When the world throws curveballs that affect organisation's supply chain, sales and distribution capability, or cash flow, it's a true test of leaders' mettle. Whether you're up against pandemics or financial meltdowns, uncontrollable circumstances can force you to hone your leadership skills and navigate through uncertain times with confidence. In a world of constant ebbs and flows, how can leaders stay afloat and stay ahead of the game when it comes to unpredictable disruptions?
At the People Matters L&D Singapore Conference 2023, the focus was on how to create a disruption-ready team. The Leaders' Panel titled 'It's All About Business Impact: A Business Leader's Role In Building A Disruption-Ready Team,' featured insights from Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus, and Peck Kem Low, CHRO and Advisor (Workforce Development) at the Public Service Division.
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of the strategy, it's crucial to understand what a disruption-ready team truly entails. Think of it as a squad of unstoppable go-getters who are capable of taking on any challenge that comes their way in the business world. They're agile, flexible, and have a knack for staying ahead of the game when it comes to sudden market or technological changes. With an innate talent for thinking outside the box and a passion for innovation, they have what it takes to rise above their competition and triumph over any obstacle that threatens their success.
1. The power of purpose
Having grasped the fundamentals, let's move on to the strategic aspect of creating a team that can overcome any challenge. Gregory Van, the CEO of Endowus, has pointed out that the period for a brilliant idea to materialise can fluctuate based on changes in business and environmental factors. To inspire and motivate employees, he concentrates on offering them a clear sense of purpose and aligning incentives. The aim is to transform their perception of the business and make it something more than just a source of income and expenditure.
“The length of time for a great idea to take shape can vary. In my experience, this can change with shifts in business and environmental factors. At Endowus, our approach to motivating employees revolves around providing them with a sense of purpose and aligning incentives. This is especially crucial when building a startup and fighting to make your mark in the industry. By aligning incentives with the individuals on your team, you can ignite a drive within them that extends to their core and livelihood,” said the the CEO of Endowus.
He further explained, “At Endowus, we raised all of our funding internally, which allowed us to offer junior engineers the opportunity to purchase equity in the company. Even if they could only afford $5,000 or $10,000 worth of equity, it made them more mindful of their actions and more determined to solve problems. It was interesting to see some engineers invest even more than $10,000, displaying their belief in our mission. This investment changes their perception of the business, making it more than just a means to earn and spend money. Though Endowus has grown to a team of 150 individuals, we still emphasise providing a clear sense of purpose and using equity to incentivise alignment.”
2. Creating a culture of lifelong learning
A disruption-ready team is a group of individuals who possess the skills, knowledge, and mindset to identify and capitalise on opportunities for disruption in their industry. This team is characterised by their ability to think creatively, adapt quickly to changes, and take calculated risks to achieve their goals. As the business landscape continues to evolve, the qualities of an A-team are also changing. As the business landscape continues to evolve, the qualities of a teams are also changing. Peck Kem Low believes financial incentives are not the only way to motivate people. Instead, creating an agile and adaptable team is crucial, especially when inheriting a team that may not be aligned with the organisation's goals.
“Coming from the private sector to the public service, I have learned that financial incentives are not the only way to motivate people. Creating an agile and adaptable team is crucial, especially when inheriting a team in which the members may not be initially aligned with the organisation's goals and objectives. As a leader, it is important to invest in reskilling and upskilling team members and creating a culture that emphasises meaningful work,” advised CHRO and Advisor (Workforce Development) at the Public Service Division.
“HR plays a critical role in designing the environment that makes people want to come to work and engineering their careers. A successful A-team is one that creates a positive work environment and provides opportunities for growth and development. As a leader, it is essential not to hoard talent but to develop and empower team members to become future leaders,” she added.
3. Data-driven decisions
Evidence-based training and development plays a crucial role in guaranteeing that an organisation's training and development strategies are well-suited with its business aims and objectives. Furthermore, it ensures that resources, like time and money, are utilised in a resourceful and efficient manner.
Peck Kem Low shared that adopting evidence-based approaches enables companies to distinguish between effective and ineffective training programs, giving them the ability to make informed decisions on how to channel their resources towards their employees' growth. This ensures that the training offered is pertinent, realistic, and ultimately advantageous to both the employee and the organisation.
“I used to work at Hewlett Packard, a company that emphasises on creating a conducive environment with the right tools and equipment to enable employees to deliver quality work, leading to business success. Many leaders often resist sending their staff for training, citing time constraints and fear of losing trained employees. However, not training employees could result in worse outcomes, making it essential to create a connection between HR and training that aligns with the business's goals,” she shared.
“Evidence-based training and development are necessary for companies to stay productive, especially in a world where data is power. For instance, companies can track their employees' productivity, engagement levels, and working hours to show that working remotely is just as productive, if not more productive, than working in the office. By presenting evidence that shows that remote work can be productive, companies can convince employees to continue working remotely without losing productivity. It is essential to ensure that any training or development recommendations align with the business bottom line and that there is evidence to back it up,” added Peck Kem Low.
4. A culture of trust and empowerment
Creating a workplace culture where trust and empowerment thrive is crucial for employees as it cultivates an atmosphere of reciprocal appreciation, free-flowing dialogue, and stimulates originality and ingenuity. Employees who feel trusted and empowered are more inclined to take responsibility for their work and feel driven to perform to the best of their abilities. In essence, trust forms the bedrock of a positive work milieu. Employees who trust their organisation are more prone to taking chances, exchanging ideas, and openly communicating with their peers and supervisors. This facilitates improved cooperation and conflict resolution, which translates to heightened efficiency and superior results.
Sharing an example of trust and empowerment, Gregory Van said, “as a startup operating in a highly regulated space, we face the challenge of recruiting experienced individuals. To attract such individuals, we offer equity in return for a pay cut, which can be a big life decision. We also encourage them to stay with us for two to three years, during which they can gain valuable experience in working with a fintech company and see how we operate. This experience can be very beneficial for their career as they may skip many levels in their career by the time they return to the bank.”
“Regarding remote work, we aim to empower our employees to make their own decisions about how they can maximise their performance and growth. We give them the choice of whether to work from home or come to the office based on their needs and preferences. We believe that this approach will help our employees to build relationships with other team members, increase productivity, and ultimately benefit the business. We trust our employees to make the right decisions for themselves, and if they don't, they may be phased out eventually. Overall, we focus on aligning incentives, empowering our employees, and maximising productivity to achieve success in our business,” he added.
5. Scaling up: Balancing empowerment and structure
Gregory Van, CEO of Endowus, talked about the difficulties he faced when transitioning from a team of 10 to 150 employees. He highlighted the challenges that the original 10 team members faced when they shifted from being individual contributors to managing people. Gregory mentioned that they reviewed last year's employee evaluations and noticed a trend among non-leaders who wanted more responsibility and career growth.
Despite the lack of a formal ranking system, he stressed the importance of empowering junior team members and enabling them to progress in their careers. Though effective management is tough, he believes in trusting the next level of team members to take on more responsibility.
“Transitioning from a team of 10 to 150 employees has presented its fair share of challenges. The original 10 team members, who were once solely individual contributors, now find themselves in leadership positions, managing people. We recently reviewed last year's employee evaluations and noticed a recurring theme among those who are not yet leaders; they want to take on more responsibility and progress in their careers,” revealed the CEO of Endowus.
He further shared that, “although we do not have formal levels or a ranking system, we are grappling with how best to empower junior team members to remain motivated and grow within the company. Effective management is challenging, and I do not consider myself to be a good manager. However, empowering the next level of team members to grow and trusting them to take on more responsibility is crucial. As we continue to grow, we will likely need to introduce stricter levels, but for now, we are focused on empowering our team members to reach their full potential.”
The People Matters Learning & Development Conference 2023 held in Singapore aimed to help attendees re-architect their learning strategy and ecosystem. The conference provided insights on delivering customised solutions, staying ahead of disruption, and addressing critical performance challenges. Keep following People Matters to stay updated on the exclusive learnings from PMLnD 2023.