By Karen Lebsanft ,Kurrajong Kitchen
I’ve proudly built a brand for the last 28 years and have seen people come and go at all levels. I’ve seen not less than 4 employment law changes in this time and heard a variety of ways to improve staff retention. I’ve seen a revolving door of staff as I navigated my way through employment law, best practice and my duty to my staff. I’ve also in the early days employed with a sense of fear.
I would not be the only one. When I speak to small business about growth the biggest problem they see is having to deal with people – well staff. “Who wants the problems?” they say. The staff won’t do what I want and if I have to get rid of them its too difficult. And yes, I have certainly had my fair share of these people.
Employees who think that you as the business owner are “rich” because you own the business. The ones who think you are responsible for everything because “you’re the boss”.
When I started employing, we were on State Awards, received all advice by snail mail and there was a lot of paper. The advice was through the association of which we joined and understanding the paperwork delivered was not as straight forward as I would have liked as I was intent on building a business and a brand.
Every staff member took on a persona within my business made up of being a casual worker, full timer, parttimer, or seasonal worker. They wear the hat of mum, dad, family member, support or key provider to their family. They have personal pressures that can hinder their ability to do their job.
They take on some form of personality profile identified through the DISC profiling. They range from 15-60 years of age with a wide range of interests and nationalities. They are all individuals blended for the good of the business.
But beyond this I know they all seek the same as me. Purpose. They want and deserve a sense of purpose. And if I allow them to enter into the team – into the family as I call our team, they must understand the role they play. Not just the tasks they must perform, the outcomes they must achieve but they must understand how to be part of that family. What expectations I have of them. What they are accountable for, what authority they have and what responsibility they hold – yes in their role but to the guy or girl they will stand and work next to.
You see most business owners expect that employees “know” this. It is a given, isn’t it?
The key to best HR practices is giving the employee a voice. A platform that engages in open communication. One in which they feel heard and considered. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s the opportunity to be heard. Being heard amongst the noise that the world offers us today is one of the most valuable tools you can offer for both the business and its team.
I’ve learned a lot of the lifetime of building a business but one thing I stand true to is working with your team with open communication.
Open communication starts with values in a business and the understanding of matching the person you are engaging to the value set your business holds. This is the beginning of a true employer-employee relationship.
As small business owners trying to become big business owners we often don’t know what we don’t know. Here the practice of leadership versus manager needs to be explained.
Manager sets tasks, monitor outputs, look to forecasts, keep the team moving with task management to achieve the ultimate outcome for the business.
It is the view of leadership that captures the essence of this input and output. Allowing the team to understand the vision, the path which will be taken, the check ins and discussion of the intangibles. Culture determines the road ahead – the way in which a bump is approached and handled. If a target is set without consideration of how the people will engage with it, it is likely the success of the put come will be rife with problems.
As a small business having grown to a bigger business my top tips are
- Keep the communication open and flowing
- Employ for value set and culture first and skill set second
- Treat your team as family and expect the same
- Lead before managing
- Have the tough conversations with a gentle approach
When used – it hasn’t failed me yet!