Friday, December 12, 2008

Who's your anchor?

An organisation needs key people who can unite and motivate staff to achieve its goals

Cats Recruit in The Straits Times - August 30, 2008
Have you noticed that in a closely-knit family, whether big or small, there is usually an anchor in the family? This is often the mother or mother figure who creates a home out of a house, and is a uniting force in the family unit.

In an extended family, which consists of three or more generations, the presence of such an anchor - the glue which binds various families together - is even more apparent. This person is often the matriarch (or, at times, the patriarch) whom family members generally respect and whom everyone invariably congregates around at a gathering.

The role of the anchor in the family is a pivotal one, and when the anchor is unable to continue fulfilling that role due to ill health or passing on, the void is keenly felt.

As is often the case, if that person is not replaced by someone else who steps into the role of "anchor", the cohesion in the family unit starts to weaken.

Workplace role
In the working world, the leader of the company creates the vision, influences the culture and value system, sets the goals and direction for the business, and works with his managers and other staff to ensure that the business grows.

A company, like a family, needs to nurture an environment that holds its staff together. The anchoring of its staff may be done in an informal way when the team is small.

Staff members bond with each other and the boss - who takes on the role of anchor - through constant contact.

As the company expands over different floors or multiple locations, the leader - who provided the initial glue in the company - now becomes less accessible to his growing employee base.

If the company has foresight, it will encourage another person or persons with the right abilities and qualities to take on the anchoring role that the leader once filled, on an informal basis.

Identifying the anchor or anchors in the organisation is one of the keys in talent retention.

Reliable traits
Anchors are people who are sincere, people-oriented and able to bring staff together. They normally have the trust of the boss and an intuitive sense of what the boss wants even when he is not around.

Often, these people have had a long history in the company - either as loyal employees or founding members. They are usually non-partisan figures, yet function as important "internal faces" of the organisation.

Anchors are generally positive motivators whom others like, respect and seek advice from when they have problems. They have the ability to make others feel that they are an integral and important part of the work community.

The people who play an anchoring role may be someone from human resource, finance or administration.

It could be the factory manager who keeps the morale on the monotonous factory floor humming through two shifts. In some cases, it may be the principal assistant to the CEO, who provides the much-needed interface between a busy boss and his staff.

The important thing is for the organisation and its leaders to recognise the anchors, treasure them and keep them.

Salient points
As with the matriarch of the family, the anchor person usually creates anchoring points that help to retain the organisation's talents and ensure a continued "esprit de corp" among its staff.

In an extended family, good food provided by the matriarch is a drawing point to gather the family together. So, in a large organisation, the same philosophy can materialise in the form of a staff canteen serving good subsidised "home style" food that draws people from different departments together.

In a smaller business, a well-stocked refrigerator, or at least a pantry with beverages can serve as an equally effective gathering point for staff to refresh themselves and "chill out".

A recreational corner for those who wish to read the news and industry magazines, chat, or bond over a game of table soccer can also be an excellent anchoring point.

Organising entertainment, sports and games on a regular basis can create a sense of team spirit and cultural unity within the company, open up channels of communication at all levels of staff, and bring out strengths in employees which may not normally surface in the workplace.

Identifying anchors in your organisation may not appear to be very urgent. But if you neglect this aspect, the organisation may well see its talents slowly but surely drift away.

Article by Ong Yong Hwee, general manager, CEO Search & Services. For more information, call 6226-0872 or visit

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