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Guest Writer Series – June – Focus On Your People


In June’s Guest Writer Series, Sharon Costigan from Peppertree People Solutions talks about a particular business improvement – focusing on your people!

There are many and varied reasons why people go into business and there are just about as many reasons as there are business types. There is one thing that the vast majority of businesses have in common –and that is employees. As business owners you can focus on profit and loss; focus on customers; focus on production, work up your expansion and/or diversification plans – but to make any of these a success you need good people, and to keep them.

Read on to find out how to ensure that happens!

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Focusing on Your People for Business Improvement

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You’ve all heard the jargon – attraction and retention, performance management, employment conditions, learning and development, health and wellbeing and so on. But what on earth does all that mean and how am I, small or medium business owner, supposed to that as well as everything else I have to do each day?

There is a bit of work to put people management practices into place, but once there it becomes business as usual in keeping going and takes very little time each day to keep it going. Why? Mainly because people management, or HR management if you like, is fairly much common sense, with a pinch of personal reflection about what you do now and how you can do it better, and a dash of compliance with employment and associated laws (which is probably the most difficult part).

Rather than try to cover all the aspects of HR and bore you to death, I will just focus on one this time around – employee engagement. Simply put this means having employees who love to come to work, love their jobs, work hard, are loyal and committed to your business and will go the extra mile for you. A disengaged employee tends to have issues with their employer or employment conditions, waste time, take sickies and generally drag the chains. Most employees fall somewhere in between the 2 extremes. The trick is to do things that move employees away from disengagement to full engagement. I can hear the groans already…. ‘this is going to cost me money isn’t it?’No, not necessarily.

Rather than bore you with the complex theoretical stuff the basic message is…focus on your people and how they can make a positive difference to your business success.

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Here are some suggestions (there are many more, but I’m trying to keep it easy for you):

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  • How do you introduce your new employees into your business? You could write yourself a list of what they need to cover in the first day/week/month that helps them settle in and get working ASAP. This is YOUR checklist. Perhaps another employee (or you) could be their buddy. Give your new person a list of the key things they need to know to get going: where important things can be found, who they can contact for information, even simple things like where they can go for lunch if your business is in town. This shows you have thought about them and that you want to help them.

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  • Do your staffs’ employment letter clearly describe the conditions they are being employed under? Are your key employment policies and expectations of them clear? Are you obligations to them well laid out? If you have had employees for a number of years when did you last update their employment letters, and are they up to date with the employment and associated laws? Give regular feedback on how they are going in their job. Make sure they know your expectations, and find out what they expect of you to help them do their jobs. A thank you and a pat on the back goes a very long way!

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  • Do you have regular staff meetings where you all discuss how things are going and what could be done better? This one takes courage – you may take this as criticism, but if you look at any negative comment as an area for improvement, take their suggestions on board, thank them and work WITH them to implement any ideas you will go a long way to building loyalty because you are showing them they are important. By the way, if things aren’t going well, tell them. You will be amazed at the ideas people will come up with to help keep businesses going in tough times. It is also an important step if you are going to have to make redundancies, as it is part of the consultant process.

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  • Do you do social stuff together? (I don’t mean Friday drinks at the pub!) Non work related activities help people get to know each other better. Mind you, if you live in a small community most people already know enough, but these activities can help build relationships. Where people don’t get on at work these events can help bridge that divide.

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  • What about health and well being? Research has shown that having healthy staff reduces sick leave, reduces your workers comp claims and premiums, and that they are better able to do their jobs. You can do really simple things such as have fruit in the lunch room; knock off early once a week/fortnight/month and do something active (a touch footy match, tennis, golf). Not everyone will join in, but in doing this you are combining the social with doing something physical and healthy. You could ask local experts to do short talks on health issues (eg healthy eating, the affects of excess alcohol, affects of smoking, looking after your mental health etc). Ask your staff what they would like to do towards their health and wellbeing. It doesn’t have to cost much. If you want to go the whole hog there are companies that provide programs that include health assessments, flu shots, physical fitness programs, and a range of educational programs. Or you could use a combination of paid and free actions!

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  • Learning and Development – AKA training – and yes, this one costs you! Having people who are up to date and competent to do their jobs is crucial for your business to remain competitive. Your staff need ongoing training and for you to encourage everyone to share their knowledge, skills and abilities. If your business is a bit bigger and you have managers – do they know how to manage their people to get the best from them? What about you? How do you keep up to date with current methods in your industry? This may be the most expensive thing you do for your people – but it is also something that will add value (eventually) to your business.

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All your staff really need is for you to be approachable, listen, and acknowledge and reward them in some way. They need to know you care about them as people. They will care back.

 

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About Sharon Costigan and Peppertree People

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Sharon is the Principal Consultant with Peppertree People Solutions and has worked in a range of HR roles for over 15 years. She holds a post graduate qualifications in organisational development and is a Certified HR Professional with the Australian Human Resources Institute. She enjoys sharing and using what she knows so that others may benefit. See more of Sharon’s fantastic blog articles!

Peppertree People brings you hands on experience and capability across the range of HR practices including Strategic HR Management, Organisational Development and operational HR requirements.

Visit Peppertree People to find out more!