Lorna Stellakis 2

Lorna Stellakis is the Managing Director of Lancaster-headquartered tech support firm Q2Q IT. She firmly believes that happy and productive teams – which thrive all year round – are motivated by much more than a 12-monthly review. She shares the learning and benefits she and her team took from switching to more regular catch-ups, so you can try it with your team.

Although my firm’s financial year starts from quarter two, the start of a new year often heralds the time of annual employee appraisals, where colleagues and managers review progress and set objectives for the 12 months ahead.

Regardless of whether you manage a target-driven team of salespeople, or a creative group of writers, it’s well-documented that people put more energy into something they love and are passionate about, compared to something they solely see as ‘a job’.

For many years, employers held all the power over their teams, often striking fear into the hearts of their workers in the belief that it would make them more productive and loyal. Yet, thanks to the rise in the gig industry, demand for flexible working, and the prevalence of employee relations, the balance of power now lies firmly with employees – and rightfully so.

That shouldn’t mean that teams ‘play to their own tune’ – and at their own pace – but happy and often autonomous workforces are more productive, a culture all organisations should strive to foster.

To get away from the master/servant sentiment of such formal conversations, there is an argument to replace the traditional yearly appraisal process in favour of more regular catch-ups.

Structured sessions to share ideas and hold colleagues to account

Frequent one-to-one discussions work best when focused less on the compilation or setting of tasks, and more on recognising, praising, and building the behaviours organisations want to see, as well as the values that are important.

Group planning, reflection, and development sessions can help nurture ongoing growth for both colleagues and companies, preventing the post-review hive of activity, which soon gets left by the wayside.

Team incentives such as an ‘employee of the month’ bonus scheme can set the tone for noticing and rewarding a colleague’s fantastic attitude towards work. It helps to focus the mind on the positives rather than any negatives.

Of course, many firms – ours included – struggle to find time for regular roundtables. In such instances, before or after-hours seminars (with food and drinks provided) act as a useful way of keeping the team informed of any business development news, our overarching vision, how we’re measuring up against targets, and the role colleagues play in all of this.

Such discussions inevitably provide their own group review sessions too. Setting aside 90 minutes for an open discussion not only helps to encourage the flow of ideas, but is especially useful for maintaining transparency.

Consider debating a different topic each time – perhaps linked to a particular project or some development needs which have been identified. Always ensure there are some takeaway actions from each session, which are followed up by the host.

Such an approach means each team member feels accountable not only to ‘the boss’ but to colleagues too, as they made a commitment in an open forum. This can often be much more powerful than committing to a bland business goal, which feels more like a tick-box exercise.

Encourage informal conversations to build good working relationships

Other less formal ways of maintaining a bird’s eye view of the team can be via group chats using Slack, Teams, or WhatsApp. They are a fantastic tool for keeping in touch and offer a great place to have some light-hearted dialogue with the rest of your peers away from the pressures of the office.

Regular social events will encourage colleagues to let their guard down too and may encourage frank conversations about something they would like to see more or less of in the office. It’s important that such discussions are acted upon where appropriate to show you listen.

Give it time and keep learning

Remember though, such changes won’t happen overnight. They take time to earn buy-in from co-workers. It’s taken Q2Q two years to implement each of these activities and benefits. It has required plenty of input from the staff themselves.

Now it’s complete, we have gone from a bunch of hardworking – which we still are – yet mildly stressed and chaotic individuals, to a true tech family which loves coming to work and helping tackle clients’ IT challenges. It’s true what they say about happy employees being more productive – the vibe at our HQ has been permanently transformed.

Contributed by Lorna Stellakis
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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