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The impact of team-building can be phenomenal for an organisation if done correctly, but measuring effectiveness is easier said than done. Akankasha Dewan talks to Anuradha Purbey, HR director at Aviva Singapore, about the impact its team initiative has had on the business.
Rapid changes in the business landscape, coupled with the need to remain competitive, have led to organisations increasingly relying on team structures to boost their growth.
However, the use of groups to support organisational goals often fail because of the lack of a structured approach to monitor their performance and measure their effectiveness.
“If you really ask me about team activities and why sometimes they don’t work, it’s because we almost always look at team-building as an output, or as an activity,” says Anuradha Purbey, human resources director at Aviva Limited, Singapore.
“A great programme is a great output, you get great feedback at the end and people get excited.
“Then you go back to your workstation and you are again structured in silos. Your workflow is in silos, and you will lose that essence which you built.”
Purbey says it’s important to look at team initiatives as outcomes that have a clear impact on business development as a whole.
The Bin Bank Build Programme
Demonstrating the importance of viewing team activities as outcomes and not as outputs such as those described above, Purbey and her team are currently running the Bin Bank Build (BBB) programme for their employees.
“A recent team initiative which we’ve co-created with the global Aviva Group is the BBB exercise,” she says. “Bin implies what we can let go, bank is what we need to keep, and build is, what is it that we need to invest in.”
This programme is run mainly in the form of an idea-generating and brainstorming activity, where employees get together on a monthly basis to suggest ideas which will strengthen Aviva’s capabilities and build a high-performing culture.
The aim of the programme has been divided into three categories. The first involves taking ownership – by suggesting ideas related to the business, the programme allows staff to make the Aviva strategy real for themselves by building a picture of what it will take to turn the strategy to life.
The second is related to action planning and execution. As Aviva’s senior management hears ideas around the concrete actions and decisions that Aviva needs to commit to, it executes them accordingly to boost Aviva’s growth as a whole.
The third category draws on the importance of generating an early momentum of growth. By getting together to suggest these ideas, employees generate real momentum and early buy-in for the roll-out of any Aviva’s strategies.
“To this end, workshops were organised for every employee to contribute ideas,” Purbey says. “In these workshops, the employees explored the Aviva strategy and culture prior to contributing ideas. This ensured relevant context for the employees before coming up with ideas.”
All employees at Aviva Singapore have sat down together in a BBB forum and contributed ideas related to business, technological processes or product or methods.
The initiative is led by HR and is in partnership with the various leaders aligned in the organisation.
“It’s the beginning of getting teams to interact together to have like-minded conversations. And then finding means and ways to sustain those interactions.”
Measuring its effectiveness
“Over 500 ideas have been generated and a BBB steering committee has been formed,” Purbey says, explaining this BBB committee is the unit which decides on the validity of the ideas proposed.
The committee is chaired by the CEO of Aviva Limited and consists of 10 members who represent a cross section of the organisation. It meets once every two weeks and takes concrete actions to execute feasible ideas. The status of the ideas are periodically reported to all Aviva employees in Singapore.
“The ideas are being looked at and they are being filtered as we speak,” she says.
Purbey further reveals there are tangible means of measuring the return on investment in the programme.
“We have hard metrics in place. We are fully expected to report back on how many ideas got generated, how many got implemented, what is it really leading towards. It’s being tracked to that level of detail.”
She adds, however, the best ROI of the programme has been in terms of areas where the activity has been led and managed by not just the business, but by representations of as many functions as possible.
It is also important to distinguish between performance metrics, which will measure the activity as an outcome, over that of an output.
“So many ideas came in that were an output metric, but the outcome is how many actually got implemented,” she says. “And from ones that were implemented, we need to look at whether they have had any impact on attrition and retention, on process efficiencies and so on and so forth. That is the difference.”
Interestingly, ideas which the BBB committee even disapproves of are clearly highlighted to employees who proposed them, including the reasons for their rejection.
This helps build trust in employees and enables them to understand how the organisation works, Purbey explains.
How HR can play a part
Purbey emphasises both HR and businesses have to play a partnership role in ensuring organisations can harness the full potential of such team programmes.
“HR needs to make sure it is a sustainable initiative, it is based on outcomes and accountability is co-owned with the business and it has leadership support,” she says.
Harnessing support from the leadership is best achieved when such programmes are aligned with organisational goals in question.
“For the business, there needs to be value. Whatever we are thinking of implementing, be it any intervention, any programme, or any business-led initiative, the first question is how does it tie up in our overall business strategy?”
While the BBB programme has been a productive initiative so far, Purbey emphasis the company needs to focus on continuing to execute the ideas suggested if they wish to keep reaping the benefits of the programme.
“They [the BBB sessions] have shown some initial success, but we need to sustain the momentum and keep the conversations alive and continue to align them with the business.”