“Your assets go out the door at 5:00pm” the old cliché goes!  With the ever-increasing focus on service-orientated businesses, the phrase becomes more and more real every day.
Sadly the importance of those assets is not always recognised. Managers don’t seem to understand how much there is to be gained by understanding the needs of your people and treating them well.

Here’s why your people should be your number one priority. Today, every business is a service business.  Yes, even those of you who are manufacturers. Unless you have an absolutely unique and patented concept, your product can be copied by someone at home with a 3D printer, within 24 hours.

Anyone can do product today. Your point of difference is now function of things like how quickly you can bring those products to market, or the speed with which you can turn around a client request, or your ability to add value beyond the obvious things that your product and everyone else’s offers.

In other words, in order to be successful, we need to be responsive.  And responsiveness means service. And service means people.

So if you are a business owner or manager, and you want your people to do a really good job for you (who doesn’t?), the first thing they need to be equipped with is knowledge of what your business is about and what you are trying to achieve.

This sounds so basic!  It should be easy.  There’s only one problem.  Managers don’t do it!

In fact, most managers don’t have a plan and so they go to work everyday and react. Despite the huge amounts of money spent on management training every year most managers are verging on incompetent when it comes to people management.  “Not me”, I hear you say. “My people love me”.

That’s what you think!

Here’s an example.  Think about your last recruit. Chances are you didn’t spend enough time in the process to ensure you were making the right choice. And then, you probably didn’t spend any time at all introducing them to the business and talking with them about the Company’s priorities.  The result is often a very expensive mistake or someone that needs more training input than you had planned. That means other people are compensating for the new recruit, at least for the time being.

Don’t worry.  You are not alone.  In fact, most managers are quite incompetent when it comes to people management.  So here are some tips to get you started.  They won’t make you better at speaking in front of your team, or cheerleading them on to great outcomes, but it will help you improve the basics of people management.  Incidentally, I call these my “11 R Words”.  Not the coolest of titles, but it does the trick.

The best recruit I ever made was interviewed 9 times. The worst? Five minutes.

The best recruit I ever made was interviewed 9 times.
The worst? Five minutes.

#1.  Role definition.  Before you even begin the recruitment process, be really clear on what role you need filled.  What are the key activities in this role?  If it is a replacement you are seeking, don’t automatically go out looking for the same thing as you had before.  Chances are that the business has moved on since you filled the role last time, so your needs may have changed.  Finally, make sure that the other people who will have to interact with the new person understand what the new role definition looks like and get their input.  Now, whoever goes into the new role knows what is required and expected.

#2.  Recruit.  Now that you are clear on what you are looking for you have a chance of getting it right.  The best advice I can give here is ‘take your time’.  I know you’re in a hurry, and filling that role is urgent, right?  Here’s my lesson.  The best recruit I ever made, was interviewed 9 times.  The worst?  Five minutes.  Recruit slowly!  Take your time and meet the person at least 3 times before hiring.  Remember the cost of getting it wrong can be very high.

#3.  Rules.  This refers to the induction process.  Induction doesn’t stop at the coffee pot and bathroom tour.  When new people join the company, give them the opportunity to understand what the business is all about.  I recently phoned a company and asked for the CEO by name.  The receptionist asked me what department he worked in!  Make sure people are fully inducted into the ways of the company, who’s who, key clients, expected behaviours, and the goals and objectives of the company as a whole, together with how their role contributes to your overall success.

#4.  Remuneration.  There is not a role in business that cannot have an element of incentive based remuneration.  Even administration or support people can share in the performance of the business if you have a great result.  Something as simple as a few $100 notes at Christmas time will result in a smile you will never forget and loyalty you can never repay. Give your people a base remuneration that is fair, coupled with an incentive structure that is aligned with the achievement of the overall company objective, so that the person understands how they contribute and their part in it.

#5.  Recognise.  We all thrive on recognition.  Try to recognise people for even the smallest of things.  A handwritten congratulatory note for a job well done.  A birthday card.  Sometimes the boss stopping by a workstation and asking about the wife and kids is enough.  What about the triathlon they did on the weekend or the little league team they coach.  Make a fuss of what your people do inside and outside the business.

#6.  Reward.  Catch your people doing good things and dream up ways to make a presentation of a suitable reward.  Acknowledge success with small celebrations regularly.  A $20 bottle of wine or a restaurant voucher for two, for a job well done can go a long way.  We need our people to know that we appreciate them.

#7.  Reveal.  In other words, my ongoing theme of communication.  It doesn’t matter whether you have 6 people or 6,000, getting the message through to everyone seems to be the hardest thing to do.  Let them know what’s going on, what’s working really well and where you have some challenges.  The best person to solve a problem is the one who works closest to it.  But your people need to know it’s important to you and that they have permission to do something about it.  If your people are to do their best on your behalf as they interface with your clients each day, then they need to be informed.

#8.  Retrain.  Most jobs will change dramatically in the next 3 years.  We need to keep our people at the forefront of developments in our industry and business generally.  As managers, we have two choices:  we either constantly change our people to provide the new skills we need (not recommended); or we must constantly be training and upskilling our existing people to improve their capability.

#9.  Review.  Give all of your people the opportunity to sit down with their direct manager, one on one, at least twice a year.  Reviews should be two way, canvassing feedback on the performance of the individual as well as their views on the performance of the organisation.  As the leader, sit down with your key people every 6 months. Talk openly about their performance in their role, and in doing so relate it to the goals of the company. Invite them to share their view about the business too.  Your people will tell you whether you are meeting the expectations of your clients and other stakeholders much more accurately than a P&L or a Balance Sheet ever will.

#10.  Respect.  Our people spend a lot of their day at work.  In most cases they want to do a good job.  The better we inform them and treat them, the better they will contribute. Give them time to deal with changes, and if you go through tough times, treat those that have to leave the company as best as you can.
Remember the ones that are staying with you are watching how you deal with that.  Respect means acknowledging that they have a life outside of work, and being grateful that the good ones want to work with you.  Let them know that.  (Oh, and don’t call them staff, or employees or subordinates; they’re people.)

#11.  Retain.  After all that work on your greatest assets, you cannot afford to lose any one of them.  Losing good people is expensive.  Think about what it would be like if you were working in the business, and the things that would keep you there.  Being aware of the 10 points above will help you to become a uniquely good employer.

Remember:  Above average people will always leave average organisations.