Many small business owners struggle with employing staff, even to the point where they remain one-man bands to avoid taking on any employees. This, of course, means that they miss out on the opportunity to build wealth by selling their business, which surely must be one of the great things about going into business.
Getting things right with staff is just like other areas of business; it’s about planning in advance, being organised, getting the paperwork right and being consistent and fair. Here are some pointers:
1. Recruit carefully
Make sure you only recruit the right people. Take your time interviewing; always speak verbally to their referees and check out their CVs (for example, ask to see certificates for their qualifications). If they’re going to be handling money, get a police check too — there’s a lot of dishonest people out there! It always surprises me how bad some employers are at recruitment and checking referees.
2. Get the paperwork right
Not having the paperwork right can make it easy for a bad employee to walk all over you, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. Make sure they always sign an up-to-date employment agreement before they start working for you, and especially for the 90-day trial period. If you have to discipline, document everything carefully and make sure events and actions are put in writing at the time.
3. Do unto others
You may be the boss, but if you don’t treat your employees with respect they are not going to give their best or stay around very long. Not only that, but your behaviour is likely to rub off on them, so they’ll probably start being rude or disrespectful to each other (and customers too if you’re not careful!)
4. Set an example
Work hard; show honesty and integrity; be very nice to customers and clients; follow the rules, and be the first to arrive and the last to leave. If you can’t be bothered, why should they be?
5. Allow flexitime
There’s a lot going on these days in people’s lives. If an employee wants some time off for a family event or to go away for the weekend, do your best to accommodate them.
6. Be wary of bonus schemes
I’ve seen many over the years, and they rarely work. Some are too complicated or optimistic, and they can end up causing unnecessary discontent. Reward employees in other ways, perhaps giving a star performer an unexpected day off or a voucher to a local restaurant. Money is not always a motivating factor!
7. Encourage training and personal development
Don’t shy away from training your team, and encourage them to get ahead by taking trade or professional qualifications. Yes, they may not always work for you, but they’re more likely to stay if they feel they are getting ahead.
8. Be realistic over business goals and vision
It’s all too easy to get carried away and expect employees to show enthusiasm over your long-term business goals, mission or vision. For example, our local cinema has a notice on the wall for employees exhorting them to put in extra effort so the business owners can reach their goal of five cinemas. Are they really likely to be motivated by that?
9. Maintain good working conditions
Are you organised and efficient, and are your business premises clean and tidy? Do your team have everything they need to get the job done quickly and right first time? Pretty obvious stuff, but many business owners don’t seem to understand how important this is!
10. Don’t put up with mediocrity
There are some great employees out there, so don’t put up with poorly performing employees just because it seems way too hard to get rid of them. But if you do decide an employee needs to go, get advice before you take action, not afterwards. It’s a lot less stressful and likely to save you heaps!
If all else fails, get a job for a while. Some business owners have never been employed or haven’t had a job for 20 or 30 years, and they forget what it’s like to be an employee!