Your Best People Are Your Greatest Asset

The people working for you play a critical role in the success of your business. To ensure they help you realize this success, you should focus on two objectives:

  • Make sure you hire the right employee for each and every position.
  • Make sure everybody loves what they do so much that they never think about going anywhere else.

Losing just one great employee is always painful. Losing more than one can be disastrous.

In a prior post, we focused on how you can get the right people for the right positions. In this post, we outline steps you can take to dramatically increase your employee retention.

Are your current employees in the right jobs?

Up to now you may have filled jobs without determining if the people you hired were right for them. It’s critical to do that now.  Look at each employee you have. Is their job the right one for them?  How passionate are they about doing it?

Surveys regularly reveal most people are not happy with their jobs or the company they work for. According to “Five Ways to Retain Employees Forever,” published by the Harvard Business Review in November of 2012:

“In a recent blog post, we cited some alarming numbers: 40% of workers are planning to look for a new job within the next six months, and 69% say they’re already passively looking.”

This was back in 2012 when unemployment was higher and jobs were tough to get. That isn’t the case now. As of January 10, 2018, unemployment is at 4.1%, which is considered “full employment” by most economists.

These surveys rarely look at is the cost of employee dissatisfaction for the businesses they work at. A dissatisfied employee does not do their job well and the cost to the business can be significant.

Determining An Employee’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Your first step is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each employee on your team. There are many different assessment tools to help you do this.

Start with you yourself. This will give you a chance to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Then, look at your duties and responsibilities. Delegate those duties that you are not good at or are not passionate about to others; continue to do only those you are good at and excited about.

Next, have the employees on your executive team do the same – restructure their jobs to enable them to concentrate on what they enjoy and what they are good at. Delegate the rest of the tasks to others.

By this point, you will start to see how valuable this is for the success of your business. Continue doing the same for everyone else – from managers to your lowest level employee:

  • Make sure the position each person has is the right one for them.
  • Move any person out of a position that is not a good fit.

You may say it’s not cost effective to have the duties of each job in your business built for the people in those positions. If you did, every job would be totally unique and every time a person was promoted or left the company, you would have to restructure the job for the new person.

But that is not going to happen; many jobs will be standardized with the same duties. Rather than putting anyone in those jobs, only hire people with the talent and passion to do them. Here’s an example:

You have a job in Accounts Receivable, and the best person for it is someone who’s good with – and passionate about – finance.  You would not restructure the job for a person whose main strength is writing and has a passion for marketing.

Helping Each Employee Enhance Their Strengths

While focusing on your employees’ strengths will help grow your business, don’t forget that happiness also impacts their performance, which affects your bottom line.

Take a serious look at their strengths and how they can improve them. And don’t rely on their supervisors or managers to do this; if they’re not skilled at doing this, it won’t happen.

The best way to help a person enhance their strengths is through ongoing training. This may be through offsite seminars and workshops, on-the-job classes, coaching or mentoring. If you don’t have people at your company who can do this, hire outside consultants.

Make sure no one is doing work another employee is responsible for.

All too frequently today, some people do not do all aspects of their jobs;  they avoid what they don’t like to do.

When that happens, conscientious people will jump in and do what has to be done. However, they don’t like doing it, and if it happens frequently, they will start to look for work elsewhere. Anyone not doing their work needs to be removed.

Get out of the way – let each person handle their own job.

Don’t micromanage; everyone wants to do what they do well. They don’t want someone looking over their shoulder and telling them how to do what they know how to. That is degrading for them.

Employees should be given the freedom to do their jobs on their own; they should only be helped when they request it.

Put a Growth Plan in Place for Everyone

Figure out the next position for each of your people and help them grow so that they will be able to move into it when it opens up.

Don’t Overlook Family

Most businesses fail to realize the importance of family. When an employee has issues with a spouse or children, they focus on those issues and their work suffers.

  • Make sure you don’t require anyone to work excessive hours, which will reduce the time they spend with their spouse and children. Of course, there may be times when they have to work excessive hours, but this should be the exception rather than the norm. If excessive hours are required routinely, find out why. If the job really does require longer hours, assign an additional person to help.
  • Allow employees time to attend special events with their children and take care of needs family members may have. That may include time off for doctors’ appointments, school functions or other events.
  • Periodically have events for families. These make them feel appreciated.
  • If possible, offer health screenings, at least some sort of health insurance program and paid leave benefits. These are financially challenging for most small businesses, but companies that offer such benefits often see lower recruiting costs and much higher retention rates.

Pay Each Person Appropriately for Their Work

You may find it necessary to pay top performers 20% to 40% more than their counterparts in similar positions at other businesses. At times, this may not be possible because of economic conditions. In such cases, look for other incentives, such as bonuses, extra vacation time, tickets to concerts or sporting events, or employee discounts. Those employees will work harder for you, and the increased profits you’ll see will more than offset their higher pay or the incentives you give them.

The Bottom Line

Any time you lose an employee, especially one of your best ones, there is a tremendous cost for your business. It takes time to train their replacement. That person may never be as good as the person you lose.

Follow the steps outlined here and your people will be excited to work for you.

About Andrew Clarke

Andrew Clarke is President of Ground Floor Partners. Over the past twenty years he has advised hundreds of small businesses on strategy, marketing, real estate and finance. He is passionate about small business, social and environmental justice, and is a proud member of the American Sustainable Business Council, Food and Water Watch, Green America, Food Consultants Group, and the American Planning Association.

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