Building relationships is good time investment
James Law, HR Director at Envato, thinks he understands what makes staff really engaged with their work and that it boils down to one, important factor. Why should we pay attention to what he says? Well, for a start, the digital marketplace company enjoys an enviably low staff turnover rate and has been recognised in the BRW Best Places to Work Study for the past two years. Forget incentives, benefits, even pay. Law says the only thing that really matters are relationships.
He believes that trying to second guess or make assumptions about what people in your organisation are thinking, is a complete waste of time. “There’s no point in having an internally focussed people and culture or HR department or leadership group who are staring at their navels and making assumptions when they’re probably getting it completely wrong,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got 10 people in your organisation or 10,000. If you’re not asking them questions, there’s no way you’re going to find out what the right answers are, so shut up and listen.”
Law insists that even small organisations with limited funds can find out what their staff want and make building relationships a priority. “I’ve worked in organisations where we didn’t have resources to get cool tools. We started by just getting people in a room with a pizza and asking them how they felt.
It’s who you know
Law’s own research yielded a result that he found entirely unsurprising.“The first thing we found out is that the only thing that matters is relationships. People enjoy having relationships with other people. And they enjoy having relationships with people within their teams and outside their teams, within their organisation and outside their organisation,” he said.
He added that the rewards came when managers set aside time to start building relationships with staff and better understand the influences in their life. “When you understand how someone is existing outside of work, you can then start building a package that will help motivate and engage them in what you’re doing,” he said. “Relationships are critical and they enable people to stay and strive in an organisation. Without them you’re stuffed.”
Citing the influence of Dan Pink’s Drive, and its mantra of autonomy, mastery and purpose, Law moved on to one-on-ones. “There’s no point in setting aside all that time to build the relationship and then ask crap questions,” he said. Law suggested open-ended questions as a great way to start a conversation and build a relationship.
“Do you feel like you are in control? Do you feel like you are using your full potential and you’re growing? Is your career accelerating? Do you feel like the work that you are doing matters?” These are huge, meaty questions that are better than just “How’s your day going?”
His takeaway? “Spend time every day focussing on relationships and you’ll build a better environment.”