Workforce Focus

By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.

Hiring the right people and reducing turnover, two important steps. But building staff into a team is the challenge that will set your business above your competition.

Suppose you’ve made the effort to decide what kind of people you’re seeking for your business, and you’ve even gone to the trouble of making sure you hire staff who match those criteria. Is that enough? No it’s not. As the business leader, your last critical activity is to build staff into a team, and there are four areas you should address to accomplish this.

Tell ‘Em What’s Going On

Whether a business is large or small, communication is always at the top of staff complaints. Most bosses assume this means they should talk more, but that’s only a small percentage of it. When you hire good people, one of the characteristics that makes them “good” is that they want to know they’re making a difference. How will they know they are doing that? They’ll know it when you build a system to keep them abreast of how the business is doing. Now, you don’t have to tell them everything, but you should keep them informed of the important stuff. “Like what?” you ask? Well, how about the challenges the business is facing, new procedures you’re considering, or new twists the market is taking. You might let them know when you or other leaders are going to take time off, and even give them a little report when you get back. Tell them honestly how their work is affecting the success of the business; people want to know when they’re doing things right. By the way, if there are bad things going on, focus on the effect of those bad things (gossip, customer service issues, incomplete work) rather than pointing out individuals and ‘hanging it on them’. There IS a time to do such a thing, but it’s when you’re meeting one-on-one with the person involved, don’t point out individual problems in general meetings with other staff.

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Listen To What They’re Telling You

This is the second critical piece of good communication. Most business leaders are challenged for time, so planning for listening is important. Set up a bi-weekly or a monthly meeting for listening. You want to avoid a gripe session, so – especially at the beginning – carefully script it and stick to the script. It’s wise to take notes, and then to take action where action is called for. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you are NOT going to do everything that staff would like, but it IS important to respect them enough to tell them face to face that you’ve decided not to, and why. Regular feedback is ESSENTIAL. In a small office, giving feedback about action taken on the past month’s concerns is enough. In a larger organization, you may want to post a bulletin board listing concerns and the action that followed them. One owner set up an actual team whose job was to follow up on staff concerns and see that action was carried through. Done in cooperation with the management, this is a very good idea. It’s important, though, that this type of team and leadership communicate regularly to avoid misunderstandings.

Involve the Staff In Making the Business Work

Everybody wants to be part of a winning team, good staff especially so. Once you’ve laid out the challenges that the business is facing in your “listening meetings”, find ways to get the staff involved in helping to meet those challenges. The same business that formed the team for dealing with staff concerns also had staff teams for other major areas, such as the physical plant and internal processes. Not surprisingly, their process team was able to make several changes in scheduling procedures that significantly improved flow through the business, raising customer satisfaction and also building employee morale. You might be pleasantly surprised at what staff can do, but again, it takes planning to make it work. Don’t just form a team and hope for the best.

Reward Staff For Making the Business Successful

Finally, a reward system for making the business successful is an investment, not a cost, if it’s done right. To do it right the rewards have to be tied to important values and key results in the business, and not just to monetary gains. Do you want customers to be delighted with your service delivery? Find a way to reward for that. Are you concerned with a smooth flow of customers and information through the business? Look for the data that will allow you to monitor the flow. Monetary rewards are the most common, but they should be tied to actual performance so that they are only paid when the business is performing to known goals. Rewards can also be in the form of awards, pins, dinners, etc., but should always be tied to actions or results that make the organization more effective.