Backing up the phrase 'people are our strongest asset'

By Simon Stanford: Managing Director, O2 Enterprise Sales

There’s much talk, and perhaps more scepticism, about the value in creating a ‘fun’ environment for employees at work. Research shows that employees who have fun at work are far more likely to report higher levels of psychological wellbeing than those who do not. It’s not just digital organisations like Google and Facebook that are embracing fun; even the venerable BBC is kitting out its offices with beanbags and pool tables.

It’s certainly impossible to argue against the need to focus on your people. As any manager would tell you, “A happy employee is a productive employee”, and certainly more willing to go the extra mile. The phrase “people are our strongest asset” is in constant use. But with an expression so commonplace, there’s a danger it becomes just that: an expression. “People are our strongest asset” is only true when we treat them as such.  It’s obviously important to create a fun workplace, but it means a lot more than just getting a few beanbags or a pool table.  It’s about providing people with the right tools to do their job, recognising the value of their contribution, and thanking them for their work.

For us at O2, this is hugely important. We strive minute-by-minute, day-by-day to maintain our industry-leading position in customer satisfaction. We centre our activities on the needs of our customers. For this to work, IT follows the needs of the people, not the other way round. One of the ways we’ve achieved this is by thinking ‘social’. Getting everyone in the organisation connected to each other and to the sources of knowledge was the first step. We now use Microsoft’s Skype for Business to make contact and progress things more quickly. Everyone knows the horror of an overflowing inbox and a never-ending stream of emails, so we use instant messaging for quick queries. Skype for Business lets us collaborate on calls, review documents in real time, and catch up face-to-face when we’re at different ends of the country. We also use Microsoft SharePoint to share and store documents and ensure that we have easy access to the most up-to-date versions. And, with all these tools, it doesn’t matter what device is used, whether it’s a phone, tablet or PC. Our heritage is mobile so perhaps you’d expect that, but our tools work across our employees’ own devices too. Our launch of ‘social’ tools coincided with the implementation of a BYOD policy that saw over 1000 devices come online in less than 10 weeks.

Once connected, we also encourage people to reach out beyond their existing networks, interact in different ways and continue to be more social in the way they work. We encourage them to “follow” each other and topics of interest via Yammer, and we hold “YamJams” (online discussions in real time) to drive debate. For us, ‘thinking social’ helps us to build stronger relationships across the business and improve collaboration, recognising the strength in our people.

It’s an approach we foster in our customers too. We’ll never push technology for technology’s sake, but we help a lot of customers with their own BYOD or COPE programmes and the corresponding management and security challenges. We find shortcuts, with solutions like hosted UC or platforms like O2 Gateway which make it easier for your people to work together. But it’s also about the added extras. As well as aligning tech to how our people work, and making sure the tech we offer aligns to the way our customers work, we like to offer a little more. O2 Open gives customers discounts of up to 25% off airtime plans for O2 Refresh, and O2 Priority offers daily treats and extraordinary experiences, with deals ranging from free coffees at Café Nero, to priority access to tickets to that must-see gig 48 hours before the box office opens. These perks can make a real difference to how people feel about the tech they use. We’ve definitely seen this with the popularity of Priority, the UK’s largest digital loyalty programme.

So while we don’t focus on beanbags or pool tables, we do recognise that making people our strongest asset requires more than just lip service. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you get the best from your people, please just send me an email.