I recently watched an episode of Undercover Boss Canada which was one of the most touching tear jerkers I’ve seen in a while. If you can find it somewhere, watch it. It is the episode with Modell’s Sportsware.
Anyways, there are a few lessons that we can all take away from this episode (and generally from this tv series) so I thought what better way to share it than to drop a post. Whether your workforce is online or in-house, I think the principles I discuss below are relevant.
A lot of companies start of with fantastic intentions, great corporate responsibility and are out to make a difference in the world. But soon after, corporate greed takes over and potentially the downfall of the company. This can lead to high rates of attrition and ultimately a poor product or a degraded service. Now not all companies do this but this is generally the way it goes with some. I think if you focus on your employees and ensure that you keep in mind some of the following key areas, I strongly feel that you will improve your chances of success at optimising the way your business works.
Ensure Employee Quality of Life
One of the best ways a successful business can prosper is to take care of (motivate) its employees and make them feel as though they are in a mutually beneficial and appreciative partnership. I’m not talking about just recognising individual employees, but rather a blanket approach to quality of life for all employees. Now it can generally go two ways, employees strive to work harder as they feel that the company has a vested interest in their well being, or they can go slow and just enjoy the perks (until someone notices). There are measures you can put in place to try and prevent the latter from happening but unfortunately, every business will have a portion of ‘those kinds‘ of employees. In fact in most companies I’ve worked with it seems (feels) as though 40-50% of the workforce are responsible for a companies success, the rest are just there to enjoy the ride. Don’t quote me on those stats, but I think you get the picture.
Communication is Key
Perhaps it’s just me, but as an employee I really wanted to know what was going on ‘either side’ of me. And by either side, I wanted to know what was happening in the company and with the teams that I received deliverables from and teams or departments that I delivered to. I did this not because I was nosey and inquisitive but because I thought it helped me understand my position in the workflow and the impact of my work. It gave me a greater sense of urgency as well as allowed me to make decisions that were lower impact to the departments and people that surrounded me. Those teams ended up being happier and interactions were more streamlined.
Now I don’t suggest that you have daily meetings to tell people every detail of what is going on. That is just a waste of time. Perhaps a synopsis of something on an intranet site available to those employees that are interested. Or as simple as a monthly email or newsletter. One of the first companies I worked with in the UK and admire to this day had a very open policy. All emails were available to everyone and the same for all documents generated within the company from projects to financials. What this mean’t is that everyone knew what was going on, and also could keep an eye on each other. The second benefit that came out of it is that people used these company resources for business rather than pleasure which is what I think should happen. If you want to send a private email, use your private email account! With this openness you are not left with a specific key knowledge holder that if God forbid get’s hit by a bus…. Now I admit that this open email system probably works better in smaller businesses but you don’t have to do that to be a bit more transparent to your employees.
Understand Work Load
If you find that employees are working too much overtime or taking too long to deliver, then you have one of two potential problems. They have too much work to do, or they are not good enough to do their job. In the case of too much work then simply lighten the load. One method of assessing if it is too much work is with a review of their peers. Unfortunately it is difficult to assess if they are good enough, unless you have people who have worked in that position to do the assessment and even then it is a bit subjective. If it’s the latter, then training it is, or worst case, replacement ( which can be a bit tricky in this day and age – unfair dismissal cases ).
This can be tough advice if you are small business and barely making ends meet. But trust me at some point, that overworked employee will get fed up and leave for a better paying job with normal working hours. So all the money that you have invested in that individual, together with the knowledge that they have accumulated has just walked out the door. And trust me, no handover document is going to do a FULL knowledge transfer. It’s just human nature. Once that resignation is in, people don’t care what happens next.
Detached Management is Bad
One of the most common complaints I find in every work environment is that there is a big detachment between seniority levels. Managers tend to lose trust in their technical staff and think that they know it all (on a precise technical level), most of which are living in a pretend world. Some of the best managers I’ve worked with in the past did what they do best… manage people and projects. They took advice of those with greater technical ability i.e. the people they manage. The first time I started to manage my own team I had a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that I needed to let go of the technical side of things. But that’s life unfortunately, we all can’t be experts at everything. So if I could leave you with one lesson here is to let those do what they do best. It’s the reason why outsourcing can work well.
Action your Mistakes
I know of quite a few people who can’t take the fact that they are wrong. When you run a business or a company, it is one of the things that you will need to learn to do really fast. In fact it is one of the things I admire about people. Accepting your mistakes shows me that you are professional, responsible, honest and ultimately you are someone that I can work with (provided you learn from those mistakes). Don’t forget, the first thing you need to do when you realise you’ve made that mistake is actioning it appropriately.
I am sure that there are many other lessons that can be learned from this show, but to me these were the ones that stood out the most and what affected me the most through my working career.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. How do you run your business? Or how are you treated as an employee? Drop me a note below and share your experiences.