Google Project Aristotle: How to build more effective teams
Teams turns strategy into reality. In this article we focus on the inner workings of a team and what it takes to thrive as a business with healthy, happy and highly effective teams.
Starlight Children's Foundation is a for-impact organization founded in 1988 with the mission of brightening the lives of seriously ill and hospitalized children...because happiness matters. Starlight partners with Australian health professionals to develop programs underpinned by positive psychology principles that support the 'total care' and well-being of children and teens.
Starlight Children’s Foundation works to a three-year business strategy, broken down into one-year functional team business plans. In 2019, year one of the three-year plan, the people strategy further focused on underpinning the people development and feedback processes with positive psychology, specifically focusing on achievement and growth and development.
Prior to Impraise they had a manual and cumbersome paper-based process. This process did not allow for data to be collated and updated easily, making it very difficult to report, track and analyse information when required. This process also lacked meaning for team members.
"Compared to our old process, Impraise is a tool that really empowers our people to focus on how they can make the best possible impact." - Melissa Barker, Learning and Development Advisor
This challenge was amplified due to the nature of having a unique team structure dispersed nationally. The organization has office, hospital-based and remote team members with a mix of full-time, part-time and casuals working across 19 locations.
At Starlight, the role of the people manager in the employment experience had always been recognised as the vital ingredient in having highly engaged, high performing and aligned team members.
But now the focus was shifting, they wanted to further focus on supporting their people managers to be excellent coaches – the skill at the heart of the people manager role – and facilitate ongoing, quality conversations which support team members to set and achieve SMART goals that are aligned to business plans and Starlight’s strategy. The People and Culture team needed a tool to support managers to achieve this strategic approach.
Particularly with our people managers, we knew that they would play a really important role in sharing the information, embedding the process, and having quality coaching conversations, which is a huge part of why we implemented Impraise."
Starlight knew what they wanted; they had mapped out their existing processes and clearly defined their goals, all of which aligned with their Think, Achieve, Grow three-year strategy.
Think; focused on the idea of critical thinking, with the customer always in mind, what is the best solution. Achieve; was already strongly embedded with employees continuously pushing to be better and go above and beyond. Grow; honed in on strength areas and continuing to develop those at an individual, team and organizational level.
With that in mind, they decided to focus on:
With their goals clearly defined, they were ready to begin building an exciting and engaging process with Impraise to aid their vision.
The process dubbed ‘Best Self, Best Starlight’ included messaging which reflected positive psychology, something which is deeply rooted in their values. This was a key element in the rollout as it would later lead to high adoption rates.
The approach started with bi-annual goal setting and mid and end of year reviews, underpinned by real-time feedback and a quarterly engagement survey.
The goal setting process is a split responsibility. All team members know what is expected of them and that they need to set meaningful performance and development goals. And the people managers also heavily support and drive this as well, ensuring that their team members do have quality goals and in turn have quality coaching conversations.
To implement this approach, People Managers were firstly introduced to the tool to support them as coaches.
Throughout the implementation of their new process, communication was high ensuring all managers were clear on the purpose, context and championing it with their teams.
Providing all team members with a tool that gave them the ability to give praise in real time, that was visible to the team members manager, was going to allow for peer to peer recognition and strength spotting; an element of positive psychology.
Team members were educated on why Impraise was being implemented and reminded of the Starlight approach of developing their people, including giving and receiving feedback.
A staggering 9,434 pieces of feedback were shared in Impraise within one year. 63% of that feedback was unsolicited, shared via a praise, tip or on a skill, the remaining 37% was shared through formal reviews or projects.
Key to the success of launching the new people process, was the buy-in from the executive team. 100% of the executive team members set up their accounts, set their first goal and sent their first praise.
“If people are highly engaged and they are well, then there will be better business outcomes” - Susan Henry, Head of People & Culture
As this was the first time running this annual process, it was important to run a pulse survey to understand how their team members experienced it. The results speak for themselves, 75% like Impraise and find it easy to use, 71% are excited to use Impraise to set goals and 84% like the ‘Praise and Tip’ functionality.
Contributing to the success of their quick adoption was the ability to give praise and recognition in real-time and in a meaningful way.
With clear expectations and plenty of communication the Starlight People Team had set a stretch goal of 100% input of goals company-wide. In the first year of using the tool and running this initiative, Starlight had a 75% completion rate. This achievement was a huge shift from their previous Personal Development Plan (PDP) way of working.
Everything that the Starlight team does is underpinned by strong relationships with healthcare professionals, families, children and teens, donors and supporters, and their team including volunteers; trust is extremely important. Impraise has helped them to strengthen their culture of trust and feedback, and allowed them to develop their people, resulting in better business results as well.
Having a strong foundation to build on, Starlight wants to continue to increase the quality of feedback shared and to encourage people to get comfortable with sharing strengths based feedback.
"It was really insightful to be able to see the data and the metrics over the course of time. That helped guide us in the planning for the next year.” - Kerry Shields, HR Technical Lead
The next focus area is simplifying their approach to Goals, at the individual, team and organizational level, and further supporting team members in creating, pursuing and achieving SMART goals. Using their three-year strategy as the foundation for alignment for company-wide goals.
Starlight has a strong achievement and growth culture which is important for their goal setting process. Alignment to the business goals and strategy and for team members to develop themselves which in turn drives value for the business.
To support this process there will be further goal setting webinars to educate team members on the why and how, focused on individual team member development. This also means building on their feedback culture, not only to share praises but also provide constructive developmental feedback as well.
Build engaged & high performing teams by enabling Managers to better understand & grow their people. Drive feedback loops with goal setting, regular 1:1s, fairer reviews, actionable feedback and more.