At its most basic, the business of managing your employees is about getting the best out of them to ensure the smooth and successful running of your business. It is best to adopt the best practices and procedures of larger businesses early, even though it may initially seem redundant. As your business grows, it is better to have a consistent approach that everyone is familiar with rather than making it up as you go along. In the future, you may choose to delegate human relations management to an HR specialist you hire specifically for the job, but when you are just starting out, this is something that you will have to manage on your own.
The most essential issue is that your employees know what is expected of them. In addition to the job descriptions in their contracts. There needs to be clear communication between management (you) and the workforce (them) to make sure that everyone in your company is on the same page with regards to how the business is progressing. Keep them abreast of issues that affect the business with regular staff meetings and notices, and also take the opportunity to chase up any events that may be affecting the level of customer service or the amount of money coming in to the business. Keeping everyone informed and giving them the chance to raise any concerns means that any problems can be idenitified and addressed before they become a full-blown crisis.
Many businesses forget that their biggest asset is not their plant machinery but the people entrusted to operate it. As an employer, you will get out of your staff what you put in, and it is therefore sensible to invest in staff training to address any skills shortages that may exist, and also to enhance any abiities that could lead to better performance. Don’t be put off by the idea that your employees will happily take your offer or training or further professional development before promptly defecting to the competition. It is very easy to insert a clause into an employment contract stating that a member of staff is obliged to complete a certain length of service before they can leave without refunding you the cost of their training. Employees can also be surprisingly loyal; if given the chance to improve their skills, they are likely to stay to put their new abilities to use, rather than start scanning the horizon for a new opportunity.
Going back to open communication, it is also important that you monitor the performance of your employees, to make sure that they are not only capable of doing their jobs, but are also doing them to the best of their abilities. Set some objective (and realistic) targets for staff and review them yearly, so that you can gauge their performance and decide on any remedial action that should be taken. This also gives you a basis for deciding on the level of any salary increases, in addition to giving you an idea as to which employees are excelling or struggling in their positions.
The most difficult thing about putting together a human relations strategy, especially in a small startup business, is that you yourself need to be the living embodiment of any policies and practices you put in place. Your employees will be looking to you to set an an example for the company as a whole, and it is therefore not worth putting strict and complicated procedures in place if you are not able to practice what you preach. Even if the business grows and you delegate the HR function to another individual, you will remain the company figurehead, and your attitude to the policies you instigated will filter down to your employees. So take care not to enforce any rules that you yourself would find onerous, lest you find yourself hoist by your own petard.
[Image by KM & G-Morris]