A good employee…

“Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they’re always tax deductible.”
Andy Warhol

Disclaimer: the quote above was intended as humour. Do NOT date your employees.

Often, I hear the number one stress in a business owner’s life is employees. That comes from suffering “smallbusinessitis” and thinking of employees as costs and time distractions instead of people with talent who can help to grow the business for the long term.

Smallbusinessitis is a mindset that will keep your business small, regardless of revenues. Let’s discuss some best practices on creating great employees for your mid-market company.

Recently, I’ve completed a management reorganization project remotely with a company in the USA and commenced a new consulting role in person with a company in Canada.

  • Two different companies in two different industries in two different countries.
  • Both about the same size (more than 100 employees).
  • Both with very positive cultures guided by strong family ownership, leadership, and values.

Here is what I’ve observed that can help you to create a great employee culture that drives a customer-focused, profitable, growing business.

  1. Customer focus – both companies are driven to provide excellent products, services, experiences, and value for their customer. The customer prioritization is part of the explicit company strategy and the company values.
  2. Clear management and reporting structure – people know to whom they report and can go to with questions or for advice. Senior management does not skip levels and give orders directly to front line staff. Communication follows the path both up and down.
  3. Senior leaders know what is going on – they regularly seek feedback and metrics on daily operations and observe front line operations and customer interactions. They see, in real time, what is going on in their companies.
  4. Strong supervisors – all employees have a direct supervisor to whom they report. To expand on point 2. above, it’s the employee’s relationship with their supervisor that is most important. Most employees leave organizations due to a poor relationship with their supervisor. This is usually due to a deficiency of the supervisor, not the employee.
  5. Results are measured – Overall business performance is measured in operational terms, not just financial terms. Management shares reports on key metrics on a regular basis. All employees know how they contribute to the top line revenues and bottom-line profits.
  6. Three Rs: Roles, Results, and Responsibilities. At one company, the job descriptions have been modified to add a section on Results to the roles and responsibilities. We’ve named this the “Three Rs job descriptions™.”
  7. Supporting employees during Covid-19 – both companies shut down operations for a short period of time. Both companies kept as many employees on full payroll as possible and minimized layoffs. Both maintained regular communication and brought back as many employees as possible when government regulations permitted this.

“Positioning your employees for their success will help to create customer and business success.”
–Phil Symchych

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Questions for your leadership team:

  1. What is the number one focus of your company? How do you make this explicit? How do you measure it?
  2. What does your organizational chart look like? Does it focus on people’s names or functional management roles? The latter is the correct answer.
  3. Does leadership regularly see daily operating metrics? Does leadership observe customer interactions? How does leadership monitor the pulse of your company?
  4. How do you measure the relationship between your supervisors and their direct reports? Who are your best supervisors? Which employees are flight risks due to poor relationships with their supervisors or poor supervisors? Which supervisors need more training to improve their interactions and employees.
  5. How do you measure and communicate your business performance and results? A powerful method is to use daily or weekly Flash reports.
  6. Do your job or position descriptions clearly outline the results that people are responsible for? Or, are they six-page detailed documents that are reasonably mind-numbing to read?
  7. How are you supporting your employees during Covid-19? How are you protecting your operational performance? How are your employees handling working from home or remotely? How are you taking care of your customers and suppliers? This last question addresses many issues in a Covid-19 or contingency work plan.

A good employee doesn’t just walk in the door. Your employees are created and enhanced by your intentional focus to help them become more successful, grow in their careers, enjoy a positive work environment, and deliver more value to customers.

How are you developing your people?

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