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Rob Pierre 

Why business transformation is critical for long-term success

Why business transformation is critical for long-term success

Rob Pierre, co-founder and CEO of Jellyfish, explains why the digital agency's new infrastructure has done away with line managers and put career progression back into the hands of its employees

We’re living in a time of rapid change, where the pace is so fast and the need for transformation so critical that, across all industries, even the disrupters are at risk of being disrupted.

Much like athletes, who never stop training, transformation (whether it be digital or business) is never static and requires businesses to be in a constant state of readiness.

As the leader of one of the so-called ‘new breed’ of marketing specialists, it’s my responsibility to steer Jellyfish forward as it partners with clients on their digital marketing and transformation strategies, supporting them in being where their customers are in a fast-moving platform-led media ecosystem.

To do this, it’s essential that we also continue to evolve and transform our business. Are we set up to be a business that is fit for the future? Do we have the right structure in place to meet the future needs of our clients and employees? These were questions that I was addressing with my senior team before the pandemic hit and as a result, they have led to the roll-out of an entirely new business infrastructure at Jellyfish.

Here’s an overview of five significant changes that we’ve begun implementing.

1. The end of line management and heads of department

Some would argue that life as a CEO can be lonely, but this hasn’t been my experience. Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, I turn to the expert team around me, all of whom have their own superpowers, for support and to find solutions.

This approach was part of the inspiration to eliminate the outdated and hierarchical system of line management that in reality, was stifling careers.

The old system has been replaced by a support network comprising a people partner, capability partner, finance partner, buddy and mentor. This aims to create a comprehensive and bespoke ecosystem that each individual can turn to.

In addition to this, traditional ‘head of department’ roles no longer exist. Team members don’t need to wait for an opening to become available before being promoted. This immediately opens up opportunities and engenders cognitive and cultural diversity.

Instead, we have introduced global steering groups for each of the main capabilities and functions within the business. These comprise senior leaders from across our global offices who regularly come together to work on shared strategic objectives and initiatives.

2. Taking ownership of career progression

I’ve always believed that employees should treat their career like a hobby. Often, if we’re doing something that we’re passionate about, putting in the time and effort to improve becomes a natural and essential part of the process.

At Jellyfish, the new infrastructure is designed to encourage and enable each individual to take ownership of their career development. Gone are the days of annual reviews with line managers, and in their place employees are invited to build a business case to progress their career.

They can do this with the help of their support network, but their business case then goes through to a panel and becomes entirely anonymous. Progression is outcome (as opposed to output) and evidence based, eliminating unconscious bias.

3. The new grading system

At Jellyfish, everyone is allocated a grade as part of the new grading system. Each career stage within the business corresponds to a grade range. For example, director grades can range from 8-12, each having an upper and lower salary bracket that applies as a global standard.

Once an employee has their grade and standard salary, a scientific formula is used to index and determine their actual salary. This depends on the department (e.g. data, analytics, cloud engineering) and geographical location. Promotion can be achieved via an increased grade or a new job title, encompassing additional responsibilities.

4. The launch of DeskToday

Our team of tech experts has developed an in-house desk-booking platform called DeskToday. This is an online ‘working from home / office’ booking system that aims to increase flexibility and now, due to Covid, it will bring the added benefit of increasing safety with its track and trace feature.

Going forward, we expect our team to work from home 40% of the time and DeskToday will help us manage our office space effectively and ensure its safety.

5. Continual development and Employee Resource Groups

At Jellyfish we highly value continual development and want to support employees with achieving their goals and progressing their careers. This includes a comprehensive onboarding programme for new joiners as well as access to capability experts via our Jellyfish Training arm.

There’s also an opportunity to join an ERG (employee resource group) such as the Jellyfish Parents Group and Pride Jellies. These are open groups aimed at helping individuals to connect and to ensure every voice has the opportunity to be heard and amplified.

In the same way that we implement transformation strategies for clients, it’s vital that businesses in our industry take time for self-reflection and ultimately, transformation. Rather than being viewed as an end game, this should be seen as an iterative process, which is vital to the survival of any business.

Of course, this means that there will be challenges along the way. Implementing large-scale changes to business infrastructure doesn’t happen overnight and it needs time and a comprehensive communication strategy to run alongside it. Setting realistic timeframes and expectations are critical to successfully embedding change.

In an industry that moves as quickly as ours does and which takes pride in being at the forefront of new innovations, it’s up to us to practise what we preach and ensure our businesses are fit for the future.

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NickDiprose, Founding Partner, Holdsway on 12 Feb 2021
“Good summary of business transformation in reality. Rob Pierre of Jellyfish recognises business change can be a long-term and ongoing programme. Bringing in expert change catalysts such as experienced #InterimExecutives is really effective in enabling business change. But to sustain positive change you need a visionary business leader who recognises the need to enable knowledge and skills transfer across an organisation through building support networks of experienced colleagues.”