A Happy Workforce is a Productive Workforce

StrategyDriven Talent Management Article |Workforce Productivity | A Happy Workforce is a Productive WorkforceThis is quite an obvious thing to say, but it’s surprising how easy it is to forget when your mind is on other aspects of running your business. The happiness of your employees should be one of your priorities because, without them, your business is likely to fail. When was the last time you asked them how happy they are?

Unfortunately, taking your employees happiness for granted is easy to do, but it’s not the most sensible course of action. If your team feel valued and are contributing to something great, they’re more likely to put the effort in.

If you find your staff members are less than happy, take note of the following tips to help you turn it around.

Praise Good Work

If one of your team does something good, make sure they receive praise. It’s human nature to enjoy receiving recognition for a job done well, and all it takes is a simple “thanks for your hard work.”

Reward Hard Work

This tip is going to take a little monetary investment, but your business will be amply rewarded. If there’s a member of your team who has been regularly going above and beyond what is required of them, then it deserves to be rewarded. You don’t have to break the bank to do so, but time off in lieu, a bottle of wine, treating the team to cakes on Monday or a Friday lunchtime meal out will make your team feel valued. If they feel their hard work is being valued, they’re more likely to want to repeat the effort.

Show that You Care

When employees feel they are cared about, productivity increases. How do you show that you care about them? You need to ask how they are and ask how they feel about working for you. Take the time to find out more about them, whether it’s professionally or personally. You could consider introducing an employee survey platform to help gather the answers you need; you can visit to find out more. Often, a simple “how are you” is enough to make an employee feel valued.

Take Time Out from the Daily Routine

It’s possible to make the workplace a happier one by planning fun things to do away from the office. Take your employees out for the day and have some fun. If your employees feel you’re doing something nice for them, they’re guaranteed to be happier.

Encourage Community Minded Attitudes

Build a sense of workplace community by encouraging people to greet each. Lead by example, and others are sure to follow. What’s more, make sure all company executives and managers do the same.

Foster Personal Career Goals

It might seem like something selfish you’re encouraging, but when each employee has their own personal career goals, it’s going to keep their minds focused. Rather than getting involved in or stressed about office politics and workplace stress, they’ll have something better to think about.

It’s possible to have a happy workplace as long as you take the time to make it so. If your employee survey highlights the fact that there are people in your organization who aren’t happy, try the tips above, and you’ll be making a difference.

Take A More Strategic Approach To Hiring

I thought it would be interesting to explore the concept of “strategic” when it comes to hiring. Both in terms of positioning hiring within the context of the organisation and when undertaking hiring itself.

One of the challenges when hiring is to move it from a tactical activity, reluctantly undertaken when a vacancy arises, to a strategic activity that contributes to organisational excellence. Until hiring is firmly positioned as a key strategic activity, organisations will face problems such as weak talent pipeline, significant opportunity costs, higher hiring errors (it is worth taking the time to work out the cost of hiring errors), business stagnation and eroded organisational value. Additionally, ambitious business leaders will not invest sufficient time, early enough in their careers, to learning and honing their hiring skills. I have, over the years, worked with many great leaders (visionary, decisive, strategic, charismatic, brilliant) who simply cannot hire well. Yet, hiring the right or wrong people will have a huge impact on the organisation. Recruitment is both an art and a science and organisational leaders need to master both elements

In terms of hiring itself, I would suggest that you need to approach the activity strategically. Namely, to think longer term and put it in a broader context. This will enable you to build organisational capability and bench strength and develop the organisation for longer term growth. Thus, by taking a more strategic approach to recruitment you can recruit for the future at least as much as for the present. By this I mean that you can start to plan the skills and competencies you will need to be successful in the future. It also allows you to hire people today that you can develop into the roles you will need in the future which reduces the amount of ‘crisis’ hiring you need to do which is risky, expensive and can reduce motivation of more junior staff with high potential. I believe that a certain amount of external hiring (rather than all internal promotion) is healthy for an organisation but it needs to be intentional and not forced upon you due to the lack of well-developed internal staff.

Hiring needs to be part of an integrated talent management framework. This sounds complicated and clearly, for very large organisations, it can be, but even with much smaller organisations these elements should be in place: Planning the resources that you need, investing in resourcing (i.e. finding the talent), job design and organisation design (you may need to flex the organisation to allow people to grow and develop), management hiring and selection skills, staff engagement and retention, staff and management development. In my experience, large organisation can lose sight of the ‘why’ and become lost in the systems and infrastructure. They focus on developing complex processes but not deriving real value from them, or even worse, ignoring them when faced with decisions such as a senior promotion. And smaller organisations do not always think broadly enough and can make short term hiring decisions. In my experience, one of the main causes of slow growth in smaller organisations is that they do not hire early enough, or strategically enough.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Talent Management Article | Hiring Staff | Take A More Strategic Approach To HiringLisette Howlett is author of The Right Hire: Attract And Retain The Best People, a licensed Sandler Trainer located in London Central, and she has fifteen years of global change leadership and business development experience. Howlett is called upon by business owners of small and medium-sized companies for strategy and business development. Her experience includes financial services, technology, pharma/biotech, manufacturing, IT, media, recruitment and professional services.

For more information please visit this link.

Strategy Driven – A Reality Check

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckMost modern organizations claim to be strategy-driven. But when you cut through the hyperbole, what do you find?

The Oxford dictionary defines strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” People tend to focus on the word “plan” in this sentence. We think about strategy as the highest-level, guiding plan for an organization, but if we want to objectively determine the strategy of an organization, this is where we’ll hit a problem.

A plan is an intention to do things in the future, but you can’t objectively study or observe an intention. An intention has no physical presence, we can only witness people talking about it. Walk into an organization and ask to see their strategy and you will likely be given a one-line “mission” statement and a document filled with words and diagrams. The document is real and can be observed. However, the intention that the document describes is not real. We should never confuse the two – having a physical document does not mean that you have a strategy.

But don’t give up hope yet! I cannot physically find gravity and yet I know that it is real because I can witness the impact of gravity on the real world. Newton observed a falling apple and was able to use this data to infer that gravity existed.

So what is the equivalent of Newton’s apple when it comes to strategy? Think about the dictionary definition. A strategy is a not just “a plan”, it is “a plan of action”. I cannot physically witness the plan, but I can certainly witness actions and use them to infer the strategy. If I walk into an organization and carefully examine the action, then I will be able to determine the strategy which is at play.

This might sound a bit backward. After all, the strategy is all about the big picture, about how we will conquer the world tomorrow, not about what is happening today. I disagree – the only way that you can witness a strategy is to carefully look at what is happening today and then infer the strategy from that data.

Let’s look at an example. Some years ago, I worked with a company that was on a sustained journey to improve safety in its operation. Their strategy document declared that “Safety comes first. There is nothing more important for us than the safety of our people and the community in which we operate.” As a strategy statement, it couldn’t be clearer. When I went looking for the action however, I found something different.

At their project portfolio meeting I found something interesting. As is frequently the case, this company had many more potential projects than it had budget. Because of this, the company had to choose which projects to progress and which projects to defer or cancel. Given their strategy of “safety comes first”, I should have witnessed that all the safety projects were approved first and then, only if there was remaining budget, would commercial projects be approved. What I witnessed instead was that a large number of safety projects had been deferred to make space for a more evenly balanced selection of commercial and safety projects. The individuals responsible for making these calls were under a great deal of stress.

“Safety first” was what we call the espoused strategy and it was clearly not real. By witnessing the company’s actions, we can see that the real strategy was to balance commercial and safety interests. They were very committed to their safety journey, but not in a way that put them out of business!

The most concerning thing that I observed was the stress placed on the decision makers. They were implementing the real strategy of the senior management. But they were then placed in a highly compromised position by the same senior management espousing a completely different “strategy”.

As a leader in your organization, I encourage you to constantly check that the actions in your organization match the strategy you espouse. Only then can you truly claim to be strategy-driven.

About the Author

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckGraeme Findlay is an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. He consults to industry as an executive coach and change management advisor. Prior to specializing in leadership development, Findlay held executive management roles and was accountable for delivering operational transformations and performance turnarounds on world-scale mega-projects. His passion for high performance teams led to academic research at Oxford University and HEC Paris. Findlay holds a Masters degree in Consulting and Coaching for Change. For more information, please visit

IO Improvement: Making Your Computer Perform Better Than New

Over the last few decades, computers have just about taken over the world. These machines are used in business, for people’s personal lives, and to handle loads of background jobs which most people are blissfully unaware of. While they are invaluable, though, they can also cause their fair share of mischief. Degradation, where a machine becomes slower over time, is a big part of this. So, to help you out, this post will be exploring some of the options which can be used to make your computer faster than when it came out of the factory, all with as little expense as possible.


If you’ve ever heard computing enthusiasts talking about performance before, you might have an idea of what overclocking is. In simple terms, this is the process of making your system components run at higher speeds than they would out of the box. This is usually achieved through the BIOS before you get to Windows, OSX, or Linux, and will involve raising voltages and clock speeds until you have a stable, but much faster, system in place. There are loads of guides around the web which can be used to make this easier, and you should always aim to find ones which cover your exact hardware. You will probably lose your warranty when you do something like this, and it doesn’t come without other risks, either.


A lot of pre-built computers and laptops don’t give you the power to overclock, instead keeping their chips locked down to avoid heating issues. While they won’t let you go up, though, some will still let you go down, and the benefits of underclocking are often under appreciated. For example, if you’re able to lower your CPU’s voltage without changing its clock speed, you will get the same performance out of the chip, but the machine itself will use far less power. In the case of a laptop, this can improve battery life very dramatically, sometimes being enough to freshen up the device for another year or so.

Remove The Bloat

Companies which sell computers will almost always an ulterior motive for doing their job. Bloatware is one of the biggest symptoms of this, and this term covers any applications which are pre-installed on a machine when it is taken from the shelf. Some companies are worse than others for this, with companies like Acer being well-known for making their computers perform far worse than they should as a result. To overcome this, you need only spend a little bit of time uninstalling these programs. Application portfolio optimization is becoming an increasingly large part of business, making it well worth putting some time into doing it for yourself. Once you’ve removed this software, it should ever come back.

System Clean Up

Over the years, a lot of internet users have become somewhat jaded when it comes to storage clean up solutions. With adverts for scam software claiming to perform this service found all over the web, it’s easy to see why people wouldn’t take the idea of cleaning their storage seriously. In reality, though, this is very important the speed of your machine, and can usually be handled using tools which come with your operating system. For hard drives, disk defragmentation is crucial, and should be done once every week or so. SSDs, though, need different treatment, with the less you use a drive like this, the faster it will be.

Boost Your Storage

Cleaning your storage will provide a temporary benefit which will only last for so long, and will be something you will have to keep on top of if you want to see the benefits for a long time. Boosting your storage with a hardware upgrade, though, can be a great way to see something more permanent. If you have an old school hard drive, buying an SSD for your operating system is one of the best improvements you can make, improving loading and data transfer times by a huge margin. If you already have an SSD, you could look at getting a faster hard drive for storing larger files. Making this part of your machine faster is an affordable upgrade which won’t be bottlenecked by older hardware.

Free Up Some RAM

Software applications like Google Chrome are well-known for their resource hungry attitude towards running on your machine. While you could simply go without the tools they offer, it is far easier to find a way to give them what they need, and RAM is one of the best ways to achieve this goal. Storing data for use by the CPU, this component can slow down a whole machine, making good hardware feel very old. Websites like Crucial can scan your machine for you, giving you an idea of what you’ll need to buy if you want to upgrade this part of your machine. While it will cost some money, it’s far cheaper than going out and buying a new computer.

Update Your System

It’s easy to let things like software updates sit in the back of your mind, failing to handle them until the system forces you to. When you take this approach, though, you could easily be missing important performance boosts which would make your machine feel far younger. To make this easier, simply restarting your computer after each session is a great idea, relying on the automatic processes in place to download and install the updates for you. Once you have this running like clockwork, it will often feel as though you spend far less time waiting for updates.

With all of this in mind, you should have the tools you need to be able to start using your PC for far longer than ever before. Making a tool like this last is not only important to your wallet, though, as electronics waste is becoming a very big issue around the world. Most people won’t look at using an old computer as being the eco-friendly option, though it certainly is.

Promotional Products – Beating the “Fake News”

StrategyDriven Marketing and Sales Article | Fake News | Promotional Products - Beating the "Fake News"Watch the news these days there are many versions of the “truth”. And it’s not just in the worlds of politics and current affairs that people find it difficult to know what to believe anymore. The business digital world makes finding the “truth” more difficult than ever for consumers as an ever growing avalanche of data can act to conceal the facts rather make them easier to find. But recently with everyone pointing the finger and accusing each other of promoting “fake news” things seem to be more confused than ever. So can marketing companies cut through this noise and reduce the general level of cynicism about marketing offers made online in the “Fake News” era?

Allocating a proportion of your budget to custom printed products is a popular way to sidestep this growing confusion. When you’re holding something real in your hands it’s hard to avoid a subjective opinion of its practical value. People will always make an emotional judgement about the impact of something their observe and these impressions, both good and bad combine naturally to form an overall attitude towards the brand the product carries. Many forms of business communication rely on emotive impact to manipulate and control perceptions but by using branded merchandise you can create a direct connection with consumers which allows you to reduce the rising cynicism amongst consumers who can make a genuine personal judgement based on their real experience.

Consumer perceptions of your brand are critical to the success of your marketing. Around the world billions of dollars are spent every day on promotional messaging but the final outcome can often be the opposite of what was planned. Research has proven that promotional material marketing, when overlaid against more traditional forms of branding has a higher than expected likelihood of reinforcing positive perceptions. In this day of digital communication when few people who do business meet face-to-face adding your logo to something as simple to a printed pen and giving to people with whom you do business is a way of escaping the negative filters which seem to dominate so much of the online world. Think about it… how can a good quality product with genuine practical value create a negative impression with the person using it? And once your logo is added your brand can absorb some of the reflected glory.

A good example of successfully overcoming modern consumer doubts is the way many companies use custom printed products to reinforce claims of “eco-friendliness”. While many companies make bold claims about their environmentally friendly reputation there is a growing doubt about many of these claims amongst consumers. The simple expedient of providing business contacts and consumers with a promotional item which reflects brand values and is made from recycled materials is more convincing that any number of claims made in advertising. In a marketing world where bluster and misinformation is the norm by simply placing a branded item in the hands of consumers you can cut through the doubt and questions to create a genuine impression no amount of online advertising can replicate.

These days the temptation exists for all marketers to most of their advertising budget to online lead generation. Adwords budgets are easy to manage, simple to analyse and assess and can be scaled up or down in no time. But at the same time, the evidence is clear that keeping a foot in the “real” world can help to leverage additional sales and brand equity from your online exposure. The less time we spend engaging with each other and we spend staring at a screen the more effective offering your clients and business prospects a thoughtful branded gift becomes. More than ever, even in this world of “Fake News” branded products are have a lace in building and maintaining our business relationships.