While you form the cornerstone of your business, employees make up the foundation.
As the owner, your name and personality are key to identifying and branding your business.
Yet, you are not always there to interact with each and every customer. Plus you can’t be an expert at all of the skills required to build and maintain a thriving business. And if those hurdles weren’t enough, there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
So your business needs help from others, your employees, to form a strong foundation. That foundation is built on a cadre of well-trained, dedicated, and stable employees. These employees support the business by the work they do. They also will be your brand ambassadors as they go about life in general.
Finding such employees is difficult but not impossible. More and more human resource professionals are encouraging hiring for attitude and training for the specifics of the job.
My focus though for this article is not hiring the best people you can but in what goes on after they start as your employee.
Your employee program must start with recognizing your employees for what they can offer. Listen to them and encourage them to offer ideas and suggestions. Don’t forget to thank them and ensure they get recognition for their efforts.
Strong employees come from a solid development and growth program within your organization. Whether you have one or many employees or you simply have unpaid family members and friends who pitch in occasionally, each person needs training, support and guidance.
Such help does not come from a one-hour or one-day crash course done the day they step into your operation. You can talk but they can’t absorb it all. So you need to spread training out in bite-size chunks. And you need to fit it to their learning pace and style.
Your training process also cannot be a pile of manual or online training programs. Such materials is a good start and is great if they need to go back and look something up, but training needs to be interactive and it needs the human touch. That interaction time allows for questions and helps bring all the pieces together.
Finally, learning must be continuous, as current reminders, upcoming changes, and helping the employee to take on an expanded role.
As the employee starts, he or she needs a clear understanding of responsibilities. They also need the authority necessary to complete such responsibilities. If responsibilities and authority are not in balance, it is a pathway to frustration, a poor work environment and rapid turnover.
One key requirement is that new employees must see management as understanding of the work they do and even getting their hands dirty and working alongside them perhaps. Certainly, they look to management to set examples of the core standards of the company.
Your support is crucial. Perhaps you see a better way something could have been handled. The right time to handle that, however, is not in front of the customer. Support them at that moment. Then take the time and find a quiet place to work with the employee to reflect on what happened and what might have been done instead.
Finally, give praise. To do that means you need to be visible, watching and guiding every day.
To this point, I have not mentioned pay. It’s important to be strongly competitive but helping the employee feel valued can help you if you can’t be the salary leader.
Form your foundation can start with remembering what you wanted when you took your first job. Build that into your company. You are the cornerstone but you need a strong set of employees as your foundation.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.