After five years of business, Birmingham-based virtual assistant service Time Etc realised it had developed a culture of low performance and hardworking staff had become demoralised. A set of formal staff performance processes needed to be put in place. Founder Barnaby Lashbrooke had been keen to prevent the company from feeling corporate, so many relationships were based on friendship and there was a lack of structure.
The first step for Time Etc was to improve the working environment. The company established a peer feedback system based on appreciation, to make each staff member feel like an important part of the team.
Time Etc started holding a huddle every day, where a team member would pick someone and talk about why they appreciated them. It helped to break negative attitudes and demonstrate that performance reviews weren’t synonymous with criticism.
The next step was to put a review structure in place. The company assigned goals to each employee, which would then be reviewed by managers at monthly one-to-ones. These goals are followed “religiously” at Time Etc. For Lashbrooke, it was important that each goal came with context, to prevent reviews from becoming subjective. The company’s sales team has goals based on revenue, but these are broken down into a specific number of customers or sales conversations.
To give staff more input into their performance reviews, Time Etc introduced a tool called Get Lighthouse. It enables staff to shape the focus of their one-to-ones, prepare questions on specific topics and easily set next steps and follow-ups.
Time Etc now has 25 staff in its Birmingham office and over 500 virtual assistants around the world. Before implementing the staff review structure, Time Etc had grown to £1m revenue in five years, but was “stuck” there according to Lashbrooke. Since the company started to review staff performance, revenue has grown to £4m in five years.
As Lashbrooke explained, it’s a direct impact of new processes – the company hasn’t increased marketing spend or made any other big change in the business during that period.
“If you feel like you’re starting to lose control as the business grows, take a real step back and don’t rush into any systems,” Lashbrooke said. “Go back to being human first and keep performance management second. Try to build a culture where people feel safe and the default attitude is to appreciate rather than criticise. Spend a bit of time on that and whatever system you implement will be easier.”