You may not realize it, but one of the most important aspects of your role as a business owner is being able to manage your staff effectively. If you stop and think about it, you are relying on these people to carry out all the functions that keep your business operating, and without them, you’d be unable to run your business at all. Your employees will be representing your company to the public and the industry, making lasting impressions on everyone with whom they interact. Poor customer service or failure to correspond promptly and helpfully to colleagues in the supply chain or elsewhere in the sector will reflect badly on your business, whereas excellent customer service standards and communication will earn your business a positive reputation. Customers and contracts can be won and lost on the work your staff members are carrying out, so it’s vital that they are being trained, guided, and supervised as effectively as possible. In a small business that will almost certainly mean you, but good managers are made, not born, and being a good boss doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Better staff management is essential.
The basic principles of good management
Before you get into the psychological aspects of staff management, you need to have all the practical and legal requirements sorted out. That means having a structured recruitment process that avoids any kind of bias or discrimination but seeks to find the people most suited for a specific role in your business. Each member of staff needs to be treated in accordance with existing legislation covering pay, benefits, staff rights, healthcare, leave entitlements, pensions, safe working conditions, facilities, and freedom from any discriminatory behavior such as sexism or racism. Every staff member should be treated equally and have the same opportunities and access to benefit schemes or other perks, and every aspect of their employment should be documented and shared with them. Once these mandatory aspects of employing staff are in place, you can then look at the techniques you should use to ensure you have happy, productive staff.
Training and education
Every person starting a new job needs a period of training in which they learn how to accomplish their given tasks, or how to practice their profession within your business environment. There should be a carefully timetabled induction program in place for new employees covering the standard health and safety training, and other aspects of the placement according to the role in question. After the initial training is complete, there should be regular refresher sessions to keep staff up to date with any changes in processes or technical upgrades. It’s also a good plan to have a training timetable in place for further education, internal courses, conference attendance, or any other opportunities for staff to expand their knowledge and improve their performance. This is good both for staff morale and as an investment in having employees who are capable of improving the performance of the business.
One of the most frequent complaints from staff about their bosses is the lack of communication. You may well have come across the manager who sits in their office most of the day, firing out instructional emails to chosen members of the team and giving little or nothing in the way of information to their staff. Communication is vital for two reasons. Firstly, you can’t expect people to achieve the best results they are capable of if they don’t have all the information they might need to complete a task. Secondly, failure to communicate properly makes people feel undervalued and excluded, as though they are not worthy of being kept in the loop. Barring personal information or something that could be seen as legal or business sensitive, staff should be kept informed of everything that is happening in the business. Copying them into emails, sharing relevant news and developments, and informing them about influential factors that could affect the business are all good practice. Holding regular staff meetings is an excellent way of making sure everyone has been informed about matters of interest and gives them a chance to bring up issues that are affecting their work, or ideas for system improvements.
The right environment
The workplace is somewhere people often spend a major proportion of their waking day, and creating a pleasant environment, comfortable working conditions, and providing the facilities they need will ensure your workplace is a happy, productive environment. Clean and tidy rooms and workstations, access to rest facilities, and space for making drinks and preparing lunches will all be appreciated and add to the pleasant ambiance. Simple actions like installing a quality coffee machine and a water cooler, hanging attractive pictures on the walls, and placing foliage houseplants around the space to improve air quality as well as look nice are all fairly basic steps you can take that will earn you appreciation from your staff.
Helping staff to work at optimum levels
There can be a lot of niggles in a working day that people could easily get frustrated with, such as empty dispensers in the restrooms, equipment that isn’t working properly, having to fill out what seems like pointless forms, or sitting in an uncomfortable chair. Resolving these problems may not be something you want to deal with yourself, but you should assign the tasks to someone who can keep on top of these issues and prevent them from becoming a more serious problem. You should also think about how you can make your employees’ roles as straightforward and rewarding as possible. Providing them with the best equipment and everything they need to do their job properly should be obvious, but you can also use software programs or other technical solutions to help your staff even further. For example, the Time Clock Wizard is a tool that allows you to organize the diaries of all your employees, or work with them to schedule their day; plus it provides a simple method of clocking in and out of work and recording other activities such as training sessions. By using tools such as these, you’ll be able to make the process of completing tasks at work far easier and take away some of the time-consuming practices that can take workers away from their key tasks.
Being the boss
The previous advice has been predominantly geared towards taking practical measures to provide the best possible working environments for employees. The hardest part of being a good boss is learning how to manage a collection of people with different personalities, histories, and potentials to get the best out of them. Being too much of a buddy can cause people to treat you with less respect, and not be driven to do their best. On the other hand, if you behave like a dictator, you will simply alienate your staff, affecting their productivity and making them want to leave as soon as they can. To be the best kind of boss, you need to display the authority to command respect, while remaining approachable, sympathetic, and pleasant to communicate with.
The art of being a great boss
There are numerous books and online resources that give in-depth advice on how to be a good manager and an effective leader. If you lack confidence in your skills as a boss, then carrying out some research into the kinds of behaviors that have the most positive effects on employees is a good place to start. Alternatively, if you consider yourself a great boss with nothing to learn, you should also take the time to get some reading done and pick up some better habits. No-one knows it all, and if there were one successful method of managing people, every boss would be using it. To be the best boss you can be, you need to take advice from people who have achieved positive results with their methods and be realistic about where your own strengths and weaknesses lie in your management role. In the most general terms, people tend to thrive at work when they are respected, treated compassionately, valued as a colleague and for their work and ideas, and included as far as possible in communication and decision-making. They also need to have a boss who expects high standards from them, and who they want to do well for. Receiving rewards and perks for their performance is generally found to be less significant than verbal praise from a boss who they respect and admire.
Being a good manager is far from easy, and you will come across all kinds of characters among your staff over the years. Some you will like, some you won’t, but what matters is the work they do for your business. You should always aim to be fair and not show favoritism as this can cause resentment among the other staff members. If you do have problems with a member of staff, then work on your understanding of them and what makes them tick, and consider if they have problems in their private lives which are affecting their work. Your business always comes first, but if you don’t invest in the people who help you run your company, then your profits will suffer.