Growth through team development

Can your choice of project management system really affect the skills and career development of your teams? 

Surprisingly, Yes, according to these Synergist-using MDs and other senior managers. Makes you think.

Raising commercial awareness

A national skill shortage

What is the top skill shortage among graduates? The Association of Graduate Recruiters says that Commercial Awareness is the number one UK skill shortage today, at 67%.

This is ahead of Communication Skills and well ahead of Leadership, Teamwork and Problem Solving.

Educating non-financial teams about commercial awareness might seem a huge task in a busy work environment. And converting what could be an abstract topic into practical reality would seem even harder.

Yet the results are conclusive. MDs and FDs tell us consistently that teams simply using Synergist quickly develop a keen commercial awareness of the impact of their actions on their colleagues and the business as a whole. For many, it's something of a revelation.

Phil Robinson, CEO of ClickThrough Marketing:

“When young graduates join us and work on small clients, the data now lets them be strategic. They understand the money side of things right away. It’s such good career experience for when they are promoted to handling larger clients.”

Steven Clark, Financial and Commercial Manager of 40-strong Tayburn:

“It’s been an education for the team. It gives so much more knowledge to the account directors, for example. It’s increased the financial knowledge to non-finance staff tenfold.”

“It’s given them more of a sense of responsibility, more discipline. The team have become much more commercially minded now. They understand margins. It’s also helped our account managers and account directors earn more from existing clients.”

And Liam Herbert, then Managing Director of JBP, told us:

“It [Synergist] has placed account administration control in the hands of those people that directly manage the business. This has had the highly beneficial effect of raising commercial awareness among the client management team.”

Running each area like a little company

Phil Robinson, CEO of ClickThrough Marketing, said of Synergist:

“It’s helped us change our culture. Lisa’s job [Director of Finance] has become more strategic, and people are empowered to run their own departments like proper little companies now.”

Steven Clark, Financial & Comm'l Manager of 40-strong agency Tayburn:

“We give transparency to our teams, so they have the information they need to manage jobs properly.

“Today, designers, art-workers and account managers are knowledge workers, even mini-entrepreneurs, for us. The days of them doing isolated tasks in the dark are over.”

And Gary Winder, MD of REC, a 120-strong project-based company, said:

“There’s a shortage of commercially aware consultants out there to hire, so you have to develop them. Synergist helps: It gives our teams a wider perspective, shows them the commercial implications of their decisions, and helps them prioritise and make the right decisions.”

Entrepreneurs in the workplace 

The best-selling business book Good To Great noted an interesting thing about company business culture.

It said that a characteristic of successful companies is those having entrepreneurship at the individual level. In successful companies, managers and staff are driven by an unrelenting inner sense of determination, with each individual functioning as if running a little enterprise.

Here are the views of three MDs and FDs on their experience on the subject.

Improved team collaboration

Growth through collaboration

Teamwork is more than simply getting on with people you work with.

We're talking about the step shift that happens when people see how their work integrates with others. They see at a glance how things like delays or overspends affect colleagues, client service and even the viability of the project. It also helps hugely when limited resources are seen to be allocated fairly.

Steven Clark, Financial and Commercial Manager of Tayburn, told us:

“The team are much more empowered now. It’s been an education for the team”.

“We give transparency to our teams, so they have the information they need to manage jobs properly.

“And the team sees how many hours are allocated to a job and how many hours are left. So when we have a Monday morning meeting to allocate who will be working on which job, it’s completely transparent to all.”

Timesheet adoption

A marketing agency told us:

Timesheets are accessible from wherever you happen to be, making the task more practical, less onerous for the creatives and account management team.”

And the Managing Director of a digital and branding agency told us a tip:

“To get everybody on board regarding timesheets, we introduced a Timesheet Raffle. A spotless Time-sheet week wins a ticket. We gave five prizes a month, including mystery prizes. Everybody fills them in now.”

Surprise: Not everyone likes filling in timesheets

If a team has never filled in timesheets before, you need to come up with persuasive ways to get the message across. The least successful way is the stick.

Here are the most helpful approaches we've seen, as backed up by the three contributors here.

  • Explain how timesheets help them: Less wasted time, individuals shine in front of clients, and the business is more able to steer towards more profitability and better job prospects.
  • Show how it helps the business to thrive, meaning more secure jobs.
  • Choose software that is as easy as possible to fill in, including via mobile devices for when on the move.
  • Explain that timesheets are a fundamental requirement of all project-based businesses of any substance, so it's simply a given for the industry.
  • Make sure even senior management sets an example.
  • Consider giving out special prizes to get it started.