How to identify future leaders in your organisation

For many organisations one of the toughest tasks is finding the right people to promote to positions of authority within a company, but how do you know you’ve chosen the right people?

When promoting people into your leadership team, you want people you can trust and who you feel will make the right choices and decisions in order to keep the workforce, and the company as a whole, moving forward. John Telfer, Managing Director at INSPIRING, says that “an inspiring leader will be able to spot talent in others and nurture that talent through forming trusting and productive relationships.” Here, we’ve come up with some top tips to help you ensure that you’re identifying and nurturing the future leaders within your organisation.


One way to spot the natural leaders within your organisation is to pay attention to how they communicate with their colleagues. Is there one person that people often go to for advice or assistance? They could be pointing you towards a potential leader. It is also worth observing how people communicate within meetings, noting how they have prepared for the meeting and how actively they participate in discussion and follow-up actions.

Soft skills

Within a workplace skills can be categorised as hard or soft. Hard skills relate to specific technical tasks, however soft skills relate more to behavioural or people skills, such as teamworking, creative problem-solving and communication – and these are the skills you need to look for in future leaders. 

Linked In’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report  found that soft skills can make or break the decision to recruit a person, with 92% of talent professionals saying they matter as much or more than hard skills when they hire, and 80% say they’re increasingly important to company success. (Notably however, only 41% of companies taking part in the report had a formal process in place to measure soft skills.)

Soft skills are crucial when it comes to leadership and management.Commenting for CMI’s Insights, Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at the CMI, said: “So-called ‘soft skills’ are absolutely vital to business success – not least since many of them are in fact the basics of good management and leadership. It’s just not possible to be a successful manager without these core people and team-leading skills.”


When you’re reviewing future leaders for your business you want to be safe in the knowledge that they share the same core values as your organisation, and are passionate about what you’re trying to achieve. Forbes says that “By communicating the organisation’s values and your own, you provide clarity around the why of your decisions and leadership style”. When looking for leadership potential, look for those people who are in tune with, and keen to promote, the company’s ethos and values, as this is likely to suggest a reflection of their own personal values.


One of the key skills to identify in potential leaders is the ability to deal with, and recover from, setbacks. This skill relates to high emotional intelligence, which helps people to understand that others are judging them on not just the failure, but also on how they handle the failure.  Good leaders will show themselves to be accountable in both good and bad times, so this is definitely a worthwhile area to pay attention to.

Inspiring’s managing director, John Telfer, comments: It’s important that leaders and managers are not afraid to show their own weakness by asking for support where needed, especially when new to the role. It’s often the case that they will have to learn to cope with managing a team and dealing with all the issues that come with it, whilst continuing to perform their own important role in the company.


Inspiring is an approved CMI centre offering Leadership and Management training with the option of CMI qualifications at Levels 3, 5 or 7. We believe that a great leader can engage your staff and encourage increased productivity. Spotting employees with leadership potential and helping them to develop their skills and behaviours will reap big rewards for both the individual and your organisation. Take a look at our Leadership Development services to find out how INSPIRING Business Performance can help you achieve your business goals.

Reward and recognition of employees without breaking your budget

Rewarding staff is a great way of motivating them and maintaining employee satisfaction. But how can you do so without spending money? We understand that as a business you can’t throw bonuses their way every time you want to say ‘well done’ or ‘thanks for the good work’. We’ve created this article to share some top tips for showing your employees appreciation for a job well done without putting pressure on already stretched budgets.

Keep hold of your talent

Employee satisfaction is absolutely vital in any workplace, but that doesn’t mean salary reviews and end of year bonuses have to be the ‘be all and end all’. To motivate and retain talented employees for the year ahead, employers need to develop more innovative recognition and reward strategies that don’t rely on money alone. Doing so will protect against misalignment between company goals and individual activities and keep everyone on track. You will maintain and improve employee happiness without damaging the company’s budget.

Honesty is the best policy

Speculation and gossip surrounding pay increases and bonuses can be dangerous. It’s impossible to eliminate this completely but you can make sure that you’re delivering a consistent and honest message about opportunities for financial reward in the coming months and years. Employee wellness is important, so it’s important they know how things like pay increases work because, if for example, an employee had false information, and was hoping for a bonus/increase in the nearby future it could lead to constant disappointment and the employee might start doubting their work and lose motivation and interest. That’s why it’s important you provide accurate information. This will give your employees a sense of control over their futures and help to create an open, honest workplace.

Offer opportunities

A good way to recognise high performance is to offer opportunities to broaden your employees’ experience. For example, ask them to lead an internal knowledge sharing session or offer a day’s job shadowing. This could lead to creating a new role for them in another area of the business. Engaging with the aspirations of your employees and creating personal development plans that help them realise their ambitions is crucial to retaining talent.

Regular feedback

Taking the time to evaluate your communication and feedback processes sends a strong message that you care about employees’ development and that good work will be recognised. Without structured feedback employees can feel like the quality of their work, good or bad, goes unnoticed. Staff surveys and focus groups are a good way of achieving this.

Say ‘thanks’!

It’s common knowledge that  a lack of recognition from management is one of the most demotivating factors for employees. Taking the time to highlight good work will boost employees’ job satisfaction and put any constructive criticism in context. Drawing attention to achievements across teams can be a powerful motivation to other team members.

Satisfied staff equals satisfied customers equals business growth

There has been extensive research over the years that sets out to prove that improving employee satisfaction impacts directly on organisational performance and, ultimately, organisational success. It's certainly true that satisfied staff are likely to result in a satisfied customer base, and satisfied customers directly impact on the bottom line.  

If employees believe that they are and will be supported by the employer, especially  their line manager, in getting what they want out of work, beyond just money, they will respond with positive behaviour – high employee engagement levels. Specific employee engagement practices include:

  • Shared decision-making
  • The opportunity for all people to influence the planning process
  • A robust approach to communicating
  • An open flow of information
  • The development of effective leaders and managers

What’s the impact of Employee Engagement on the bottom line?

Past research has thrown up many different finding in terms of putting the impact of employee engagement into figures. Aon Hewitt’s 2014 Engagement Report examined the link between engagement and its impact on a business’ bottom line, finding that organisations in the top quartile for engagement, where more than 70% of employees are engaged, saw a 4% increase in sales growth compared to an average company. By contrast, sales growth in bottom quartile engagement companies was down 1%.

In  a recent article for Forbes, Kevin Kruse points out the argument that “Maybe employees are just more engaged when their companies are growing, bonuses are big, and stock prices are climbing.”. However, this viewpoint has been investigated in a research paper by Silvan Winkler, Cornelius König and Martin Kleinmann.  New insights into an old debate: Investigating the temporal sequence of commitment and performance at the business unit level  looked at the organisational commitment of 755 retail bank employees from 2005—2008, along with financial performance and customer satisfaction of the business units they worked in. The study provides insight into the relationship between job attitude and job performance, finding that while the impact of business performance on attitudes diminishes after 1 year, the impact of employee attitudes on business performance lasts much longer, in fact up to 3 years.

Organisations that place effective employee engagement at the heart of their business strategy will be rewarded with greater levels of innovation; increased commitment from employees; improved customer satisfaction and, ultimately, better productivity that will help gain competitive advantage. It does not require complex or expensive investment in new ways of working but it does need wholehearted support from senior managers through their leadership and strategic vision, and the active buy-in of effective line managers.

INSPIRING Business Performance provides valuable, practical advice for organisations who want to improve employee engagement or look more generally at achieving performance improvements.


Gamification of employee engagement surveys

HR professionals know how vital it is to measure employee engagement and its effect on productivity. This is usually done by an annual employee engagement survey, which although extremely useful for developing actionable plans do have their limitations, which should be recognised.

The data obtained can be limited in value due to the timeliness of the feedback, and only having one occasion a year to garner employee feedback is not usually enough. Using alternative methods to gather this feedback can bring surprising results.


What is gamification?

The term ‘gamification’ is widely attributed to Nick Pelling, who is a British games programmer and inventor. He first mentioned the word in his work more than ten years ago, but it didn’t become mainstream until 2010. Gamification is when you take elements from gaming and implement them into non-gaming fields.

The psychology behind gamification is that you can use regular and consistent positive feedback such as points, badges, status, and so on, to build up the employee’s motivation. You could use gaming theory to create an interactive way to engage and/or communicate with employees. A survey by the Aberdeen Group found that organisations who deploy gamification improve engagement by 48% and turnover by 36%.

Gain instant feedback

Employee engagement surveys are key for many organisations who want to understand how their employees feel about their jobs, the business they work for and their bosses. If deployed at the right time, they can also be used to obtain feedback about an upcoming change.

Unfortunately it can take up to three months to collect feedback from 100 employees using traditional email or paper based surveys. This can mean that you are working with out-of-date data and can result in a feedback gap that makes it harder to resolve any issues raised, because of the length of time it has taken to analyse the data. This gap can create a downward spiral of employee discontent.

When you are only doing employee surveys once or twice a year, you may be tempted to ask as many questions as possible to cover all possible bases. The more questions there are, the more employees may be put off by the amount of depth or time needed to answer them. This can result in less than accurate answers being given because attention spans wane and boxes get ticked without real thought.

If you want to gather employee feedback during the year, you won’t necessarily want to wait for the annual survey, especially if it’s many months away. If you are launching a new company structure, changing benefits or simply renovating the toilets, you could learn how employees feel about the changes and gauge their reaction. Utilising new technologies and gamification can be incredibly effective. One example of this could be using a mobile app to gain instant feedback on burning issues.

Push questions to a mobile app

It’s likely that most of your employees have smartphones and chances are they carry them around with them wherever they go. By pushing questions to this app, and giving incentives such as badges and game-style rewards to those answering the questions, employees are able to answer the questions wherever they are and whenever it suits them. This increases the likelihood of a response. In fact, we’ve found that employees are three times more likely to respond to a short survey delivered via an app than they are on email or paper-based surveys. According to Gartner game theory, gamification can dramatically increase participation in HCM processes, and HR teams should apply it to low response activities.

A mobile app could be used by HR in a couple of ways. It could be a standalone way to have employees answer short questions about specific events or it could be used as an extension to existing surveys. For example, if the results of a 360 degree review highlights a specific issue, HR can push out additional questions via the app to investigate it specifically.

Benefits of up-to-the-minute data

Being able to get instant feedback could tackle potential issues before they become a problem, rather than long after. Capturing employee opinion as and when you need to means that HR and internal communications departments can benefit from insight in an instant. This up-to-the-minute data can be taken to the Board to support proposals or substantiate budget requests. The insight can also be used to develop plans to help employees to feel more engaged and reduce dissatisfaction as quickly as possible, improving retention.



How healthy employees improve business performance

National Stress Awareness Day will be held on the 4th November 2015, designed to raise awareness around what has long been an issue for those in the working world. Employees are facing increasing pressures to balance being effective at work with maintaining a quality home and social life, so its not surprising to hear that 45% of UK employers consider stress and mental illness a major cause of long-term employee absence, according to research by GRiD.

According to a 2014 study by the Office for National Statistics, 131 million working days were lost to sickness absence in 2013, with £9 billion a year spent by employers on sick pay and associated costs. Research in Forbes also shows that the UK is in the top 10 countries with the longest working hours in Europe, potentially increasingly the strain on creating a work-life balance and managing stress.

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD, explains that stress and mental health issues are becoming more prevalent when it comes to employer recognition. “Where once stress and mental ill health were commonly overlooked as a key health risk for businesses (compared to acute medical conditions such as heart attack or cancer) employers appear to be taking note,” she told Cover magazine.

Stress can build due to issues both at work and at home. At work stress can come from a combination of heavy workloads, long hours and high pressure environments, while at home lifestyle pressures, family issues and financial strain can all increase pressure on the way people feel and act.

This means that stress is now just another issue on a long list of other usual causes for staff absenteeism, such as musculoskeletal disorders and pains and minor illness like colds and coughs.

The issue of presenteeism is also becoming a common problem within the workplace, where employees continue to come into work when they are unwell. Although this may sound like a good thing to HR professionals, it is thought that presenteeism costs UK workplaces £15bn per year – compared to the £8bn absenteeism costs. This is because many employees now feel pressure to attend regardless of the state of their health, potentially impacting the health of those around them too. 81% of employees said they had caught illnesses from colleagues, according to Investors in People.

This presenteeism can be a big issue for employers, and as such they should take action to make sure that the culture of the business supports staff.  A member of staff who is not fully fit enough to engage at work may be physically present but will not be making a proper contribution to the business, impacting not only the quality and quantity of the work they produce but affecting the overall working atmosphere, including for the people around them. Having unhealthy people at work creates a vicious cycle, so organisations must look at ways to ensure that their business supports the physical and mental well being of their employees.

Supportive management is one of the most important ways to do this, and also one of the most budget-friendly. Making employees feel encouraged and valued can be a huge motivator, and help ensure that staff feel they are understood and appreciated. This can have a great impact on a person’s overall wellbeing. Working to create flexibility within the structure of the business, such as introducing flexi-time, can also help employees to create a better balance between their work and personal lives, reducing the need to take time off.

Achieving enhanced business performance through a healthier workforce therefore requires great commitment to the cause throughout all levels of the business, focusing on preventative measures rather than reactive solutions to minimise the high cost outlays associated with staff turnover and absenteeism.

The culture of a business should revolve around an environment where all staff are able to work to their potential, with the management team working together with employees to achieve the overall business goals. Implementing structures that allow for staff to generate ideas to improve the business as a whole is another great way to create a better, healthier sense of staff involvement through all levels of the company. This can be done through employee satisfaction surveys and employee reviews, to get people more involved.

In 2014 a quarter (25%) of employers surveyed by GRiD thought that maintaining a good work/life balance amongst their employees was a top priority. To see business performance improvement across the board more and more companies need to recognise the importance of healthy, happy staff.



INSPIRING Business Performance Internal Customer Service (ICS) – Lewis Stores Case Study

For many of those setting up home in South Africa, Lewis Furniture Retail Stores is typically the first stop they make to buy everything from a new sofa, bed or wardrobe, or even a washing machine or TV. With 350 stores spread across rural and South African urban centres, customers are never far away from one of its outlets.

Home sweet home

Fully furnished

The furniture store prides itself on providing customers with reasonably priced furniture, electronics and small home appliances on flexible payment terms, helping millions of South Africans to furnish their homes cost-effectively.

As one of the country’s largest retailers, the task of managing, communicating and looking after Lewis’ 8,000 employees is the responsibility of Niel Jansen, human resources director. Following his appointment to the role in 2012, Niel became immediately aware of a number of issues occurring throughout its 350 stores. Reviewing monthly sales figures revealed that many stores and their managers were failing to hit daily and weekly targets and this was underpinned by a higher than expected absenteeism rate. Jansen quickly undertook a tour of Lewis’ retail outlets in order to introduce himself and meet with the company’s store, area and district managers to try and ascertain what the issues and challenges were.

Taking a temperature

It quickly became obvious to Jansen that there were considerable issues between store employees and head office that needed to be addressed. Jansen called INSPIRING Business Performance to undertake a culture and climate survey of both in-store and head office staff to ascertain how motivated and committed they were. The climate survey revealed that those employees based in-store had a much more negative perception of the company than the group norm (average of all staff).

As Jansen explains, “We could see that employees in-store were critical of the company, and more specifically of their colleagues at head office, but we needed to understand why. Since these employees are frontline staff they represent the Lewis brand to the thousands of customers they meet everyday. A negative or disillusioned member of staff can have a real impact on sales and the Lewis Stores brand.”

The climate survey was able to identify that sales staff on the shop floor had a very negative perception of their colleagues in the support functions located in head office. These support functions included finance, IT, human resources, product support and repairs, and customer support. These poor performing relationships had a real and financial impact on the quality of service being delivered in store.

Having obtained an overview of perceptions, Jansen decided to drill down further into attitudes and gather more qualitative data that could be used to develop and implement a change plan. Using INSPIRING’s Internal Customer Service (ICS) tool Lewis set out to establish where silos existed and what internal bottlenecks were impacting company performance.

The ICS tool was implemented in May 2013 and once again surveyed all staff but this time measuring the perceived quality of services offered by employees to their own colleagues as mapped against 12 key performance indicators. These indicators include attitude and professionalism during service delivery; the quality of information and feedback provided during service delivery; quality of communication between the two employees; the accessibility and reliability of an employee during the exchange; the urgency of response; the impact of service between the two employees or departments; and importantly the attitude of the employee during service failure and how that supports customer loyalty during the interaction.

As Carlo Froneman, head of organisation diagnostics at INSPIRING explains, “The accuracy and efficiency of internal business processes and working relationships play a significant role in the success and profitability of a business. The ICS reviews services provided to fellow employees and other departments within an organisation, as well as the suppliers and anyone else with whom we work.”

The tools identified and rated the relationships between departments at both a qualitative and granular level. For example, the tool identified that the lack of urgency in communication between the store and the finance department meant that the store was unable to query billing or credit enquiries in a timely manner. Long delays resulted in customers going elsewhere meaning stores were missing sales targets that they should have been able to achieve.

The tool also identified, amongst other issues, that the turnaround time on requests from the store to head office support function was protracted and delayed. In some cases orders were being taken in store, and sent to head office for processing, only for product support departments to advise latterly that the product had been discontinued or that the colour or fabric was unavailable.

The net result of these examples was that the store considered head office staff to be unhelpful with a bad attitude. This was having a direct impact on sales and customer service. Having identified where the silos existed, Jansen and INSPIRING set about developing an internal change plan.

A number of initiatives were implemented. Jansen and his team ran workshops with senior managers to highlight the problems and develop new processes to overcome the issues with internal service delivery. The HR team also incorporated feedback from staff at all levels into the new processes as a way to improve engagement.

Staff at head office now have a two-hour time slot to respond to requests from colleagues in store. If answers are not received in that timeframe, the store is able to escalate its enquiry. The stores have also been provided and trained on a new self-service support IT system that enables them to find answers immediately to billing and stock enquiries. By empowering the stores to help themselves, they are able to respond to customers quickly and accurately.

The change plan has been underway for a number of months. Jansen estimates that it will take until November 2013 to implement fully at which point he intends to re-run ICS a second time to see how perceptions have changed.

“We’ve already seen a vast improvement in internal service delivery that has resulted in a shorter turnaround times on customer requests (both in store and on the phone), on product information, availability of new product ranges, financial applications and requests, product repairs progress and delivery time of pre-ordered furniture. The impact of improving internal service levels has resulted in improved sales and retention of existing customers,” Jansen adds.

By reducing employee frustration that was causing staff turnover, eliminating activities that were not important, and identifying training needs by uncovering gaps in competencies and performance, Lewis has been able to improve external customer service and delivery of products and services.

According to Jansen, “The relationship between the Internal Customer Service score and profitability (92% correlation) is so strong that stores with low scores, reported low profit growth for the same period. INSPIRING was able to identify that a 5% improvement in ICS score corresponds with a 4.5% improvement in profit growth.”

Jansen adds, “Customer service has also realised benefits. By improving the Internal Customer Service score by 3.5% the stores’ customer satisfaction levels have increased by 6.5%, which means more return customers.”

“Overall we also established that a 1% improvement in the ICS score has a positive impact on all of our company key performance indicators including profit growth, staff turnover and customer satisfaction levels,” finishes Jansen.

Lewis has now created a culture of feedback, ensuring that individuals feel empowered, engaged and able to make a difference. ICS results have now been incorporated into personal development plans and are linked to relevant customer service interventions. By taking a proactive approach to customer service, delivery and retention Lewis is now able to more effectively support stores across South Africa regardless of location.