping principles:

 

1.            Get to know your people

As a family man I consider that the staff at The MCSA Group are part of an extended family, and as such I take pride in getting to know everybody as best I can, promoting good communication (my door is always open) along with providing support when needed and ensuring their welfare. A good conversation is a healthy habit and something that many communities are missing. Ensuring this is the case within one’s business is a cornerstone to the development of any cohesive team and a prerequisite for effective management.

2.            Create shared goals

One of the great benefits of private ownership is that you can take a realistic view of the marketplace and plan accordingly. Unobtainable targets achieve nothing. There are no prizes for the size of the promise, just for its fulfilment. A business promise is something that is worked on as a team who are in it together, not as individuals who are in it for themselves. Staff who are incentivised to achieve goals and promises, and who collaborate across departments will contribute to our collective success.

 

3.            Reward and recognise

I love rewarding our high sales achievers with incentives and bonuses for hitting targets. Recognising effort has always been and always will be a part of The MCSA Group culture. However, there is lots of evidence available today that suggests financial compensation is not the primary incentive to engage and retain top talent and drive high performance. People and especially young people today, are seeking greater fulfilment in their working lives. They want flexible working options, opportunities to learn and develop, a decent working environment and the chance to participate in the future direction of the business. This all seems wholly reasonable to me and I’m constantly seeking ways we can improve in these areas. What I believe we do consistently well is recognise success, as opposed to merely rewarding for it. In other words it’s not just what is given; it’s the way that it is done. This ranges from the traditional handing out of trophies at the annual sales conference when the top achievers are roundly celebrated in front of their colleagues, congratulating engineers on passing an exam to add to their accreditations that ensure we maintain our technical excellence, to the one-on-one congratulatory chat at the coffee machine and a simple ‘thank you’ from me for doing a great job. These gestures, whether planned or spontaneous, are both important and appreciated.

4.            Have some fun

Luckily I’ve rarely felt that business is a battlefield, but I do share Churchill’s view that people perform better if they are wearing a smile on their face. As the leader, I see it part of my duty to create the conditions where my colleagues can wear a smile at work. This can be as simple as being conscious of my own demeanour, but it also involves encouraging and organising structured events and initiatives where people can let their hair down and have a bit of fun. At The MCSA Group, these include regular activities to raise money for charity, golf days, off site meetings, team building events and The MCSA Group’s annual ball.

I don’t pretend to have got it all right over the last 35 years, but I am very proud of our achievements and consider myself very lucky to have an excellent Board of Directors and Management team, who between us ensure the business continues to prosper and maintain the culture we have developed over the years. It’s been a successful formula.

A smile, a laugh, a thank you, a sharing of the weekend experience on a Monday morning and before you know it, you are handing out twenty-five year service awards. Where did the time go?