Staff are not going to share our passion for the business by default. As entrepreneurs we make big sacrifices and take risks. Sometimes those are calculated risks, and sometimes they are crazy, stupid risks. We live with the daily reality that if we don’t make things happen, if we don’t chase that sale or land the next deal – come month end there will be… Well… Sweet bugger all to pay the bills with.
Employees have the implied security of a salary every month. Whether they perform well in the short term or not. They’re not obliged to carry our stresses or share our excitement – because their basics are covered regardless. There’s more pressure on us as business owners to make sure that we make enough to cover the payroll and keep staff happy. Wait a minute – who is working for who here?
As a startup business, hiring your first few employees can be pretty daunting. My advice? Go into the process with your eyes wide open. From recruiting, through managing, developing and if necessary – dismissing.
Chemistry, Character, Competence.
I’d love to take credit for this gem, but it’s something my good friend Wes Boshoff shared when we were looking at employing. Competence can be developed and, to an extent, so can character. However, if there’s no chemistry, no spark, no culture fit… Move along. You cannot force “a square peg into a round hole”. There are more productive ways to expend energy in your business. Don’t waste it on trying to make someone fit in who clearly doesn’t.
Praise in public, correct in private
A simple “thank you” or “well done” goes a long way. While there are those self-starters who perform well consistently with minimum intervention, recognition or praise – they are the exception rather than the rule. I’ve always loved how Kenneth Blanchard puts it across in The One Minute Manager
“Catch them doing something right”
Unfortunately too many employees live in constant fear of what they’re going to get crapped on for next. If you’re trying to stifle creativity, innovation and initiative – then by all means, be the boss that’s a bear with a sore paw. Just don’t expect loyalty…or staff retention…or a workforce that doesn’t count the seconds till 5pm.
It’s inevitable that people who work for you are going to make mistakes. When they do, use those mistakes as development opportunities. If you don’t want to keep repeating the hiring and firing cycle, then see these screw ups for what they are… School fees. You’re investing in that staff member’s education. Stick with it until you realise a return on that investment. If you need to correct them – do so in private. Nobody likes having their flaws exposed in front of the whole office.
Hire slow, fire fast.
This may seem like a contradiction in light of my earlier statement, but bare with me here. Finding a chemistry and character fit takes time. Don’t rush the process to fill a space because you’re desperate. Once you’ve hired the wrong person it can be very difficult to get rid of them. I’m no legal expert, but I’ve heard that the CCMA and Labour Courts can be a serious pain in the ass and the wallet.
So how do you get around this labour law minefield? Date before you get married, in other words – offer a fixed term contract. However long you need to evaluate the culture/ character and competence fit. One month, three months, six months. Lastly and most importantly – make sure you have the correct paperwork in place.
I’d love to hear what your staff experiences have been like so sound off in the comments below.