Bright Sparks with Roger Longden of ​There Be Giants

Roger Longden, founder of business management consultancy There Be Giants, discusses his approach to people management, technology and the future world of work.

Rodger Longden, There Be Giants - Bright Sparks

Welcome to the first instalment of our brand new interview series  – Bright Sparks .

Each month we’ll be sharing a cup of coffee with an active figure in the small business arena to pick their brain for insights into the ongoing evolution of the modern workplace.

For our inaugural chapter, we’re honoured to grab an hour with Roger Longden, founder of business management consultancy There Be Giants, to discuss his approach to people management, technology and the future world of work. An eye-opening chat, as you’ll soon see.

BrightHR: First of all, Roger, we’d like to get your thoughts on what effective people management actually means for small businesses in 2017?  

Roger Longden: We have to start by acknowledging that the pace and velocity of business is exponentially faster than it was even five to ten years ago – and that pace is fuelled by technology. There’s no doubt that the digital age presents a whole new set of challenges for the average business and their approach to people management. A prime example is the growth of cloud technology. This has facilitated greater collaboration between

A prime example is the growth of cloud technology. This has facilitated greater collaboration between teams, and means that staff no longer have to always be in the same place to work effectively together. It’s strengthened the security aspect of collaborative work, so that now people can conveniently access the latest version of the same document simultaneously, at any given time, and easily backup key information whenever they need to. For any small business, the need to

For any small business, the need to utilise digital tools in almost every aspect of their day-to-day operations is becoming more and more vital to get the most out of their people – and ultimately reach higher levels of efficiency.

Can you think of any other examples where technology has had a sizeable impact on the way business manage their staff, compared to ten years ago, say?

Feedback, definitely.

You have to consider that the up and coming generation of workers value quality feedback more than any other generation that has come before. I actually came across a research study not too long ago that revealed how 65% of employees wanted more feedback on their performance, so it’s clearly an essential consideration for retention.

Technology is already playing a huge part in facilitating this need because any business can now install software that keeps an up to date record for all employees and helps to manage long-term factors such as absence. Web apps are getting more and more intelligently designed, so that busy business owners and managers get a gentle nudge when the system spots a noticeable trend or recurring pattern.

So, in effect, there are more touchpoints to refer to when conducting a performance  review? 

Absolutely. Technology has given businesses the ability to record and refer to key performance indicators that have been tracked throughout the year, which is nothing short of revolutionary in challenging the concept of the traditional annual appraisal.

It helps businesses take a more iterative approach to evaluating staff performance, particularly as the business grows in size and they are looking to maintain good habits across the organisation and continue to engage their people. Plus, if a business needs to make a decision about pay or promotion, they can now have 10 or 20 snapshots of a person’s performance instead of a single snapshot at the end of the year.

The beauty is that the price point for this sort of technology has dropped dramatically over the past five years or so, which removes a huge barrier to access. What was previously the sole preserve of large corporations, say a bespoke HR system, is now a realistic possibility for smaller SMEs in any market. 

Would you say that the structure of the modern workplace (and workforce) has changed forever?   

I don’t think there’s any question that we are already in the midst of that change. Companies in every industry must admit that the infrastructure of modern business will never be the same again, thanks to developments in email, digital marketing channels and the ability to work from anywhere in the world with a decent Wifi connection.

Also, consider that the growth of the gig economy and other alternative forms of employment is only possible because of technology. We tend to take it for granted these days, but the Internet has completely reshaped the way that businesses operate. It introduces new levels of mobility, impacts directly on how they manage their staff and offers new opportunities to improve the experience of employees.

If the modern workplace operates in an environment of change, how can businesses ensure that the right technologies become embedded throughout the team as quickly as possible?

Again, it really depends on the size of the business. If you’re a smaller business then you’re probably not going to have a defined systems strategy in place. In that case, it’s really down to the business leader to work out what technology is going to add value to their operations.

It’s not always straightforward because there are more available systems and softwares than ever before, so finding the right fit for your business can be a challenge. Of course, it’s always important to create a value proposition for each possibility and, where possible, run a pilot to work out how effective it will be in practice.

Even for a small business, this should be a central part of the business planning process and never treated as an afterthought.

How big is the need to ensure that these technologies are easily scalable as the business grows?   

It definitely pays off in the long run, cost-wise, particularly when it comes to the nuts and bolts of HR and financial management. These form a key part of the foundation for any business, so you want these systems to be in place relatively early on and able to handle organisational growth as it happens.

What are the key people management trends – technology or otherwise – that you expect to see more of in coming years? 

Above all, I believe it boils down to mobility. If businesses today want to attract and retain the best talent available to them, they have to start paying attention to the expectations of the modern generation, particularly their demand for greater work/life balance and control over their workload.

Technology allows employees to work outside of the standard 9-5 office hours and still be able to collaborate with colleagues and communicate with clients without any hindrance. It also allows employers to take a more agile approach to executing their business plan, managing performance and engaging their people.

This is a massive shift for the modern world of work, make no mistake, and it will likely take a few years for the potential to be realised in every pocket of industry out there. One thing’s for sure: digital systems are here to stay, and you can expect to see more and more business committed to making the leap to digital in the next 12 months and beyond.

Roger Longden is the founder of There Be Giants, a business management consultancy that improves commercial growth and performance. Find out more about their work here.

Keen to find out more about the evolution of the modern workforce? Bright Sparks will be returning for our second installment very soon – keep your eyes peeled.

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