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5 Rules For Managing People In Your Start-Up

Sandra Swanepoel, Managing Director of Sage HR & Payroll, on golden principles for people management in a small business.

Sandra Swanepoel

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If your small business is to grow and prosper, you need to hire the right people and then manage them in a way that gets the best from them. Even if you are not a natural leader, managing people is a skill that you can learn and improve with practice and with the right advice.

1. Learn to delegate

The first and sometimes hardest people management lesson for a small business owner to learn is to delegate work to the team. It can be difficult to let go if you’re hiring employees for the first time after doing everything yourself.

As tempting as it might be to hold onto as many responsibilities as you can and to micro-manage when you do delegate, it’s important to share the load.

Start out with repetitive tasks that drain your time and add little value to the business – for example, admin tasks. Monitor how employees are doing, be there to support them, and invest the necessary resources in training them. Most people are eager to learn, so if they’re properly motivated they can save you a lot of time.

Related: 7 Caustic Management Behaviours To Avoid

2. Understand the basics of labour law

Entrepreneurs often lack patience with paperwork and compliance, but it’s essential to understand labour law if you want to run a harmonious and productive workplace. With our progressive labour laws, you can’t dismiss people without following the proper processes.

South African labour law sets out rigid procedures for disciplining an employee and you must follow them to the letter. Keep accurate records if you hold a disciplinary hearing so that you can defend yourself in case the employee wants to challenge your decision at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Also, be sure to document the rules of your workplace, the requirements of the job, and your policies so that employees know what is expected of them. Speak to an expert if you aren’t familiar with the complexities of South Africa’s legal framework.

3. Treat people with professionalism and consistency rather than familiarity

Professional-manner

Owners of small businesses often fall into the trap of treating staff members as friends or family. This can make matters more difficult for you if you need to correct a staff member’s errant behaviour or say no when they ask for a favour.

Be friendly but professional; don’t allow the lines between friend and manager to become blurred.

Related: 3 Time Management Tips For the Busy Small Business Owner

4. Communicate clearly

A good manager is a good communicator, so be straightforward with your staff members. Make sure your employees know what their tasks are, how these need to be done, and what their deadlines are.

Give them regular feedback – positive and corrective – to help them improve. And be honest with them about how the business is doing and your strategies for the future.

A transparent management style helps to keep staff members motivated.

5. Be fair and consistent

Like most human beings, you probably have your biases and like some members of your team more than others.

It is important, however, that you treat everyone according to the same consistent set of principles. Be alert to your own preferences and how they manifest when you interact with the team.

Nothing is worse for staff motivation than seeing the boss give one or two members of the team preferential treatment simply because he or she likes them more.

Read next: HR Management Basics for the Small Business

Sandra Swanepoel leads the growth of Sage’s human resource and payroll solutions business across Africa. Before her promotion to this role, she served as sales director for Sage HR & Payroll. Sandra joined the company in 1989 when it was still a start-up. Since then, her commercial acumen and industry expertise have played a key role in the company’s growth into one of Africa’s leading payroll and HR solutions providers. Prior to joining Sage VIP as a sales consultant, Sandra’s worked in the payroll and HR departments of a number of large companies. She has played a key role in signing contracts with large multinational customers over the years. For more information, visit Sage.

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Managing Staff

Employees Underperforming? How To Respond To These 3 Excuses

Sometimes, an employee just needs an extra jolt. Other times, you will need to pull the plug.

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Companies are increasing their focus on employee retention. In fact, PayScale’s 2018 Compensation Best Practices report found that 59 percent of respondents considered employee retention a “major concern” for their companies and organisations. This isn’t surprising given that a revolving staff door can make it almost impossible to preserve recent organisational knowledge and keep up with projects and responsibilities.

So, yes, keeping retention top of mind is smart, but sometimes a staff change is unavoidable. When you’re calling the shots, firing people will almost certainly make you uncomfortable. Whether you are running a small start-up or a Fortune 500, you can’t hide behind other people and say the decision was out of your hands.

Then, the bigger your company gets, the harder it will be to respond in order to change quickly and effectively. While employees can grow into their roles, you shouldn’t let your sense of loyalty to your current employees prevent you from making good business decisions.

It’s just logical that some of your original staff members are going to be unable to keep up with the pace and to cease to bring enough value to the company. In those cases, you should maintain a realistic attitude as to when it is time to part ways. And, when those tough conversations need to happen, your sense of loyalty to your employees can be your worst enemy.

A retention reality check

checking-in

In your personal life, “loyalty” generally means believing in an individual and defending him or her when that person comes under attack. When you become part of a team, however, the definition of loyalty changes.

As a leader, you need to think about your loyalty to all of your employees instead of just one person. When a team member cannot keep up or shows signs of burnout, he or she will likely require co-workers to pick up the slack. When you hold certain people to a lower standard, other employees become resentful, and the poor performer starts to drag the company down.

Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct

For example, a B2B company we worked with had a marketing employee who had been with the team from the beginning. The company had done well, and its board was pushing for accelerated growth – which required more effective marketing. The employee was a jack-of-all-trades but couldn’t keep up with increased demand. After the difficult decision was made to replace this employee with a more qualified individual, the company quickly hit stretch goals that had previously been elusive.

Often, a leader may be blind to necessary personnel changes, whether willfully or unconsciously. In either case – if this leader is you – the sooner you recognise the problem and take steps to address it, the better off your company will be.

Warning signs that signal a personnel change

It will not always be obvious, but here are three common excuses from employees that might indicate it is time for you to consider a personnel change:

1. “I don’t have enough time” 

Work stress is prevalent across all industries, and a study from Paychex found that roughly 70 percent of those surveyed reported stress levels of at least 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Certainly, being pressed for time doesn’t help stress, either.

One of your primary roles as a leader is to clearly define your employees’ jobs and responsibilities. If team members struggle to keep up with their workloads, they are probably stretching themselves thin trying to help others, or putting off work to avoid accountability.

When you talk to an employee who claims to be short on time, determine what his or her current projects are and then contain them. Give this employee specific responsibilities that don’t require relying on co-workers, and see how he or she meets these new expectations and goals. If the employee continues to underperform, look for a replacement, although it is not a bad idea to put out feelers for that replacement before you even have the above discussion.

Related: Richard Branson on How to Train Your Employees

2. “I cannot control this”

The ability to find a solution to a work problem is an indicator of someone who “owns” the situation. This is a characteristic you need to see in employees. When I worked at Dell, we had a substantial drop in traffic and couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we discovered that our laptop batteries were catching fire. Unfortunately, you can’t advertise or email your way out of a drop in traffic due to a problem like that; but you can turn to your partners in crisis communication and social media.

If you give employees all the tools necessary to solve problems and they still can’t succeed, it’s time to reevaluate their fit in the company. By letting them go, you ultimately keep them from stagnating. If you struggle with this concept, look toward Startups.co CEO Wil Schroter, who has said he views his company as a school for employees. When employees get to the point that they would learn better elsewhere, it is time for them to move on.

When you let go one of these employees, make sure that the high performers you do have feel appreciated. Talk to their co-workers to ensure that in the interim, everyone’s roles and responsibilities are firmly established. Also, involve the rest of your employees in the subsequent hiring process so they have some control over who is named as the replacement.

3. “It wasn’t me” 

According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, worldwide employee engagement sits at a lowly 15 percent. Employees with low engagement often have a decreased sense of responsibility for their work, which wreaks havoc on productivity and accountability.

The most toxic situation is when employees attempt to deflect their own poor performance onto surrounding team members. These individuals rarely admit fault but instead cast broad accusations in an attempt to throw co-workers under the bus. As a last-ditch effort, such employees will even question the data that illuminates their underperformance.

Tough love is the solution here. Like an unfaithful partner who’d rather talk about other people who cheat instead of his own indiscretions, the underperforming employee will try to direct the conversation away from his or her performance. But don’t let that happen: Stay the course and let this employee go.

Related: 7 Signs You Have A Positioning Problem [And Why Familiarity Kills Businesses]

Then, during your subsequent hiring process, be mindful of the departed employee’s character flaw. Ask questions about challenges each candidate faced at previous jobs. Be wary when interviewees shift blame to others or speak poorly about their previous employers.

Most importantly, be realistic about your employees and do your best to fill any gaps with the strongest candidates you can find. And accept the truth: You will never be entirely comfortable about firing people.

If you are, you might not have the empathy required to make a great leader. However, it is part of your job to ensure that your seats are filled with top talent, so be loyal to your whole team and know when to let under-performers go.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Managing Staff

An Excellence Approach To Nurture Star Performers

Talent management is the commitment to continuously nurture and align individual attitude and performance, job requirements and organisational culture through excellent performance management.

Adri Dörnbrack

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1. An excellent view of Talent Management

Any sports team needs to measure the vital statistics and performance of each member. “Metrics” like cadence, heart rate, output ratios etc. are important, for the whole to eventually be greater than the sum of its parts.

Similarly, leaders need to measure (without micro managing) employee performance to get a better understanding of what makes the individual stand out. Leaders need to understand how to adapt environments so that everyone can be exceptional.

Not creating a culture of unhealthy competition, but one where every individual’s contribution is understood and valued, and individual work experience is adjusted to accommodate uniqueness, will keep individuals performing at their peak, while enjoying what they do and understanding the purpose of their work.

2. Nurturing star performers

Employees should be given the best possible opportunity to serve in a work context that is optimal for their skillset and temperament. Talent management is based on the organisation’s commitment to surround all employees with people, practices and processes that will grow them to their full potential.

From a deep understanding of the talent pool a business can distinguish between top, great, good and poor performers. Having a suitable and fair measurement tool in place is critical in this regard. This allows management to clearly understand why people are in different performance categories, and provides insights on what pro-active actions can be taken to develop people into their full capacity.

People are highly influenced by work-related relational contexts and environments. Poor performers can become top performers when there are leadership changes or job changes that simply fit better, but also vice versa. Top performers can become poor performers due to illness or other job related changes. There have also been cases where top industry performers join a different organisation and then struggle to perform due to the individual not aligning with the new organisational culture.

Related: These 4 Types Of ‘Nightmare Managers’ Are Scaring Employees Away

Excellent talent management considers all of these factors:

  • Understand who the star performers are, and why they are viewed as top performers. (Know and acknowledge what they contribute in terms of both job deliverables and attitude).
  • Understand the relationship between the top performer and their leader.
  • Understand the culture of the department and why this fit works for this individual.
  • Then, for the future of work: Consider adapting working conditions or terms of employment in order to keep the star performers (Eg. Flexible working hours, virtual offices, or shorter terms of employment to ensure growth opportunities.)

The biggest contributing factor to ensure excellent talent management is to continuously understand and communicate what is expected from an individual, to have measures in place to know if the individual achieves this, to know what value this adds to the business – and then making sure that they are compensated accordingly.

3. What star performers desire from corporate culture

People don’t want to work merely for personal gain. They want to connect and contribute to a business that shares their values and contributes towards the development of a healthy world and better society.

Spiritual intelligence is becoming increasingly important. This trumps mere personal self-actualisation, and entails feeling connected to a business that has a bigger shared purpose than just making a profit.

People want to connect with businesses that have integrity, moral leaders, and feel part of a network that are responsible stewards, who will value their total personal contribution and help them grow as star top performers within a star team.

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Managing Staff

Are Our Workplaces Gen Z And Gen Alpha Proof?

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to generation proof their workplaces before Gen Z and Gen Alpha enter the workforce, only to retreat into their technology bubbles. The question is, how do companies get the balance right?

Ilona Fookes

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Preparing for a new generation to enter the workplace is a lot like baby proofing your house. You spend a lot of time and money making sure this vulnerable creature, with very specific needs, has everything they need to play, grow and thrive in their new environment, without too many run ins with sharp objects that will inevitably lead to tears. But who are you future proofing for and how?

The challenge in 2018, is that your house has only just become Millennial proof. And yes, while it’s great that you’re so On Fleek with all the latest open office concepts, flexible working spaces, new internal communication channels and social media influencers that these hashtaggers thrive on, that aint gonna fly with the more independent multi-multitasking Gen Z, who will favour private enclaves and online collaborations with global teams and communities of influence. And what of Gen Alpha, the Google Glass generation who will view technology as a physical appendage and glass screens as their genuine, not virtual, reality?

The good news is that Gen Z, or iGen as they are commonly known for being weaned off milk with iPads, will pave the way for the even more self-sufficient, independent Gen Alpha. So, if you get the foundations right you can start building a generation-proof business that will stand you in good stead for the next 50 years, give or take.

The challenge with generation proofing is that we often spend all our time focusing on the hard, tangible stuff – the tech and spatial environment – and not enough on the soft issues that will actually help retain and motivate employees to not only stay and play but thrive and grow. And when we consider that Gen Z is heavily driven by career growth and is likely to have 17 jobs and 5 careers in a lifetime, we should be focusing a lot more on getting the work/culture balance right. In fact, engaging and retaining Gen Z will be a balancing act like no other, where two seemingly opposite needs play out in the workplace. Get it right and you win the prize – a loyal, integrated workforce that is connected on more levels than one.

Related: 3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers

Balancing career growth with the need for retention

Every generation is born into an era that shapes, motivates and influences their decisions.  Gen Z’s world view may be largely shaped by technology, but they are also the product of economic uncertainty, having been born into a recession. So, it’s not surprising that they value financial security, job promotion and learning. As expert online collaborators who are also capable of working independently, companies would do well to embrace online learning as a powerful tool for mentorship, training and growth, especially one that promotes career promotion and professional advancement. 

Balancing technology with the need for focus

Eight seconds – that’s how long the average attention span of a Gen Z employee will be. Gen Alpha will be even less. Immersed in technology from an early age, these serious multi-multi-taskers will work tirelessly across different technologies and will process information at the speed of light. The downside is that it’s going to be a challenge to keep their focus, even more so than Millennials. More than ever, companies will need to create multipurpose private spaces or pods, where these workers can retreat to in order to focus on the task at hand. These spaces should also support their need for blended face-to-face/online groups.

Balancing independence with the need for shared culture and meaning

Yes, this generation will be fiercely independent and shun micromanagement and a desk bound culture, but it will also crave meaningful work, regular interaction with management and opportunities to make a valuable contribution to society. Companies that only focus on creating opportunities for remote working and online collaborations, will miss the mark.

To retain this group, you need to focus on creating a shared corporate culture and opportunities for regular engagement. In this way internal communication will become a key driver in bridging the gap between a non-desk and desk-bound workforce and finding new ways to engage and inspire an increasingly disparate workforce.

Employee apps will become the most important channel in workplace communication bringing information, social connection and engagement together in a way that resonates with these digital natives. 

Related: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

Balancing privacy with the need for engagement

Internal communication will become a balancing act unto itself. How companies communicate with employees will become as important as how often and how much. Internal communication will need to move beyond intranet, SharePoint and ESN like Workplace and Yammer to embrace wearables, robotics, and virtual reality, all of which will not only reflect but drive the digital native.

As the vital link between company and employees, internal communication will need to engage employees through validated channels using curated content that not only drives the message but embeds the company’s shared values and brand ethos. And did we mention the maximum reading time should not exceed 10 minutes per day? Tough ask right? 

Soft issues and hard tech. This is the balancing act facing corporates in the race to proof their workplaces to embrace Gen Z and the AI generations to follow. The mistake would be to focus only on the tangibles and neglect the soft issues that really drive retention and shape corporate culture. Making sure internal communications teams are properly trained, equipped and mandated to handle the enormous challenge, will be key to cracking the generational code and claiming your share of its human capital.

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