Managing Employees at Your Small Business
One of the most challenging jobs that you’ll take on as your business grows is hiring and managing additional employees. The problem lies with the fact that while, yes, you know your business inside and out, you may never have managed employees before.
Management mistakes could slow down work, create headaches, and in the end could cost you money. On the other hand, if you practice good management skills you can cultivate more dedicated employees. Happy, dedicated employees will provide better customer service and make fewer mistakes, which means the business runs smoothly and productivity increases. You may even be able to get more done with fewer employees which is a boost to the bottom line.
It should go without saying that the an over-demanding and stubborn boss who easily loses their temper and berates employees is not good for business. If that’s the approach you want to go with, plan on dealing with low employee morale, and high turnover rate.
Here are some things you should know if you hope to cultivate and retain dedicated employees who enjoy coming to work (even if the work is hard, or un-glamorous).
Everyone is Important
Whether they’re an employee or not, all people want to feel valuable and worthwhile. The fact is that your employees are the most important asset you have, so treat them that way.
Make certain that everyone feels like an important part of the team and understands the role they play and the value they bring to the company. The employee who feels good about themselves and their job is more confident, more productive, and far more likely to go the extra mile for you and your customers.
Provide Proper Training
A huge pitfall for any small business is that they tend to do little to no training. Putting a hammer, a cash register, or a computer in a person’s hand and with little to no instructions means more mistakes, inability to prioritize, and often inactivity because the end goal is not clear.
As a small business, it’s hard to find the time for proper on-boarding, but it will save you effort in the long run. Your onboarding plan should include:
Instructions on tasks and responsibilities
It’s always important to remember that while of course, you know everything there is to know about your business, the employee doesn’t. Take your time beforehand to fully and clearly explain the complete process to the new employee before they begin. What will the employee be required to do, how do they do it, and what tools will they be using?
Make sure employees understand the goal of your business, and how their responsibilities contribute to the goal. This includes their everyday job tasks, where should they go if questions arise, and how to deal with customer issues and complaints.
Even the smallest of mom and pop’s with only one employee should take the time to make sure their hire is completely trained and ready for the job before they even begin.
Business policies and behavioral expectations
An employee that understands their responsibilities, and can get through the day with little assistance from you, gives you the opportunity to focus on growing the business. But even a great worker needs to understand and comply with the basic business and employment policies.
Do you have an employee handbook that details your policy on work schedules, attendance, and vacation? And what is the expected dress code? These items must be clearly outlined, communicated, and enforceable.
You should also communicate the employee review process up front. This includes cadence and process for regular performance reviews, as well as the opportunity for promotions or pay increases, if any. Setting this expectation up front sets the stage for fair conversations at expected intervals, and ensures a consistent treatment for all employees.
Does it make sense to require a non-disclosure, non-compete, or conflict of interest statement? How should employees manage and interact with computers and technology? In the increasingly connected workplace, it’s important to have an IT security policy to keep your systems and data safe from hackers.
Focus on the Positive
If you’ve found a great worker, or two, who have been properly trained and understand the business policies, you still have to manage them on a day-to-day basis. Remember everyone makes mistakes, and be assured you will be faced with a time when you have to deal with an employee’s error.
While it is human nature when we see something wrong or incorrect to want to point it out right away. This may not be the best practice. It’s important to understand the circumstances and why the error was made (work load, external forces, poor training, distraction), and deal with why the problem occurred so that it can be prevented in the future.
You want the person to feel good about their ongoing accomplishments, but understand what led to the mistake and ensure they work to correct it. A harsh or punitive reaction by you may have the opposite effect of creating an employee that tunes you out, and is hesitant to report future errors. It may take relying on your in-depth knowledge of the business to show them the right way to do the job and make certain they fully understand the consequences of their actions.
Identify the Leaders
If you have multiple employees, over time, you may notice that some learn quickly, stay cool under pressure, and are eager to take on more responsibility. Get to know your employees to identify the leaders right away. There might come a time when you need someone to step in and resolve issues, or take over when you are unavailable.
Everyone wants to feel valuable and showing your appreciation for a job well-done will help to solidify employee loyalty and increase productivity.
Appreciation can come in the form of financial compensation when employee review time comes around. Or it could be a as simple as a compliment or even a formal recognition when an employee goes above and beyond to help out. You may also consider employee outings and team bonding experiences. Building personal relationships among your workers will help them feel connected to one another and the business, which makes the job more personally rewarding.
Good management skills are not something most people learn overnight. You can expect to make a few mistakes along the way. But over time and yes, perhaps a little trial and error, you’ll develop the consistent management skills that help you create and retain workers that care about growing the business as much as you do.