New commission structure part of "healthy fear of failure" culture at TRC - Shortlist August 2014

Submitted on Tue 05 Aug 2014

After a 'tough' 2013, TRC Group has restructured and introduced a new commission structure and team-based incentives to improve its profitability, according to company Talent and Training Manager Sarah Banek. The new commission structure involves a third tier – focused on driving better customer service – on top of TRC's two more traditional, results-focused commission tiers, Banek toldShortlist. "Reward percentages increase when the consultants demonstrate the right behaviours, such as respecting your margins and [seeking] high-quality repeat business from clients. It has two major benefits in that it increases the consultant's bottom-line earning potential, while at the same time our customers benefit by increasing the level of service they get," she said.

At the same time, the company is also offering team-based incentives to reach financial milestones, said Banek. "It's communicated very visually with boards, and talked about every week in our company sales meeting on a Monday. When we hit the targets, we reward the whole team; for example the first one we took the company out to see live comedy, for another we had a 'Casino Royale' night where we all got dressed up and went to the casino... We drive timeframes by saying that 'if we can hit this target by September, we'll take everyone skiing for the weekend' and so on."

TRC also aims to keep its benefits package above the industry standard, both to lure top consultants and retain its own staff, Banek said. "We've introduced a points-based, online benefits package for both our permanent and contractor staff, which gives them access to hundreds of retailers and affords them discounts for things like grocery shopping at Coles," she said.

The benefits package is also tiered so that longer-tenured employees can gain access to higher-reward lifestyle benefits, said Banek. "We've always included benefits like additional annual leave, iPhones, gym memberships, lunch clubs, the ability to earn 12 rostered days off and those kinds of things. The longer you're with us then you can earn rewards like private health insurance, travel, study, and child care."

"Healthy fear" of failure the best incentive

After a shaky 2013, TRC Group overhauled its culture this year to promote a team-orientated, 'winning' environment that has real consequences for poor performance, Banek said. As a result, it was recently recognised as a 2014 Australian Business Award Employer of Choice. "When people say a winning culture what does that mean? For us, the real cornerstone is having a company built on trust; having staff that genuinely love the company, but also having that healthy fear around hitting target and meeting the expectations we set," she said. "For an incentive-driven environment to actually work ... you need to create the right environment...Your staff have to know you're going to make the tough calls."

Establishing and communicating a consistent set of systems and processes – while leadership offers development and support – is vital to easing staff into the new expectations, said Banek. "You catch people on the bell curve... if someone is on the down and they're off-target, we step in at that point and we coach them. We have analysis and procedures that we go through, and integrate that into some personal development plans. "From a cultural perspective, we coach people through what expectations are from both a performance and values perspective. We underpin everything we coach on in terms of meeting our values; if there are gap areas threatening our culture, then it is addressed as part of performance management. "Learning to make the tough calls is the hardest part, even if it means getting rid of a big-billing culture vulture. Having someone who bills well but isn't responding to the team-based value change undermines everything you're trying to achieve."

Communicating new values across all facets of the business and giving all staff members a voice are crucial to generating ownership of the culture, Banek said. "We involve the team in everything, and maintain honest and transparent communication in good times and bad. For example, we've give our whole team a voice on company strategy, from high-level strategic initiatives to improving systems and processes, down to what they want to see internally and how they want to be incentivised." The culture revamp was part of TRC's restructure at the end of 2013, which involved shedding its entire middle management, and has contributed to a better 2014, said Banek. "We're on target this year to achieve our goals comparatively to this time last year; it's been a really great first half," she said.