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Updated 30 Sep 2020

GetSmarter’s founders have learnt the secret to highly engaged employees

GetSmarter’s founders, brothers Sam and Rob Paddock, have found a system that promotes motivated, accountable and productive employees, moving the business forward. 

Nadine Todd, 09 January 2016  Share  0 comments  Print

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Sam and Rob Paddock have built a R128 million online education platform through strong partnerships with some of South Africa’s most respected tertiary education institutions, and by focusing on their employees.

“You have no business without great people, so you need to make sure they’re all on board with your vision,” they say.

It’s a lesson they learnt when they started experiencing massive growth a few years into the business.

Related: 12 Free marketing tools and tips for your new start-up business

“We’ve learnt two big lessons over the past few years,” says Sam. “If you want buy-in from your staff, you need to communicate with them all the time. Everyone needs to understand and embrace the business’s strategy. We also realised that performance management, particularly in a growing company, keeps everyone focused.”


Growing companies have different HR challenges to start-ups. As your staff compliment increases, you must implement systems and processes to ensure accountability, and that a company culture is embraced and followed.

Get Smarter -Paddock -brothers

These learnings were part of a new framework the brothers implemented after reading Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish. It was a game-changer for them.

“Harnish outlines the Gazelles system, which gave us a framework to structure employee management and staff reviews. It rewards team members who are focused and achieve results, and it gives everyone a clear framework of what’s expected of them.”

The performance development system they implemented has six core elements:

  1. Every team member has a promise agreement that includes their title, job purpose, responsibilities, annual priorities, core competencies and strengths). This is linked to the company’s six values and personal behaviour that aligns with these values, quarterly priorities and professional development details.
  2. A quarterly evaluation is conducted by line managers, based on the promise agreement.
  3. The quarterly review includes a review of the individual’s role, how they performed on their quarterly priorities and their progress against their learning objectives.
  4. Weekly meetings in which each person has a one hour meeting with their direct line manager that follows a structured agenda in which priorities are reviewed.
  5. Daily stand-up meetings that are a few minutes, and allow each team member to share their wins and ‘stucks’ from the previous day, and priorities for the day ahead.
  6. Management meetings take place quarterly (two-day strategy sessions) and monthly (five-hour leadership meetings to ensure priorities are aligned across departments).

Related: Tapping into potential: Motivating all your salesforce


  • Find a system that works for your organisation, but make sure you’re putting something in place.
  • Clearly outline your strategy in a simple one pager that everyone in your organisation can understand and embrace.
  • Create company values that are everyone’s. Ultimately, these should become second nature to your employees. 
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Nadine Todd

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