One of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?
Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.
Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:
1) Have the right processes
Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.
2) Measure your success
The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.
3) Have the right people
In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.
Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building your business.
As a business advisor I see the issue of poor performers come up all the time. If you’re a small to medium-sized business owner you want to be out there growing and developing your business, not mired in staffing problems. Without big human resources departments and manuals of policies and procedures to follow, I know you often don’t have a roadmap on how to deal with poor performers. The reality is that regardless of the size of your business or your particular industry, at some point you will have to deal with this issue.
What are the causes of poor performance?
Poor performance can be the result of many things including:
- Not understanding expectations
- Lack of ability
- Lack of motivation
- Not a team player
- Chronically late
- Bad attitude
- Personality issues
- Non-work related problems
- Health issues
Why is employee performance so important to your business?
Employee performance affects organizational performance. A poor performer can create a toxic environment in your workplace, dragging down your entire team.
How can I avoid poor performers in my business?
Here are a few measures that I feel may help you to avoid the problem of poor performers.
- The hiring process: Choosing the right employees is crucial to a successful business but it’s not easy. If upon re-evaluation, you’ve discovered that you’ve hired several poor performers, perhaps you should consider outsourcing the hiring process to an external agency. The money you pay to the agency may actually save you money in the long run.
- Job expectations: Be clear about exactly what the job entails and what your expectations are.
- The onboarding process: Onboarding helps new hires acclimatize and orient to your business so that they can quickly become productive, contributing members of your organization. Have an onboarding plan in place for new hires and make sure that the tools they need to do their jobs are in place on their start date. E.g. workstation, computer, security pass, etc.
- Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings: One-on-one meetings between employee and manager can potentially head off problems. Speaking about issues as they arise or have the potential to arise is always better than leaving them to fester and grow.
What can I do if I have a poor performer?
In my experience I’ve found it valuable to try and ascertain the root cause of poor performance before any action is taken. If the reasons are personal or health related and have nothing to do with the job, perhaps a leave of absence is in order. If an employee is lacking in ability, perhaps upgrading their skill set or transferring them to a different department is the answer. If the problem is attitude or motivation perhaps setting performance goals will inspire the necessary change. Try instituting quarterly performance reviews to address any performance issues and monitor improvement. If all else fails, you may have no choice but to let the employee go.
As a first step, I suggest that you review poor performance issues you’ve had in the past or are dealing with now. Evaluate what action to take in order to rectify the present situation and what changes you can make going forward in order to avoid the issues of poor performers.
As a business owner you may hold to the traditional view that employee turnover is equated with failure. However, the days of working your entire career at one company and retiring with a defined pension plan, gold watch and a testimonial dinner are long gone. Employee turnover is part of the rapidly changing business environment that many of you face today. In fact according to CareerBuilder’s Candidate Behavior Study, 75% of full-time employees are either open to or actively searching for new job opportunities.
Employee turnover can provide many benefits.
An Improved Workforce
Every company has a percentage of employees who are subpar or have toxic personalities. However, many retain these employees and as a result lose top performers who are overworked and underappreciated. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, implemented a policy of annually evaluating staff in order to “purge” and replace the bottom 10% of performers. The reality is that even employees who are performing adequately can become complacent after a time and are frequently resistant to change. On the other hand, new employees are excited about their jobs and work hard to make a good impression. They bring a fresh perspective and new skills, which may ultimately improve efficiency and profitability.
I’ve outlined below a few ideas that I hope will give you pause to possibly reframe your views on employee turnover in terms of being a benefit to your business.
A Boost to Morale
New employees can breathe new life into your workforce. While disengaged employees can hamper productivity and morale, new employees can inspire their team members to greater heights with their enthusiasm and energy.
Typically you’d pay long-term employees considerably more than a new hire. Hiring a new employee also gives you the opportunity to eliminate or reduce high-cost seniority driven benefits and perks – number of weeks of vacation, golf club and/or gym memberships, company car, parking spaces, Smartphones, etc.
Is There An Ideal Employee Turnover Rate?
Although there’s no such thing as an ideal employee turnover rate, 10% is the rate most commonly used. However, not all employees are created equal. If you’re losing your subpar performers, then you’re doing well, regardless of the percentage but if your rate for losing top performers is high, you have a problem.
Low Employee Turnover Can Be a Problem
Low employee turnover is not necessarily a sign of a healthy company. It can be a result of poor management, fear of termination, weak performance management or being slow to release surplus labour. Although firing or laying off employees is never pleasant, you should have a plan in place on how to deal with under performing employees.
Employee turnover can be very positive for your company as long as you’re losing subpar employees and not your top performers. I recommend that you carefully review the records of the employees that have left your employ in the last year to determine whether their leaving was of benefit to your company or if you have a problem that needs to be dealt with.
Regardless of whether a business is seeking to satisfy a major increase in demand, or strengthen its competitive position, growth is a vital step in the development of any business. From hiring employees and increasing office space to increasing production, expanding services or extending product lines there is a lot to consider. Growing your business requires you to take a bit of a leap. Look for these signs before you look to grow your business:
1. You are being approached by potential clients
When you find that you are receiving request and inquires from customers and clients, this is usually a sign that you are in a position where growth is possible. Your brand has now gained just the right amount of exposure to for growth to take place.
2. Your team is strong and ready to grow
It is vital to know if your company has the right staff in place for growth to be possible. Valuable leaders are important however, having a strong team of employees who are experts at what they do and are committed to your business, is crucial in the growth phase.
3. You have the necessary funds for growth
Knowing your sales cycle and what income you can expect on a regular basis will ensure that you do not experience a shortage in cash flow during growth. It is important to know this as you will not be able to successfully grow if your sales do not match with your income. Measure this before you grow.
4. You are personally ready to grow
Are you ready for the commitment that comes with growing a business? If you are not prepared, business growth can have affect your personal well being as well as your family and daily life.Your business may be ready for growth but it can only be successful if you are ready for it. Experts say business owners should assume a 12 month adjustment period to achieve normal balance in the business after a growth spurt.
5. You have realistic expectations
Know what your business can handle. It may be difficult to not get carried away if you’ve mastered a particular market or excelled in a specific area. You may think you have everything you need to do exactly this all over again but be realistic in what you hope to achieve and what you can handle. Consider the economic benefits, your existing infrastructure and current resources to evaluate if you will be trying to take on too much at once.
6. You have met and continue to meet set goals
Stop making excuses for failed goals and instead find alternate ways to meet them. Doing this will encourage confidence throughout all levels of your business and help overall growth in the long run.
If your business is growing, you’re doing something right. It’s also important to understand that growth is a disruptive force. A period of substantial growth will influence every single aspect of your company, which is why you need to adopt a strategic mindset.
When we hear the term “staff turnover,” we immediately think it’s a bad sign that a business is not doing well, or they don’t follow the best hiring processes. As a business advisor to small businesses for over 30 years, I can assure you that staff turnover can also be a good thing for your business.
Pros To Staff Turnover:
- Fresh Ideas: When you hire new employees, they can bring fresh perspectives, new experiences and energy that could lead to innovative ideas. When they are not attached to the old ideas nor to the “way we do things” attitude, they can bring you insights you didn’t have before.
- The 20% Rule: You know the saying: “20% of your staff do 80% of the work”. When you reward the 20% for their efforts, this can energize your workforce and strengthen your role as the leader and the balance of staff will either improve their performance or move on.
- Avoid Complacency: When staff feel what they did yesterday is “good enough,” they have become complacent and this can be the enemy of every organization, fostering an environment of “status quo” and an aversion to risk-taking only leads to poor employee morale and increased employee sick time and poor job satisfaction.
Cons For Staff Turnover
- Dismissal: It is never a pleasant thing having to dismiss an employee, but once you have determined employees are no longer fulfilling the role you hired them for, and you have given them ample opportunity to improve, it is time to save your business and let them go.
- Rehiring: Hiring new staff ultimately costs money and time. To ensure you hire the right people from the start with the right skills who fit into the company’s culture, make sure you have a clear hiring process, with written job descriptions and defined roles and responsibilities. You should have an onboarding process and internal measurement and evaluation matrix to ensure they are performing the role you hired them for.
- Train and Communicate: Invest time in training and communicating your expectations of them in their new role. Sometimes smaller businesses have a tendency to hire a person to perform a specific role, but then start loading them with responsibilities and tasks that are outside of that role. For example, asking the new sales person to design your brochures or write content is not realistic.
Your new hire will not know everything about the job in the first week, so do not set them up to fail – rather, give them clear examples of what you expect from them in a measurable and manageable document. Bearing that, if an employee has been with you for many years and is still not able to meet your expectations, then the right thing to do for both you and the company is to let them go.
Regardless of your hiring process, every business needs to have staff turnover as roles change and your business evolves. Don’t see it as a bad thing, or a good thing, but rather a “chance to grow.”
Do you think employee turnover can help or hinder your business?
Employee hiring and firing is one of the most time-consuming and costly investments you’ll make as a business owner. It can be a long, drawn-out and sometimes unsuccessful process if you aren’t asking the right questions or looking for the right things. Many of the people I have worked with throughout my 30-plus years in business have improved their success rates by following a formal hiring process. Creating a hiring process that works for your business will prove invaluable to making this daunting task less taxing on your time and budget.
After sorting through resumes, you’ve chosen the most suitable candidates and it’s now time to meet these candidates and interview them.
The first step in the hiring process is the formal interview. Ask questions pertaining to their behaviour and personality, as well as their knowledge and skills. The type of person they are is as important as their skills. Evaluate if this candidate will fit with your vision, your team and the culture of your workplace.
Many businesses stop their process after the interview, but why not include a testing element? The testing element will differ depending on what industry you’re in but what remains the same is the value you will get from it. You will be able to get a true sense of the candidates’ skills and what exactly they will be able to bring to your business. Tests are also a way that you can filter if the person can back up what they say they can do.
Be sure to utilize a test that will give you a real sense of how the person will perform on the job. These could be hands-on, performance-based, or analytical tests. For example, if you are hiring a salesperson, have them present a sales pitch to you, or for an IT candidate, maybe it’s a written test that displays skills that are directly related to certain job duties they’d be performing. This will allow you to get a better sense of the overall capability of this candidate in the role they are applying for.
Score the tests and then determine which candidate you should move forward with to the next step – the reference checks.
I have seen many people show mixed emotions when it comes to reference checks. Some believe they are the most help in making a decision to hire or not to hire and some believe they are just a waste of time. I suggest that in order to make the most of references, you need to make the calls personally and ask the questions you want the answers to. Ask questions about the candidate’s personality and work style, as well as skills. You want open-ended questions that spark discussion, not closed-ended ones that only allow for one-word answers. After all, you want to know if this candidate is right for your business, so use this time wisely with directed questions.
Who you accept as a reference is also an important component of this step. Contacting a relative or friend as a reference will give you the biased answers you don’t want you to hear. Ensure that you make the most of the limited time you have during these calls to find out what your face-to-face interview and test have not already revealed.
The hiring process can be exciting and purposeful. An elevated interview, the addition of a testing element and appropriate reference checks are just some things that can make a world of a difference to your process. Once you’ve found your perfect candidate, what are the best ways for keeping employees? Stay tuned for my next blog that will provide insights on employee recognition and retention.
What procedures have you used during a hiring process? What worked the best? What didn’t work? I look forward to a lively discussion!