How can I attract and retain good staff?
The success of your business is a function of many things but two important ones are having a great business plan and your staff. Like most small businesses you probably don’t have the luxury of a dedicated human resources (HR) person.
The business owner usually takes on this role. If that’s the case in your business, then develop a HR policy and procedures manual so you can effectively align your business goals and objectives and communicate them to your staff. This is all part of developing systems in your business. If something’s not on paper then, as the saying goes, it’s not on the planet.
Do you have written procedures when it comes to staff? A manual will provide clear guidelines that will comply with legal requirements and empower your staff to maximise their contribution to your business. They should be handed a manual when they start working with you – and sign a document to say that they have read it.
It can cover a vast range of topics depending on the size and nature of your business — even if you have only one employee.
We have a few pages written down. Are you saying we need to develop a proper system?
Having a few pages is a start but once you start to have people in the business other than you or your partner you can run into trouble if you don’t have a formal manual that clearly outlines the practices and procedures of your business as well as a comprehensive job description for your employee.
You see, as a small business owner you’re used to juggling tasks, but you can’t expect staff to be that dexterous. A proper job description, for example, let’s them focus on what you employed them to do!
I have mostly family working for me – do I need a recruitment strategy?
So often, the employment decision is made without following a structured process. The potential new employee might be a relative, a friend or come recommended- but does that make them suitable for the position? Will they be able to perform the tasks? Sure, it can be a quick solution but it also may not work out in the long term – an expensive exercise.
To be effective, recruitment must be planned and structured. If you haven’t developed a job description, you need to be absolutely clear what you’ll require the person to do. How can anyone give their best performance if they don’t know what they’re expected to do?
Most employees who leave a job within six months state that the job did not meet their expectations! This is a direct reflection on the recruitment process!
So it’s all about hiring right?
Getting the right staff is one thing. The next thing is to keep them and keep them trained so they add value to your business.
How do you do that?
You have to reward them! Your employees need to know that they are a valued member of your business and contribute to its success.
A lot of people say that they prefer working in small businesses because they feel more like a real person than just a number. See this as a real plus for your business and make sure that you take advantage of this – get to know what makes them tick. Make sure that you know what motivates them. Seek their suggestions on how to make your business better.
How can I understand my team better?
Anne Bartlett-Bragg, a HR consultant who not only provides professional development service and training to small business, she is also a university lecturer in human resources.
She believes that to understand a team better you could consider using a team performance profile and she recommends the Kolbe Systems. She says that by using the Kolbe tools:
o Team ineffectiveness can be diagnosed
o Strategies can be developed to enhance both individual and team performance
o You can work towards appreciating the diversity of others and how to avoid procrastination and inertia by understanding the instinctive drivers of each employee.
How often do you review or assess your staff performance?
Bartlett-Bragg says that performance and appraisal should link closely to the job description and done at least once a year and that ongoing underperformance can cost your business a lot in time and productivity.
She says that you can buy off-the-shelf performance appraisal products which are good but if you find them too cumbersome then you need to modify them and use their framework rather than the full process.
What minimum training should a business owner provide for staff?
Give all employees the opportunity to perform their roles to the best of their abilities, and with sufficient guidance and training.
Bartlett-Bragg says you should categorise training into these groups:
1. Induction training
Do you remember your first day on a job? How did you feel? Nervous, excited, apprehensive, terrified? New employees are likely to feel all these emotions and more – at once!
Ask yourself, what do you do to make them feel welcome and a valued member of your team?
Bartlett-Bragg worked with a small organisation that wanted to improve their induction process. She considered the essential issues that have to be addressed when you start a new job – payroll, paperwork, contracts, forms, all types of administrative issues. Then she asked why did we have to do that on the first day – what message was that sending the employee about the company? Not the one we wanted to portray!
So her company designed a kit and sent it to them before they commenced work – all the paperwork was clearly numbered and explained – the new employee had to do hand it in on arrival.
Then she went a step further – she wanted to get them excited about the company.
She brainstormed with the existing team members things they would have liked to have known about the company before they started. That information was then collated in a fun way and included in a separate kit – ‘Stuff you might like to know’ – it included public transport information, car park locations and rates, best places to eat (or not in this case – so bring your own), locations of major banks, favourite Friday night pubs (chosen by the team) and so on!
How would you feel receiving a pack like that in the mail, before you start your new job? The feedback has been tremendous – the new employees are already starting to feel like a valued team member BEFORE they arrive on day one!
She says that structured induction training involves planning – ensuring that someone is allocated and responsible for looking after the new employee – for at least the first month. She advises that you:
o Don’t cram it all into day one – they won’t be able to remember a thing!
o Introduce them to the rest of the team informally – have a morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea – use name tags. Ask each team member to explain (briefly) what they do and why the new employee would need to deal with them. Sometimes, one of the hardest things in a new job is working out who to ask!
o Check in with your new employee regularly and informally for the first week. Show some genuine interest and encourage their feedback.
2. Technical skills required to perform the job
Consider what technical skills are required and to what level that skill must be performed. For example, if the role requires basic knowledge of Excel spreadsheets, there is very little value sending someone to an advanced Excel course.
3. Soft skills to enhance their job and overall business effectiveness.
This is your area of greatest competitive advantage! If customer service is going to be your major focus it’s your responsibility to ensure your staff have the necessary skills to deliver that!
Consider all types of communication skills training and development sessions, customer service sessions, sales skills, negotiation skills, team building, etc.
4. Other – including updating skills and knowledge, further interests outside their role
Small and large businesses often ignore training. When was the last time staff were given the opportunity to update and further develop their technical skills – what extra efficiency and productivity might this provide the business?
What other areas are staff interested in? Again, supporting your performance management strategies with training and learning opportunities beyond the scope of their current job is a great motivator!
Where are affordable courses?
Some businesses attend Train the Trainer courses and complete qualifications like the Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training to provide them with the ability to design and deliver effective training sessions themselves, and give them the knowledge to better understand and evaluate what external course providers are offering.
Why not consider some kind of strategic alliance with other businesses in your local area? The buying power of a small group is often a more economical alternative than sending an individual to external courses.
Tafe colleges, short courses offered by universities, and Continuing Adult Education organisations are also options worth considering.
Bartlett Bragg says to give your employees a statement about your vision/mission and objectives is crucial for your staff to understand what you’re trying to achieve. How can people contribute to your success if they’re unsure what you’re striving for?
She says to also provide them with a statement about safety at work that outlines your obligations and the responsibilities they have to maintain their working environment and/or report any accidents. She also says to include a statement outlining your adherence to your legal obligations to provide a workplace free of discriminatory practices and encourages diversity will clearly outline your position on these matters.
Don’t just put it together on paper, share your policies and procedures manual with your staff so they understand your intentions and expectations about the important issues.
And finally – your staff are such a valuable asset to your business – enjoy them, develop them, and treat them how you would like to be treated yourself!