Would you work for you?


Would you work for you? This is an interesting question and certainly one to reflect on if you are employing staff.

In today’s tight labour market, none of us can afford to lose great people. How often do you as a business owner take time out to think about your staff and actively ask questions about what it is like to work for your company? You might get an inkling when an employee hands in their resignation, but of course this is far too late! As business owners we regularly review our sales operations. We also know all about the importance of cashflow. However, the people component of business is equally as important as the operational and financial streams. How much more effort do you think your employees would contribute if you understood what made them tick?

Research has shown that up to 30 percent of bottom line performance can be attributed to how well leaders in a business manage and motivate their people, and the direct line manager has the most impact on an employee’s sense of job satisfaction. A recent client was losing staff faster than they could recruit replacements and automatically assumed it was about money.

As it turns out, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was in fact the team leader who was having the greatest effect on staff turnover. People found him impossible to work for and generally left within six months of starting. Some employees intrinsically work harder and more productively than others, but the higher their work ethic the quicker they leave under poor leadership. As a business leader you need to understand how you and your managers are doing in terms of motivating the best performance possible from all employees.

There are of course several ways you can get inside the heads of your staff. The most obvious is that old favourite – the performance review. Done well, this type of process provides employee and manager with an excellent mutual opportunity to openly discuss how things are going and what can be improved on from both sides. However due to bad planning, poorly designed systems and inadequately trained managers who don’t give feedback at any other time, most bosses and staff dread the thought of the annual review. Generally, staff come away feeling dissatisfied. They seldom speak up about what’s really bugging them or more importantly what could increase their productivity at work.

One on one interviews and, less frequently, focus groups are also used. These forums certainly have their benefits but where there is a possibility of being picked out for individual comments, staff will tend to hold back from saying what they think. We’ve all worked for a boss who analysed “who said what” rather than the message being given and therefore missed the point altogether.

One of the most effective communication tools is a “climate survey” to find out how staff view the key elements that drive success in your business. Carried out by an independent third party this is an anonymous process that allows staff to feel safe in voicing their opinion. As long as the results of the survey lead to immediate and visible implementation then staff gain confidence in their ability to make a difference, motivation increases, and culture improves to the point that constructive communication with your staff becomes a daily habit.

At the end of the day, no matter what tool you use, the important thing is to sit back and take stock every now and again. It might sound very basic, but really talk with your staff or if you feel a little anxious about this get an independent HR specialist to come in and interview your people. Staff are often bursting with solutions in businesses that simply don’t have communication channels to allow these ideas to be voiced.

When someone does resign, seize the opportunity to find out what the person liked about working for you, what they didn’t like and what could be improved for people who remain. Disciplinary related terminations aside, never close the door on a departing employee. You never know when they might want to return to your door with more skills and experience that could benefit your business.


About Author

Senga Allen

Human Resource Specialist and Managing Director, Everest People. Waikato and BOP people and culture specialists. www.everestpeople.co.nz