Whether in good times or bad, it is vital that everyone is working at their best performance levels.
It’s easy to assume that, because times are tough, everyone is grateful for having a job and therefore everyone is working a full capacity and most effectively. It is easy to take good employees for granted and, because you think “there are few jobs out there”, you assume they will stay with you.
However, hard times can mean reduced wages or cancelled bonuses. Hard times can make for poor morale. Staff reductions or redundancies mean that the staff who do remain may have an additional workload and remain in fear of their own jobs.
If the only way people see they can improve their earnings or further their career is to move on to another employer, then you should assume they are checking recruitment websites.
Losing good staff and replacing them is expensive. The costs include
- Reduced productivity before they leave
- Advertising costs to fill the vacancy created
- Agency costs to recruit a replacement (15-20% of annual salary)
- Management time in managing the recruitment process, interviewing candidates and taking up the slack until a new recruit is found
- Lost productivity when no one is doing the job or when existing staff have to do the job until a replacement is put in place.
- Reduced productivity while the new recruit is “bedding-in”.
- Potential cost of new employee “not working out” and the employer having to go through the whole process again.
Getting the best from your people.
1. What do YOU want?
Every business needs a strong sense of direction. As a manager, or business owner, you must have clear goals in mind for yourself and your business. A well thought out business plan, grounded in good analysis and a sound strategy, is a minimal starting point.
2. Tell them what you want
Employees often don’t do what you want them to do because you haven’t told them what you want. It’s easy to assume that what seems obvious to you should also be obvious to everyone else.
Ok, everyone gets a job description but that isn’t the same as regularly and consistently clarifying and reinforcing business goals and how they are to be achieved.
It’s your responsibility to ensure that your staff understand what your expectations of them are. It’s called leadership!
So tell them what the plan is, tell them what their role is in working the plan and how their contribution fits into the overall effort.
3. Agree goals and methods for achieving them.
Check that they understand your goals and the methods you are going to use to achieve them. Get feedback from them and invite their suggestions and ideas.
4. Agree your key performance indicators and be prepared to monitor them.
Whether it’s turnover, pricing, gross margins, volume sales, ROI, cash flow, working capital, or other KPI’s specific to your business, establish what are the important measures of success for your business and track them consistently.
5. Build employee skills
“Our most important asset is our staff”. How often do we hear that statement? Less often is it recognised that assets depreciate with use and need maintenance. They can also become obsolete.
Focused training is a way to build employee skills, helping them to perform better and enjoy improved morale and a greater sense of worth. Training is often neglected in difficult times because it is discretionary and sometimes its benefits cannot be clearly seen. Identify your skills shortage and provide the training accordingly. Apply your funding to greatest effect and towards training that benefits your business, i.e. where you can see a return on investment. Short, focused courses can be very effective.
Don’t forget to feed the “inner” employee as well with motivational workshops, fun days or team building activities.
Don’t forget to build and develop your own skills either.
6. Provide the necessary resources
Are your employees labouring with inadequate equipment, systems, or software? Give your employees the best tools you can to get the job done in the most efficient way.
7. Lead by Example
Many managers still apply the “do as I say, not as I do” approach to managing people. They may not even be aware of their actions and how they are viewed or perhaps they just don’t care.
In the area of military leadership, where obeying commands without question would appear to be all that is required, providing appropriate leadership example is a major part of leadership practice. Officers must be worthy of the respect of their soldiers.
In business, respect must also work both ways, top-down as well as bottom-up.
“Be the message.” Your actions must confirm the mission and goals of the business.
8. Monitor performance
If you’re not measuring it, you’re not managing it!
10. Positive Reinforcement
Let your staff know when they have done something well. The old idea of management by exception was intended to save time by concentrating on the things that are wrong and rectifying them. Things that were going right were taken for granted.
Modern management of people dictates that you dare not take people and their good work for granted. People need to know that their good work is recognised and valued as opposed to being noticed only when they make a mistake.
And don’t wait until the annual review when your positive message might be watered down by drawing attention to some areas that need to be improved. Say “Thanks”, “Well Done” - give recognition.
11. Coach your staff and yourself.
Coaching is the process of working with people to develop their potential by engaging with them in a positive, goal focused way which respects their capacity to solve problems and which values their creativity and feedback.
Coaching is an important tool for improving employee performance and morale. It is also a valuable support intervention for senior management.
A core skill of coach is listening. So much of management seems to involve telling people what to do and how to do it and less about enabling them to reach solutions to problems using their own abilities and skills most effectively.
Employee engagement is also a recent turn of phrase which mean to take steps to involve employees in the decision making process within the business so that they fully connect with the mission and goals of the firm.
Developing and using coaching skills to help you engage better with your staff is a no-brainer in the current environment.
Engaging a business coach for yourself will greatly impact on your own performance and effectiveness. You may think you have all the answers but you might not be asking yourself the right questions!!
Build in some additional rewards for people to aim for. A developing company I recently heard of takes 20% of its quarterly profits and pays it to their staff. That’s great for morale but also for accountability. Everyone sees to it that everyone else is doing their bit. Everyone has in interest in identify and implementing best practises and everyone is working to the same end.
Incentivise behaviours, and results, that further the aims of the business.
Modern management requires more than just a ‘command and control’ model. A motivated, goal oriented and creative workforce is surely a recipe for achieving long-term commercial success. Ask Google, Microsoft, Apple and many others.
Eamonn Lawless is a Chartered Management Accountant and a Business Coach/Mentor. Through his company, Focus On Solutions, he offers business performance improvement services.