- Every business needs a marketing strategy. In the same way, make sure you have a strategy for your people. It could be as simple as a one-pager attached to your business plan. Based on your business goals, describe how you will go about attracting, selecting, developing and motivating your people. Once you have invested in the right staff, how will you make sure you retain them? Don’t forget to include how you will look after the physical and mental wellbeing of your workforce. Draft a brief plan for implementing your people strategy. Be proactive about these things before you hit a crisis.
- Policies are not just rule books, they can help set the culture of the business in a positive way. Your policies can provide a useful framework for communicating company values and expectations to your staff. Don’t just buy or borrow policies off-the-shelf. Make sure they are tailored to your circumstances, so they support your managers to manage, rather than getting in the way of running your business. Should you need to take formal action or say goodbye to someone, a good policy will provide you with some protection.
- Have you promoted your best people into management positions? Of course you have, but leadership skills don’t always come naturally to technical experts. It is worth investing in some basic management training, and perhaps some coachingto support a new manager to get the very best from their team. They may benefit from peer support; a buddy to talk to who has been in their shoes. Think about providing some specialist training if managers are regularly handling tricky issues (e.g. how to manage absence or poor performance, avoid discrimination, chair a disciplinary, etc).
- Nip behaviour or performance issues in the bud quickly. That’s easy for us to say but having a ‘difficult conversation’ with an employee is, well, difficult! It is easy to play it down and hope the issue will go away, but you are probably storing up an even harder conversation for later. Have an early feedback conversation with the individual and include these key things:
- describe what you saw or experienced,
- point out the impact of that behaviour or performance (e.g. on the customer),
- be clear that you must see a change,
- express confidence that they can improve with your support.
Then put an action plan in place. Get some professional advicebefore you take more formal steps.
- Identify and deal with conflict between individuals at the earliest possible stage. Conflict in the workplace costs time, productivity, wellbeing and, therefore, money. Leaving conflict unchecked may ultimately mean you lose your best talent. An informal meeting with a neutral third party may be enough; try it. Ask each party to explain their point of view calmly and suggest solutions. If the issues are too entrenched, get a trained mediator in to help you. It will be money well spent in the long term.