Comment: Managers have direct sway on staff output

you able to do what you do best every day? I suspect that footballer David
Beckham could answer “yes” to the above. But how many people in business
genuinely can say they are able to give of their best every day? It is an
important question because productivity, customer service, safety, staff
turnover and profit are a direct consequence of getting it right.

Pentland Group, which went private late last year, is a complex set of branded businesses
operating in the sports, outdoor and fashion industry. Brands include Speedo,
Ellesse, Kickers and Berghaus. Late last year we surveyed our 2,100 staff from
around the world, asking just 12 questions based on work undertaken by the
Gallup organisation. We achieved an 82 per cent response rate – a clear mandate
for us to act on the results.

statements put to staff to agree with included, “I know what is expected of me
at work”, “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day”, “In
the last seven days I have received recognition or praise for doing good work”
and “My manager, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person”. It is
important to check whether managers know what the people element of their role
really is because research suggests they massively influence how productive
people are.

grown mainly by acquisition, each brand in Pentland has a slightly different
culture and a separate profit and loss account. A thread that runs through the
whole group, however, is one based on family values and simplicity. We have no
grading scheme and we try to treat people like individuals.

actions resulting from the statement, “I know what is expected of me” while
being critical to productivity does not need to look the same everywhere. We
are not hung up on this being written on an identical performance management
sheet – but are interested in making sure line managers have sensible
conversations about it that are recorded.

group learnt a great deal about its businesses around the world from the
feedback process. We now have hard data on where there is excellent practice
and we know where we have to focus attention on people management issues. We
also have hard data on what we all knew – that soft skills are hugely relevant
to productive outcomes and to making more money.

survey results give us real ammunition to get across the fact that resources at
work are actually human beings – all of whom have unique needs and differences.

group can now give direct and realistic feedback to managers on what their
people say they need from them, with shared actions, and can put much more
emphasis on what people are good at, rather than trying to fix the
behaviourally unfixable.

Chris Matchan, group HR director for the Pentland Group and steering committee
member of the Henley Forum on HR

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