16 September 2012

2 days ago, the Government announced that they were not going to introduce the “fire at will” policy, but the new legal threshold has, from April, increased to 2 years for new employees. They are going to cut the cap on what can be paid out on unfair dismissal cases though; a figure that currently stands at £72,300. Employers will be able to offer settlements more easily to remove underperforming employees. They claim that they want to make it easier to hire people by giving National Insurance breaks on new hires too.

Meanwhile, in reality, how do you grow a business in 2012 when, as fast as you recruit, headhunters target your staff through linkedin and facebook? The better the business you create, the biger the target you become. I am always amazed at how quickly people can be swayed into a discussion and just how easy it is for them to forget the benefits of being part of the team you have worked tirelessly to create. And so the game begins!

Create a unique business that does not exist anywhere else. Create a culture where awesome people thrive, where people are empowered to make decisions, where people are not micromanaged and where systems are there to help and not catch you out. It’s a life long task because you can never settle. As fast as you create an amazing place, there are hundreds of other ways to improve.

I went to see Dan Cobley, the Managing Director of Google UK, recently and I was fascinated to learn some of the things they do at Google to ensure that they never rest on their laurels. And what a business! You can quickly learn why everyone enjoys working there and why they have no problems recruiting.

So, one of my jobs is to create the best place to work in our industry; not an easy task when you compete with the likes of Peer1 who have a similar ethic, and even smaller companies like Melbourne Hosting (recently acquired by Iomart) who have made huge efforts to make their office more imaginative. Why? Because it creates a fun environment and people thrive when they are relaxed.

It is important to remember that you can do all this and people will still need to check to see if the grass is greener. We did a check recently and our switchboard took over 150 calls in one week from recruiters either looking for people by name or trying to sell us their service. That’s more than 30 per day!  And this is going on in all businesses. It creates a massive distraction because, as fast as you recruit someone, when they are being told there is a better job elsewhere, intrigue can kick in.

(*) 92% of people who leave UKFast either come back or directly request to return, citing “the grass is most definitely NOT greener!” And whilst it is a fantastic testament to the team and business, I’d much rather have kept them in the beginning.

Our strategy is clear. If another business targets members of our staff, we have found that often the company doing the looking is attempting to buy ‘culture’ and leap frog the steps necessary in creating an amazing organisation, leaving themselves vulnerable. They often have big gaps in their structure and often do not have a dedicated academy, or employee benefits comparable with ours at UKFast and so they actually become a great place for us to focus our attention on our recruitment. On average, whether we lose a person or not, we will end up recruiting 2 or 3 people from the very same business. The person who has left us, tells his new colleagues what they are all missing and people follow when they return.

For me, the best way to recruit is a more natural and fair way. Referring friends and family always guarantees that we will find like-minded people who get our culture. Enthusiasm is key to growing a successful business and if your team are not overly enthusiastic, you will invariably get mediocre results.

I was interviewed on Friday by the Telegraph on the subject of employee engagement. I was in Wales, at our outward bounds training centre, preparing for 8 account managers who were coming down for the weekend. It made me realise just how much we do, but more importantly, the important role that fresh air and the challenges set in Snowdon play in our business. There is no direct link between the cutting-edge Cloud technology we manage in Manchester and the wind, rain, sweat and tears (usually of joy!) of Castell Cidwm. Yet every person loves it here and cites their time in the Snowdonian National Park as a top memory with moments that have shaped them.

But long before we could afford the luxury of our converted hotel and 1000 acre estate, we used to march up the mountains and stay in tents! Team building doesn’t have to cost a lot of money; what it does require, if you are going to be successful at it, is your time.

It’s these moments you share with your team that they will respect and cherish and the bonds you make are priceless. You can’t get this from the pub on a Friday night. You need time to listen and learn about your business and its failings along with its good points.

Recently, when a person came to me to tell me they’d turned down a better paid job at a rival Scottish hosting provider, they listed the things we’d done together and talked honestly about the relationship we’d formed. I wouldn’t have stood a chance if I’d not spent years developing him and our relationship.

Business has changed so much in 5 years that its unrecognisable from doing business a decade ago. This requires an open mind and a new degree of flexibility. Businesses who retain staff grow faster and are usually more profitable. Retraining and recruiting to fill replacements is a headache that a manager can do without when they are faced with the challenges of growing and running a department.

END

UKFast are currently recruiting for 100 jobs to take the business to 250 strong before summer 2013.

50 jobs are currently being placed as we speak across sales, account management, windows and linux hosting support and marketing and PR. If you are looking for a real challenge and youlive or want to move to Manchester, it is worth dropping us a line and sending in your CV.

 (*) this figure does not include individuals that didn’t make it through the UKFast academy, left with in the first year or simply didn’t fit in. The figure represents people who were headhunted who we’d have back tomorrow.

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