In this episode, hosted by Derek Gallimore of Outsource Accelerator, features a guest that brings a lot of fresh energy to the table of management practices. Derek’s correspondent is Eileen Juan, a proud Filipina schooled in Europe and a firestarter in the country’s family photo industry, at a time when studio photography competes with the rise of digital media. Eileen helms The Picture Company, or TPC. TPC is a family-friendly photography studio that specializes in fun, creative portrait sessions with kids. Optimum photography techniques, and the hundreds of props and themes that TPC supplies for every shoot, yield unique stories of what makes a family happy.
Youth and longevity
TPC has outlasted the challenges brought about over the years and has enjoyed 15 years of longevity, a first in the industry. Beginning in locations based in the country’s malls, TPC has also since expanded to the service of on-location photography. And on social media network Facebook, the company has amassed as many as 380,000 followers.
It’s not surprising that this kind of creative, adventurous work drew interest among the younger people in the labor force. In the case of TPC, the average age among employees is 21. Thus, it is in this kind of environment that Eileen applies equally creative management methods, tailor-fit to motivate young people, capitalize on their strengths, and be part of their own dreams for their careers.
This interview features 3 key points summarizing Eileen’s approach in getting the best out of a mostly young, creative, and energetic team of workers.
1. Match passion with purpose
Derek and Eileen bring out the fact that times are changing. For the sheer number of traditional companies that depend on very strict sets of rules, new companies have flourished with different mindsets.
Especially in the creative business, it becomes all the more important to harness passion and motivation from young individuals ready to strike out. Eileen’s approach involves listening to staff, seeing new potential to get the best out of them, and seeing what really makes them “tick”—that is, how they match their jobs with their passion.
Eileen’s company is known to have a very good and accommodating, but also very structured environment. When Derek brings up the nurturing and training aspect of this environment, Eileen is quick to agree with him that TPC is not to be regarded as a “university,” a place where they can just be taught, coddled, and allowed to use as a practice ground.
On her regiment of younger staff, Eileen shares, “I think, in fact, a lot of kids used to come to us so that they can have an experience of being in a creative environment, but then, they don’t take it so seriously, so, they think they can just come and play. But then,” she adds, “there’s an aspect in their job that actually needs seriousness, so, we are learning as we go along, but we also need to hire people who actually know what they are doing rather than just getting all the young creative people.”
A good and serious environment is crucial for retaining staff and sustaining the operations of the company. Staff retention is an issue that TPC handles carefully, as it takes time and resources to continually train people, especially young, up-and-coming creative types.
Eileen had to come to terms with the reality that absolute retention in this line of work is not guaranteed. It is wise to assume that some staff members wouldn’t stick around for as many as ten to twelve years. The reality that Eileen estimates is for workers of a younger caliber to stay for at least a few years, then go on to pursue other things to grow their career.
But while they are still with TPC, there is a value in holding their work to a premium, making sure that projects are finished and outcomes are met, and that young people mature in their career by taking greater initiative.
2. Be clearly, and concretely, goal-oriented
In line with this, Eileen has since mastered a set of very concrete, and yet very creative techniques to let her many staff members decide on their goal posts. One of these that she explains in detail is the performance scorecard and “rock” system.
She says, “The first thing we do is create a score card for them, so they know what’s expected of them and how they are going to be measured in terms of scoring. And we give them ‘clear rocks’ for their first three months that they are with us, and they know how they will be graded. So, the reward is very clear and the goal is very clear. And I think that’s the most important part that we do—we top grade, we use score cards, and we also let them know that they are going to get a reward if they get the items on their score card.”
Somewhere in that technique is the symbolic value of people having clear outputs, and of taking ownership of their actions. Divulging more about how the “rock” system endures over a period of years, Eileen shares, “After they see the entire three-year plan, they will study the one year plan and then they get to own a certain seat on the bus. So, every department is a seat—so HR is one seat, marketing is another seat. And all those seats need to be filled up by someone. There can’t be a seat with two people.”
Therefore, Eileen encourages her staff to be as specific as possible in drawing their own rocks, deciding their own seats, and drawing the value of their work from their own scorecards. This way, leaders can get staff to take ownership of their actions, and become innovative with their desires to work well.
3. Reward good work to enable more of it
And if there is anything Eileen knows and relates to, it is the desire of many young people to see the world. That is why, in TPC, one of the mechanisms to reward good work, and harvest more of it, is to motivate workers with travel incentives—giving them specific incentives for an amount of work done.
Eileen responds candidly to Derek’s question on this, and says, “It’s funny that travel is such a big thing now, and people actually move back to their parent’s home, so that they can use their salaries for travel. So, we try to help them with their dreams of traveling and being exposed, by giving them a travel incentive.”
She clarifies, “If I reach X amount, I am going to get X amount in pesos [in] incentive[s]… Now, they are not working for the money, they are working for [a] Bali trip, or they are working for a Singapore trip.”
And truly, it is a fantastically concrete effort. Instead of envisioning a droll checklist and calculating exact cash incentives, young workers with itchy feet can do as much good work as possible, savoring the particular picture of their next destination.
What guides this application of “management hacks” on Eileen’s part—grooming passions, setting up concrete systems for initiative, and incentivizing good work—is what she regards as the 2020 vision roadmaps that everyone will follow.
Responding to the issue of retaining staff for a certain period of time, she previously told herself: “What if I just keep it a goal to have people for two to three years? So now, it’s called twenty-twenty vision, like leading with clarity, all the way up to January 2020. So, it’s clear what numbers we have to meet, it’s clear what kind of people we need, the key players.”
On this, Eileen states that these players are enrolled in a freer version—not just one of where TPC is headed, but where the workers’ careers will go. “So, by 2020, if somebody, [like] a photographer, wants to be managing stores, then she can have that too. So, it’s like everybody has a road map; how to get to January 2020.”
This roadmap is a “hack” that Derek commend for being specific, and for solidly aligning company goals with individual career goals—“a clear pathway.”
Listen to the full podcast of her conversation with Derek Gallimore of Outsource Accelerator.