I am writing these lines from the new Gi Group Headquarters in Noida. It is a brand new office in one of the best buildings in NCR, nicely decorated and with great views of the city. Yesterday we just had the opening day of the office after 546 days since we moved to Work From Home back in March 2020, finally together for a belated finally-in-person celebration of our closing results of 2020.
The numbers of Gi Group India have improved every year since 2018, closing 2020 with the best results since the Gi Group entered the country more than 10 years ago. For 2021 we forecast even a much better achievement, with a closing EBITDA versus 2020 of a whopping 747% improvement. That would mean our 2021 bottom line would be more than the past 10 years bottom lines put together. And all this, while significantly growing our market share in a challenging Staffing market scenario for the country (see the graph).
What is the secret of this change in Gi Group India in the last years? First of all, a lot of great amazing work from all the team. People are in the centre of our company, and the success and results are coming from their efforts and capabilities. But four or five years ago, we had also great people in the team, a clear strategy and vision for the country… then what else happened that activated all the potential of the organization?
I believe what happened is a great example of the famous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. I do not mean that strategy is unimportant. It is essential indeed. But the strategy was clear for us for many years, and we were not able to take off. The strategy started to work only when we built a strong culture to take the organization on the path to success.
A strong culture was especially key during the worst times of the COVID crisis. COVID has created a defining moment to test the culture of organizations. Some organizations have recognized the situation as a once-in-a-generation moment to apply their company values and culture, as an opportunity to give a long-lasting imprint on the organization culture and values. It was a courageous investment, as many businesses were under financial stress… but if we consider the long term and are mindful of the effects of our actions on employee experience, the investment is the right one.
There is no magic recipe to create an organizational culture that translates a company’s strategy to success. There have been three essential levers that worked for us:
Create a psychologically safe workplace: As a recent Harvard Business Review article mentions, if you see compassion and accountability as opposite sides of a coin, you’re thinking about it wrong. Many managers believe they need to be tough to get people to produce, but the research doesn’t support that. You may be able to “extract labour” from people in the short term, but over the long term, it has the opposite effect. In Gi Group India, we have understood this and created an ‘Employee Assistance & Work-Life Services Program’ based on Physical, Mental and Social Well-being. As we discussed back in 2019 when we launched: “It is simply crazy to think that a person that is not happy in his/her personal life can be engaged, adaptive and achieve his/her objectives in their work.”
Routines & Protocols: The idea is to organize how ‘things are done here. And this includes systems for setting and maintaining standards for finance and quality, reward and promotion systems, KPI systems, weekly meetings, etc. The objective is to determine what’s supposed to happen in a particular situation, so everyone knows the path to follow. We need to be very cautious when creating these Routines & Protocols to avoid rigidity and lack of flexibility: the rules are made to develop a framework of stability and momentum, not to be followed blindly.
Communication: We believe the organizations should be open, honest, and transparent in communicating the key aspects of the business strategy and vision. And it is not only important to communicate and do it in an accessible way that everybody understands and can relate. Everybody should be involved, from General Manager to all business units.
The French writer Antoine de Sainte-Exupery said, “There is no hope of joy except in human relations”. Creating a Company Culture in an Organization is only about this: to invite people to create, nurture and develop fair, healthy and productive human relations for a common objective.
Let’s enjoy together.
(The writer of this article is Mr.Marcos Segador Arrebola, Country Manager- Gi Group, India)