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Improvement through staff engagement

Published: 9 Jul 2016

In part two of our series following British start-up Riversimple, staff custodian Stafford Lloyd explains the employee aspect of the company’s unique governance model.

We introduced you to eco-car manufacturer Riversimple in our June issue of Quality World and its unique governance structure with six custodians representing six stakeholders: the environment, the users, the neighbours, the staff, the investors and the commercial partners.

Last month Peter Lang, the environment custodian, explained why a start-up company with a radical new car needs a radical business plan. Now, systems and sustainability engineer Stafford Lloyd reveals how he ensures Riversimple is run well from a staff perspective.

After joining Riversimple from Rolls-Royce, Lloyd was voted in by staff to represent them as a custodian, Lloyd says he wants to bring staff into the decision making process without becoming a ‘puppet for populist ideas’.

On the role

Lloyd says: 'When I accepted the role of staff custodian it was largely undefined. I felt that it could easily have become confused with a human resources role. HR however, is focused inwards – on maximising employee productivity, improving the skills base and management of the workforce.

The staff custodian represents staff in a radically different way. It’s about collecting the opinions and thoughts of staff, then bringing the worker’s perspective to the table so they are part of shaping the direction of the company as a whole. Exclusion of social consequences in economic decision-making can be very damaging.'

On systems

'Decisions taken in one place can have unforeseen consequences in another. A key part of this role is to review possible consequences from a wider point of view before a critical executive decision is taken by the board.

Of course this process must not become too cumbersome – but with the right mechanisms and the right people, there is a potential for ground-breaking progress to be made.'

On staff involvement

'There is an opportunity for Riversimple to benefit from, rather than just manage staff perspective and viewpoint. The challenge, however, begins with several tough questions: how does a company deal honestly and meaningfully with knotty problems raised by staff? How can we draw out staff perspective in a way that is objective and free of prejudice? Is it possible to measure staff well being in a way that can stand up against financial targets?'

What do staff want?

'For employees, a decent wage is the bottom line – to feed the family, to provide security, for happiness and well being. There are also issues about pay structures and at the moment we are grappling with this. How do we keep a fair ratio of pay between high and low wages for the benefit of the company as a whole?

Besides wages, what draws in talented staff? Riversimple has an opportunity to offer a fresh kind of legitimacy but what does this mean on a day-to-day basis? People respond positively to somewhere that is a great place to work, where they don’t have to leave their values at the door as they come in every morning, where communications are good and where their voice is valued.'

On the team

'A team is something bigger than the sum of its parts. The custodian framework creates an opportunity to tap into that, to develop and shape both company and outputs in a more connected way – it is a framework for change.'

Dr Stafford Lloyd is systems and sustainability engineer at Riversimple.

Get the full story

Read our interview with Hugo Spowers, the brains behind Riversimple's car and business model, in the July issue of Quality World.

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