Key ideas from this case study:
- Promote flexible work for employees and companies
- invest in the development of all team members
- communicate, communicate, communicate in times of change
The Projects, Training and Consulting team in the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory is responsible for providing technical advice on chemical, biological and radiological weapons. It consists of scientists, technicians and managers.
In the period from 2012 to 2014, the team achieved consistently high levels of wellbeing (74% on average) despite significant structural changes. The Cabinet Office interviewed their group leader to understand what approaches are producing these excellent results.
Test approaches as a team and then implement them across the organization
DSTL was very supportive of my goal of prioritizing engagement and wellbeing. The organization created Employee Engagement Champions to improve the experience of our employees and the focus has been on investing in managers to drive business improvement.
Much of what we’ve done on my team is not new. For example, I made sure that employees can work flexible hours, work from home and take special paid leave. People can work where and when it suits them as long as they can be reached during business hours.
Invest in training
The group leader prioritized training as a goal for the entire team, which meant that he could ensure that money was being spent on developing team members at all levels. Spending on courses like Chartered Training made people feel very valued.
Another focus was on recruiting new team leaders who not only had the technical skills required for the job, but also the knowledge of human nature that is often overlooked in a professional environment. Existing employees can also take part in courses on leadership skills, but they have to prove their commitment and benefit.
He also realizes that he is constantly learning and growing himself, is not a perfect leader, and values feedback so that he can improve.
Be clear about the roles and contribution of people
To make sure everyone understands their role and how they can contribute, I created a one-page infographic that explains how the goals of the group and each group member fit into the goals of the organization.
I also communicate success to the entire team and make sure that people at all grade levels receive recognition for great work. This has also led to a more inclusive environment in terms of diversity – nobody feels like a minority.
Prioritizing people was a core strategy that I used in ways I hadn’t previously used as a leader.
Make sure issues are raised and addressed
There can be a tendency for group meetings to focus on what worked well. To make sure I got feedback on what wasn’t working, I took a room 101 approach to my meetings where people are encouraged to share the things they would put in room 101. This also gives me the opportunity to openly discuss problems in front of the whole group.
After a drive from HR, I had numerous conversations with managers within the team to make sure they had the confidence to handle poor performance and trained in how to deal with it. I also encouraged staff to have conversations about their wellbeing.
A high level of well-being promotes high corporate performance
The group leader believes that a high level of wellbeing was a critical component of the team’s success. This despite significant structural changes in which the group split up into different teams. By being honest about the changes and communicating them clearly, fear was minimized.