Managing employees can feel like just another task on top of all the other demands of a growing small business. But when done right, employee management can unlock an enormous amount of human potential. Let's look at some tips from small-business owners on how to set your employees up for success.
Create Resilient Systems
The temptation to micromanage employees can be strong, especially for entrepreneurs who are used to being in control of every aspect of their business, which is why it’s important to establish a clear set of standards and expectations so that constant supervision becomes unnecessary.
As you onboard and train new employees, your priority should be to wean them from your input as soon as possible. Tracy Solomon of Tevet LLC notes that "a strong leader hires good people and then gets out of their way in order for the team to be successful." That means having clear expectations and channels of communication that don't necessarily need you in order to function.
Lead with Your Behavior
Employees look to their leaders for cues on how to think and act in their jobs. Modeling consistency and integrity will gain the respect of your team and give them a clear picture of how they can win your respect.
Elizabeth Saunders, founder of Real Life E, stresses how important your responses are in shaping your employees' behavior, especially when things don't go according to plan. Reacting with anger or without consistency can make your employees doubt whether telling you the truth is a good idea. "You can encourage openness and honesty by responding calmly when they tell you something has not gone as you expected, talking through a plan for moving forward and agreeing on follow-up and accountability."
Employees are quick to notice when management doesn't act consistently, adds Victor Lipman, founder of Howling Wolf Management Training. "Nothing demoralizes employees more quickly than seeing senior leaders act in a way they don't respect, and few things energize employees more than a senior team they admire."
Build People Up
When you speak to the height of your employees' abilities and reward them for reaching, you encourage them to develop themselves in line with the company's needs and access untapped, perhaps unseen human potential.
"Don't underestimate what your employees already know about your business and what they can contribute. Hiding performance measures or being opaque about your financials is a disservice to their intelligence and a huge missed opportunity for you as a business owner," advises Rosemary Plorin, president and CEO of Lovell Communications, adding that employees who better understand the company's needs and prospects are more motivated and can be an unexpected source of new and useful thinking.
Create a Strong Workplace Culture
When it comes to managing employees, your best bet for attracting top-quality applicants, retaining great employees and for improving productivity is to continually develop a strong workplace culture. This requires a combination of the previous three suggestions but should also be backed up by other efforts, both in terms of tangible perks and interpersonal and community recognition.
Stephen Sheinbaum, founder of Bizfi, suggests that building a strong culture of recognition takes more than a pat on the back or a few words of encouragement. "Don't just name somebody employee of the week or month: When you give the award, tell all of the employees specifically what the employee did and how it relates to milestones you want your business to reach." You could also consider starting a mentoring program in your organization to help create new leaders!
Of course, not all of this can be done overnight, and initiatives can vary based on certain factors, like the company culture or industry. Building strong leadership and talent practices takes time and sustained effort.