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Giving project teams more autonomy boosts productivity and customer satisfaction

Organizations that take a hands-off approach to the structure and governance of project teams create an environment of creative flexibility. This built-in flexibility makes teams more responsive to needed changes in the software they’re building, boosting performance and customer satisfaction.

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Software development teams given the freedom to tackle their projects in whatever ways they choose are more productive and have more satisfied customers than teams that follow a central corporate standard, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

The research suggests that organizations that take a hands-off approach to the structure and governance of project teams create an environment of creative flexibility. This built-in flexibility makes teams more responsive to needed changes in the software they’re building, boosting performance and customer satisfaction.

“By giving greater autonomy to your teams, you allow them to exercise greater judgment about what would actually work based on their project requirements,” said Indranil Bardhan, a professor of information, risk and operations management at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business and co-author of the study. “We show there’s no one right way of achieving superior project performance, no one-size-fits-all.”

The findings appear in MIS Quarterly.

Bardhan and co-author Narayan Ramasubbu of the University of Pittsburgh tested the performance of both agile and traditional project teams over 50 months in a real-world policy experiment at a major software company based in India. The company had 125,000 software developers around the world working on projects that adhered to an ideal operations profile closely monitored through a central unit.

Senior company directors wanted to learn whether greater autonomy for software development teams would hurt or help performance. For the study, they implemented a policy change granting greater autonomy to certain teams and agreeing to provide data on key performance measures — for both autonomous and nonautonomous teams — before and after the policy change.

From 2013 to 2018, Bardhan and Ramasubbu tracked productivity and customer satisfaction on 461 projects. Managers on 146 projects were granted autonomy to design their projects the way they wanted using three main controls: location and time differences among team members, level of process diversity (such as lean or structured), and level of managerial control.

“Managers of autonomous teams could each choose what type of structure worked well for them and their project team, versus having something dictated to them by a central point of contact,” Bardhan said.

Software developers measure productivity in function points — a useful proxy for the software’s functionality. The more function points a product has, the more value it adds to the software. Value added increased 39% for teams that switched to an autonomous structure compared with projects that did not.

Customer satisfaction also increased. The agile teams’ ratings increased 2.95% as a result of the policy change, “which was pretty substantial,” Bardhan said.

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LinkedIn lists top startups in PH, highlights rise of digital entrepreneurship, entertainment, education

The Philippines has always had a strong MSME (micro, small, and medium enterprises) sector. The pandemic further propelled its growth as Filipinos embarked on micro or solo entrepreneurship to augment their income and overcome financial challenges.

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LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, revealed its inaugural Top Startups in the Philippines list, which highlights the local startups that have shown resilience in an uncertain market environment and are continuing to innovate in 2022.  

LinkedIn analyzed data across four pillars to compile the list: employee growth, jobseeker interest, the attraction of top talent, and engagement with the company’s LinkedIn page and its employees. This is the first time LinkedIn has introduced the Top Startups list in the Philippines.

Satoshi Ebitani, Senior Managing Editor, LinkedIn News, said: “In an uncertain financial climate, what has proven resilient time and time again is the enterprising spirit that startups embody, especially those on this year’s LinkedIn Top Startups list. In the Philippines, we see a diverse mix in sectors such as e-commerce, education, and entertainment, which continue to lead the way in the future of skills by embracing innovation and attracting top talent with their robust cultures. Through this list, we hope to spark meaningful conversations surrounding the future of work and inspire professionals to equip themselves with the necessary skills to thrive, no matter the headwinds.”

New era of entrepreneurship

The Philippines has always had a strong MSME (micro, small, and medium enterprises) sector. The pandemic further propelled its growth as Filipinos embarked on micro or solo entrepreneurship to augment their income and overcome financial challenges. This new class of entrepreneurs behind startups such as SariSuki (#2), Shoppertainment Live (#3), Edamama (#5), Growsari (#6), Peddlr (#9), and Prosperna (#10) met opportunities to respond to the demands of the times.

Entertainment, E-sports, and Education companies are thriving 

The success of the live-streaming platform Kumu (#4), led by local creatives and talent, highlights the country’s growing demand for innovative and interactive digital entertainment that champions Filipino voices and perspectives. Meanwhile, gaming and e-sports company Tier One Entertainment (#1) shows the unique potential of this lucrative industry by investing in talent and technology.

“Investing in automation, the right people, and experienced leadership who are open to feedback and the ever-changing status quo of our industry was key for surviving and growing during the pandemic. Pivoting quickly through setbacks is vital to survival in these times,” Tryke Gutierrez, Co-Founder and CEO of Tier One Entertainment, said. “LinkedIn has helped us tell our story to the world. We’re able to share more long-form content that isn’t as readily digestible on other social media platforms to an audience that is more open to serious or nuanced discussion,” he added.

Education technology (Edtech) platform Edukasyon.ph (#8) saw an opportunity to be of service in response to the disruption in the education sector and emerging concerns about the future readiness of today’s youth.

Growth areas in digital finance

As digital finance becomes more mainstream in the Philippines, the rise of  PDAX (Philippine Digital Asset Exchange) (#7), a homegrown cryptocurrency exchange, indicates the Filipinos’ growing interest in exploring new frontiers in personal finance and investments to diversify and optimize their portfolios, navigate the current economic climate, and benefit from future growth potential.     

The top 10 startups in the Philippines are:

  1. Tier One Entertainment
  2. SariSuki
  3. Shoppertainment Live
  4. Kumu
  5. Edamama
  6. GrowSari
  7. PDAX (Philippine Digital Asset Exchange)
  8. Edukasyon.ph
  9. Peddlr
  10. Prosperna

More details on the LinkedIn Top Startups list in the Philippines are found here.

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Cash may not be most effective way to motivate employees

84 per cent spent more than $90 billion annually on tangible employee rewards, such as gift cards, recreation trips and merchandise in hopes of increasing productivity. 

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Photo by Andre Taissin from Unsplash.com

Tangible rewards motivate employees when they’re easy to use, pleasurable, unexpected, and distinct from salary, a new study found. 

A recent survey of firms in the US revealed that 84 per cent spent more than $90 billion annually on tangible employee rewards, such as gift cards, recreation trips and merchandise in hopes of increasing productivity. 

“We found that there is, at best, mixed evidence regarding the motivational efficacy of tangible rewards versus cash rewards,” said Adam Presslee, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Accounting and Finance. “It is somewhat puzzling why so many companies go to the trouble of tangible rewards when cash rewards also lead to motivational differences.”

Presslee and his co-author, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Willie Choi, used four experiments to investigate the factors driving the preference between cash and tangible rewards. The attributes examined include ease of use of the reward (fungibility), hedonic nature of the reward (want vs. need), the novelty of the reward, and how the reward is presented. 

“Rewards are constellations of attributes, and firms should focus more on the motivational effects of the attributes associated with a reward rather than the reward type itself,” Presslee said. “Results confirmed that each of these attributes – individually and in combination – increases employee effort and performance.”

The researchers recommend managers interested in motivating employees using tangible rewards would be best served to offer tangible rewards that incorporate these four attributes.

“If for whatever reason tangible rewards are the only tool available, our results show compelling evidence that employees are motivated by rewards that are perceived as distinct from salary,” Presslee said. “Therefore, firms looking to get the most out of their reward programs should emphasize the distinctiveness of those rewards, and the attributes above are four ways firms can do that.”

The study, authored by Presslee and Choi, was recently published in the journal Accounting, Organizations, and Society.

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Engaging leadership style may boost employee engagement

Supervisors perceived as engaged leaders in the initial survey did indeed enhance employee engagement as captured in the second survey. This impact appeared to occur via a boost in employees’ personal psychological resources of optimism, resiliency, self-efficacy, and flexibility—these results are in line with evidence from previous studies.

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Photo by UX Indonesia from Unsplash.com

A new analysis suggests that a particular leadership style dubbed “engaging leadership” can boost employees’ engagement and enhance team effectiveness within the workplace. Greta Mazzetti of the University of Bologna, Italy, and Wilmar Schaufeli of Utrecht University in the Netherlands present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

An employee who is engaged typically has a positive state of mind relating to their work and shows vigor, dedication, and absorption in their work. Previous research suggests that more engaged employees tend to have greater well-being and better job performance.

Previous research also suggests that a certain style of leadership known as engaging leadership—involving leaders who fulfill employees’ need for autonomy, feeling competent, and feeling cared for—may boost employee engagement. However, most studies of workplace leadership styles have focused on a single point in time, without analyzing potential effects over time.

To provide new insights, Mazzetti and Schaufeli explored the impact of an engaged leadership style on work engagement and team effectiveness of 1,048 employees across 90 teams within a Dutch workplace. Participants each took two surveys, one year apart, which included questions about their supervisors’ level of engaging leadership, their own work engagement, and other personal and team characteristics.

Statistical analysis of the responses suggests that supervisors perceived as engaged leaders in the initial survey did indeed enhance employee engagement as captured in the second survey. This impact appeared to occur via a boost in employees’ personal psychological resources of optimism, resiliency, self-efficacy, and flexibility—these results are in line with evidence from previous studies.

Similarly, engaged leaders appeared to enhance team effectiveness by boosting team resources, which consisted of performance feedback, trust in management, communication, and participation in decision-making. Team resources also appeared to affect individual employee engagement.

These findings support the use of engaging leadership to boost employee engagement and team effectiveness in the workplace. Future research could compare the effects of engaging leadership versus other leadership styles on employees and teams over time.

The authors add: “A leader who inspires, strengthens and connects team members fosters a shared perception of available resources (in terms of performance feedback, trust in management, communication, and participation in decision-making), and a greater psychological capital (i.e., self-efficacy, optimism, resilience, and flexibility).”

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