Pulse Check with Andy Wright, Streamtime CEO
This week we sat down with Streamtime CEO, Andy Wright, to chat everything from how to motivate remote based teams to their research findings with Never Not Creative on the affect of empathy based leadership on staff churn rates. Andy also shares with us his thoughts on leading and hiring for a healthier, happier team and the tool Streamtime have developed to measure this.
How would you define a flexible workplace and what does this look like for Streamtime who have teams spread across Australia and the UK?
A lot of companies talk about flexible working. Too often though that means ‘forced’ flexibility. At least 3 days in the office, or a 9 day fortnight. That’s not flexible, that’s just new rules for working. Flexible is individual in my book. Need to pick up kids from school, attend an important event with your partner, see your psychologist, that stuff comes first. An imperative is just making sure that you share where you are, and when, so that everyone knows when they can and can’t contact you.
It’s quite natural for us as individuals to go through cycles of motivation. What techniques or tools does Streamtime use to help top up or maintain motivation and productivity across your hybrid/remote team?
I think it’s fair to say that motivation can be harder when you’re fully remote. There are less people to vibe off. It’s sometimes easier to hideaway than it is to actively get together with team mates. Of course this often depends on your personality type but it works both ways.
We try to arrange global catch ups across timezones where we can. We also make sure that there’s face time ideally once a month where we’ll fly people in to Sydney from across Australia. We’re planning a global team catch up somewhere halfway between Australia and the UK in October this year.
Getting time together where we can just chat, chill and share life tops up the motivation levels as we get to know each other better.
Let’s talk about hiring in our remote/hybrid world. Can you share with us any red flags or key traits you’re looking for when it comes to building out a successful team in this environment?
Very hard. I recommend more people involved in the interview process. Different people can pick up on different signals, which can mean the difference between missing out on someone amazing or hiring someone who’s really not a good fit.
We also try and disrupt the hiring process. We ask people to answer questions that aren’t the usual application questions. And we ask them to do it as part of their application, not just if they get shortlisted. It takes them longer, but it also helps us to see if they’re invested in looking for a job with us vs just copy, paste, apply.
With economic uncertainties on the rise due to the war in Ukraine, global inflation rates increasing, and new waves of the pandemic, what type of knock on effects do you anticipate for agencies and design studios across Australia and Aotearoa NZ?
Well, when you put it like that!! Personally, I think agencies have just come through an incredibly tough period. It’s undoubtedly made them more wary, more cautious, more recession proof. We’ve certainly seen a greater use of freelancers vs permanent head count, smaller or more cost effective approaches to workspaces and a diversification of types of work and ways of charging for work.
I think everyone has learned the hard way, but that ultimately means they are better prepared for what might be to come. And if not, well, hopefully it’s not too late.
‘The Great Rethink’ has caused many to rethink their work relationship, sparking deep personal introspection around priorities, and as a result, increased resignations and demands for a better work life balance. What has been Streamtime’s response to this and can you share your thoughts around how leaders can adapt a better work/life balance setup for their employees while also continuing to deliver on overall productivity and business growth?
A lot of mine and ‘our’ thinking in this area has been informed by a recent study that we delivered with my Never Not Creative hat on. Never Not Creative is a non profit organization that I set up to address some of the challenges we experience in the creative industry. In a recent wave of our Mentally-Healthy research, participants told us that the number 1 thing that employers could do to improve mental wellbeing was to develop more empathetic leaders. This led us to a further study on empathy.
The empathy research showed us how much creatives value empathy. 86% said that empathy was very important to them at work, but only 38% believed that their employer thought it was important. We found that the stronger the belief that the business put profit first, the stronger their likelihood to leave in the next 12 months. It was felt more strongly lower down the ranks with 61% of junior-mid level people saying they’re planning to move on in the next year.
One of the most insightful learnings though was the correlation between likelihood to leave and how much we were made to feel like we were accepted, understood or felt belonging at work. This empathy and understanding can make a significant difference to more positive outcomes for businesses… if we let it. 80% of people told us that there wasn’t enough time for empathy! 🤦♂️
You can read the full results at nevernotcreative.org/empathy
Following the above – the debate around time based versus value based productivity is something we’ve been hearing leaders chat about lately. As someone who leads a project management software company, what results/feedback have you seen coming from organisations who have adopted the latter and what is your advice to other leaders?
The value-based pricing conversation comes up often. We have seen a few agencies that have moved to a ‘productised’ approach for their services. So, charging for a fixed deliverable or fixed period of time for a certain outcome.
The irony is that agencies have quoted jobs based on time forever, but on the other side, clients have always been buying deliverables. They have little care for how long it takes as they won’t pay until they’re happy. Maybe I’m generalising, but I’m sure some of you are nodding your head right now.
The good thing about the fixed price is that it puts you in charge of how long you take and to have a much more considered discussion with the client around what the work is worth, not just how long it’s going to take.
By the way, this doesn’t mean you don’t have to track or plan time. There are still good reasons for tracking time in order to understand capacity, profitability and making sure that you’re looking out for your team and giving them the space and time to thrive and keep creative.
Lastly, what’s coming up next for Streamtime this year and as a leader, what areas will you be channelling your focus on next with your team?
We recently piloted a new part of Streamtime called The Happiness Coach. https://streamtime.net/happiness-coach.
We truly believe in designing software that can help to create happier, healthier creative businesses. One way to do this is to look at what makes your team happy in their work (or not).
We partnered with The Future Of Work Institute at Curtin University to use their SMART framework to track what makes people happy or sad in their work. At the end of the week, your last task (or as we prefer to call them To Do) asks, “how was your week.”
Instead of just dragging the To Do to Done, you drag it onto an emoji that reflects how you’re feeling (because, y’know, emojis!). We then ask you to share more information about why. Was it because your work was stimulating? Were the demands tolerable? Were you able to master the tasks you’d been given?
We then share a report with the individual on their own happiness compared to the team and allow them to write notes to keep in kind of a journal. Nothing is shared with your manager unless you choose to.
It’s just the beginning, but we’re looking to extend the pilot to smarter data connections such as how many hours a team has worked, to what clients they’ve worked on or types of work they’ve been doing, to see how it correlates with their happiness. We can then share hints with leaders on how they can improve on the happiness levels in their business.
It’s the start of a platform that we’re really excited about in building healthy businesses with healthy profits and healthy people. Cue, unicorns and rainbows!