As a small business, when did you decide to hire an accountant? Did you wait until your first end of year accounts were due? Perhaps you decided to hang on until you’d been trading for a certain period of time? Maybe you didn’t want one until you’d reached a particular annual turnover? Or, as is often the case, perhaps you didn’t wait at all. Perhaps you realised, early on, the benefits that an accountant could bring to you and your business.
The reality is, any accountant worth their fee, is going to provide you with more than just access to a cloud accounting package, and a neat profit and loss table. Accountants are also business advisors, trained to spot where you can save money, and where you can probably make more. They can advise on where you should be making cuts, and where you should be spending more.
The same can be said of HR. We’re not just there when you want to hire or fire, or if you have a particular problem with a member of staff. Yes, we can do that, but there is so much more you can, and indeed should, be getting from your HR team. That’s regardless of whether they’re in-house or you outsource.
Many small businesses, even if they have one or two staff members, could benefit from having access to HR professionals. The reality is that the vast majority of business owner-managers have very little hands on experience when it comes to managing staff. Equally, as business owners, they can often find themselves focussing more heavily on business issues and challenges, rather than seeing potential problems with people management. In many cases, it is actually the unseen people management issues that can cause the business challenges.
Solve one, and you solve both.
Let’s look at an example. In a business there are various small teams, working on different tasks. For arguments sake, let’s say each team has five members in it. However, as a business owner you notice that one team is suddenly under-performing compared to the others. That’s a big business issue because it means decreased output, which in turn impacts on revenue.
Effective people management is much more than simply telling people to pull their socks up. It involves looking at a wide variety of angles, and asking a lot of questions.
• Are all staff members in at all times? Have you had someone off sick for a prolonged period of time, whilst their colleagues pick up the strain? If so, what impact is this having? What’s being done about the staff member who is off? Is there an issue that you need to be aware of? Are you doing everything you can to support them with the aim of them returning to work when they are fit to do so?
• Are staff skills being matched to tasks? Do you have the right people doing the right jobs based on their skill set? Asking all members of staff to be good at everything is just impossible, but are you taking the time to find out where each person’s individual strengths lie? Perhaps you have an extrovert, who would be best suited to creative endeavours, focussed on number-crunching and details. Maybe your most analytical member of staff is spending time stressing out over presenting a pitch, and is wasting time.
• Are your goals clear? Do all employees understand what is expected of them, both individually and as part of the wider business? Do they understand where they fit in to the entire process, and what impact under performance on their side has for other teams and colleagues? Are you and your managers communicating with all staff members effectively, so people know what they need to do and by when? Is that communication two-way? Staff must feel able to approach their leaders if goals are unclear, or targets are unmanageable.
• Do you do anything to incentivise your staff? It’s easy to suggest that staff should just do the job they’re paid to do, and they should; however, if you’re doing nothing but pushing your staff, and giving them no reason to go the extra mile for their team, or for the business, then they’re likely to only do the bare minimum. Morale will fall and productivity will go with it. Find ways to encourage staff to give a bit more, reward them with something that is of value to them. Consider having competitions within teams, or arrange a big night out for everyone if targets are met and goals are achieved ahead of schedule, or under budget. Make people feel part of the company, rather than simply a small cog that could easily be replaced.
There is so much more to people management, but the crux of the matter is, if you know who your staff are, and show that you understand and value you them, you’ll have far fewer problems throughout the business.
Never forget that your people matter, and for when you need expert advice, speak to People Matters.