However, as we grew the business we struggled to recruit senior members of staff with an entrepreneurial mindset. So, instead we changed to focusing on developing graduates through our Cause4 Entrepreneurship programme. We looked to recruit those with the right outlook that could be fast-tracked with a supportive programme of training.
In developing an entrepreneurial training programme for our graduates I became obsessed about how to develop a culture of ideas and entrepreneurial thinking. Here are some thoughts about how to bring about the inner-Branson in your staff:
1. Encourage curiosity
Graduates often expect to be ‘spoon-fed’ like at school. We quickly dispel this concept! Curiosity underpins the best entrepreneurial cultures and the development of an organisation comes from everyone driving ideas forward. We encourage staff to go to events, to network and to share information about their training and development.
2. Put staff at the heart of business planning
I see too many examples of top down business planning where the direction of an organisation is decided by the most senior staff with no organisational buy-in. All our staff are responsible, in project teams, for two areas of our business plan and for making it happen – this creates space for the best ideas to emerge.
3. Live and breathe a culture plan
The more I work in organisational development the more fascinated I am about how hard organisational cultures are to change. Our team has designed a culture plan that informs everything from working environment, to behaviours, to the contents of the fruit bowl! Giving over control of the simple things develops a culture where things can happen.
4. It’s not all about the brainstorm
We have a weekly brainstorm to develop ideas but we also recognise that brainstorms don’t suit everyone. We have other forums – for example an internal email address where ideas and challenges are circulated to the whole team – a great platform for the more reflective types.
5. Allow room for profile
I see a lot of organisations control their social media activity so tightly that there’s no room to breathe. We’ve gone the other way. All of our staff have a twitter account and are expected to use it to generate good content. We also build the profile of all our employees through our daily blog which is run by our graduates. It serves two purposes: the creation of great content and the chance for staff to follow their passions and build their profile.
6. Ban ‘no’ before ‘yes’
We’ve banned the ‘mood-hoover’ types that say ‘no before yes’. I want to know what is possible, not what’s difficult and challenging. If an email comes to me as a set of excuses as to why something is too difficult to achieve – then it gets dispatched back to sender very quickly…! As Richard Branson says ‘Life is a lot more fun if you say yes before no’ and it’s not a cliché to expect your staff to generate solutions not problems.
7. Act as a springboard for ambitious employees
There is nothing worse than being in a culture where there is no room to develop. Continuous learning should be part of the everyday. We invest 15 days of training for graduates and have a pipeline of development that supports those that achieve their objectives to be promoted within the organisation every year.
It’s ongoing opportunities that keep people committed and where new ideas become part of the day to day.
Michelle Wright is founder of Cause 4
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