Parts of a Whole
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Employees
Quite a bit has been said about employee hiring, motivation, training, business strategy, organizational structure, and workplace efficiency – subjects which are distinct and separate from one another, yet coexist as a cohesive whole. If you think of all the above as entirely separate, you will miss how they work together and interlock. If you think only in terms of the vast subject of “business administration” you will miss the vital details and components that comprise the broader whole.
The core of a business or any activity is people. Without people you don’t have much of anything. Hiring, motivation, training, strategy, structure, and efficiency won’t go anywhere without people. Even these subjects are not the entirety of business administration, but they are a good start:
Choosing the right person for the job is your first step in maximizing employee performance. After you’ve reviewed some resumes you’ll come to the phase of the interview – the point where you must sum up a person’s potential without ever seeing them do anything and all in the span of a few minutes. You must make a crucial decision for your business with very little information, not to mention affecting the trajectory of an individual’s life.
There are a number of “trick questions” employers ask, but these are all available online and the prospective employee can Google them while in the waiting room. I prefer the approach of honest two-way communication to get an idea how they solve problems and overcome adversity.
One type of question which may or may not be a “trick” can act as a decent yardstick when trying to sum up a candidate. It is the “what would you do with this?” question. You hand them something or present a scenario – only you don’t specify if there is anything wrong with it or not. If it is something that needs fixing you look to see if they think it should be fixed and how they’d fix it. If it is something that isn’t broken you see if they would leave it as is, or perhaps improve upon it.
Once you hire someone, always take them on a trial basis (30-90 days is typical) and make sure they understand this. You’ll never know for sure how someone will do until they do it. You should certainly help them out and make sure they know HOW things are supposed to operate in your business.
Motivation and morale are a constant issue in any company. If you have people that start out highly motivated and stay that way, you are lucky indeed. People get burned out. They do the same thing over and over and get sort of “stuck” and eventually just quit. But motivation is essential. You could simply “hire and fire” and keep rotating people through, bringing in the new blood. But you lose veteran employees who may really know what they are doing. You aren’t going to be able to fix everything in someone’s life for them, but you can make an effort to enhance the workplace situation. Since we spend most of our time at work, when work goes better our lives tend to follow suit.
One thing you can do is send out a survey (sometimes called a pulse survey) on how people feel about their jobs, what problems they’re experiencing, what they’d like to see improved, etc. (Word of warning: A small percentage of employees believe that every convenience should be laid out on a silver platter or that the entire business exists for their personal benefit.)
Most employees look upon the workplace as a group effort to which all contribute, but there will be genuine complaints and requests. Maybe they really want a water cooler or coffee machine, or they have some really good ideas that should be acted upon. Let them know the surveys are confidential. When you’ve analyzed the results, take action and brief everyone.
Another avenue some corporations take is to mix it up as far as the workload goes. You can give each person another job that is completely different from what they normally do. An office worker might rejoice at spending an hour or two per day operating a forklift. A receptionist might love pulling weeds and mowing a lawn once a week. If you implement such a system you will probably notice your office staff getting MORE done in LESS time. That is because they had a chance to put their attention out into their environment instead of two feet in front of them staring at a computer screen within a cubicle surrounded by more cubicles which are uncased in walls. Give this system a try and see what happens.
That is certainly not all there is to motivation, but it’s a start.
Most employers are looking for previously trained and experienced people. But beyond that you will certainly need to train people in your specialized activity. No doubt you have developed know-how in your given field. On-the-job training is essential in any endeavor. Company POLICY comes into play in a big way the bigger you get. But beware of policy and protocol overshadowing the human element. Corporations often become inhuman, unthinking machines. When you call them on the phone you get nothing but machines – perhaps you have experienced this!
Your training, policy and protocol must be correlated to your GOALS and PURPOSES. All that you do is related to your mission statement, values, aims, etc., i.e. WHY you exist! Help your employees with their jobs. Help your customers. You and your staff may get so good at what you do that other companies look to you as an example and trade magazines start writing articles about you – then it’s on to Inc. and Fortune.
Setting goals and purposes and working out a business plan and strategy is nothing new. What may be new to some is how the overall planning and strategy can be precisely broken down into component parts.
It breaks down roughly as follows: The business formulates its overall goals. These are then broken down into major purposes. There is then an embracive plan for each purpose. Each broad plan is then broken down into a more brass tacks program or course of action. There are then smaller projects to accomplish individual steps. Each department and employee then does their part in terms of specific actions that forward the accomplishment of the overall goals, purposes, plans, programs, projects, and individual steps of programs and projects.
It’s simpler than it may seem, especially if you make a chart out of it.
If the company has a plan to deliver superlative service, then this is emulated and repeated throughout the company. The receptionist answers and handles calls courteously and efficiently. Orders placed on the internet are filled immediately and the product (whatever it is) delivered promptly. Customer questions and complaints are taken care of in a similarly friendly and professional manner. Staff meetings, memos, etc. must communicate and forward the planning and strategy. People need to know what is going on and what is expected. Strategy is more than words on paper; it pervades every part of your operation.
It is essential to use statistics, metrics and analytics in your day-to-day operations. You can measure and monitor anything using numbers that equate to quantity, quality and productivity. If a salesman sells five times the units anyone else does, you isolate what he is doing right, forward this and reinforce it. The person whose sales are near zero needs help or needs to be let go. You can monitor and manage any job or department through analyzing the numbers that reflect productivity.
The structure of your company refers to how you might lay it out in a two-dimensional form. In a small group you may do everything from sign up new customers and pay the bills, to fix the broken stair and pressure-wash the driveway. If you partner or hire someone, you may succeed in doubling your output. As you take on more territory you will undoubtedly hire more people. But you may find yourself in a situation where you’re stepping on people’s toes, they’re stepping on yours, etc. That is because you must now clearly delineate WHO is responsible for WHAT.
Set up departments and positions with specialized duties and ensure people are trained for their jobs (as described above). Just beware of the tendency to bureaucratize – one department says it’s the others’ job who then point back to the first department, projects stall due to red tape, etc.
Your structure should align with your purposes, planning, strategy, etc. When you have these things in place and functioning, you will see heightened productivity amongst your employees.
1. (Of a system, organization or machine) achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.
2. (Of a person) working in a well-organized and competent way.
You’ve heard of a “time-motion study”? These can be quite eye-opening. You need not get super-sophisticated. Simply look around and see what people have to go through in order to turn out a completed product. Is there wasted time? Is there wasted motion? Is there wasted money?
There are two distinct types of jobs. One is stationary and the other is ambulatory.
The stationary person should have all needed equipment (computer, buzz saw, etc.) right there and operational so he or she can do the job. The stationary person doesn’t have to constantly run around the shop (or office) for a pencil or a nail gun if their job requires those items.
The ambulatory person moves around due to the nature of their job. This is the delivery person, the driver, the runner, the assistant who darts about and gets things and makes things easier for others. They too require the needed items, but it is a different set-up. Get it?
Put it All Together
1. You hire someone you believe will do a good job.
2. They are already trained or you train them.
3. You train them on their specialty using company policy so they understand how it gets done at your business.
4. You brief them on the overall goals, purposes, strategy, plans, programs, projects, etc.
5. You monitor statistics, metrics and analytics, and use surveys in order to bolster what is working and remedy what is not.
6. You make sure people know WHO to answer to and WHO to go to for WHAT. You don’t cross these things up, but rather maintain the integrity of your organizational structure.
7. You make sure each job and department has what it needs to function with minimal wasted time and motion while taking into account financial restrictions.
8. Put all the above on charts so it is easy for people to track with and understand.
9. Then fire everything up and watch motivation and productivity soar. Do all that smartly and you’ll get a LOT – if not the MOST – out of your employees.