It’s very easy to keep using the same business practices and cherishing the same attitudes you had a decade – or even two decades – ago. They worked when you started using them and besides, that’s still what most business people do, isn’t it?
Consider this: we’re in the twenty-first century and yet many businesses are working as though they are still in the twentieth – or even the nineteenth century. It’s likely that you’ve never considered that you’re operating some obsolete practices and methods which need to be updated.
Are you a ‘hands on’ manager? In the past, a hard-working and reliable employee was usually given the role of managing a team without having had formal training. Now we know that simply isn’t enough. The manager’s place is beside the team where the processes and people can be viewed and managed as an unit. Leadership skills can then be used in giving team members helpful feedback, making any necessary adjustments, encouraging the team and providing the right resources.
A common practice is to promote competitiveness amongst the workforce in the hope of driving up sales and achieving quotas. But competition between peers isn’t always necessarily healthy and can be more harmful than helpful. It can encourage jealousy, deception, interference and discord amongst staff members and breaks down the empathy and cohesiveness that should drive the team. This is team undermining, not team building. It should be the work of the team that is recognised. Team members will then understand their individual role in the team and how important it is to the team’s success.
In these days of social media networking, it is no longer correct to state unequivocally that ‘the customer is always right’. In fact, quite often the customer may be misinformed or downright deceitful and will have no hesitation in taking to their favourite social forum in order to tell their story to the world. Negate such activities by following the principle that the customer must be respected. To show respect, customer complaints must be followed up and acted on. Those customers who are misinformed must be given the correct information and assisted with any adjustments that may be necessary.
Performance appraisals are usually an annual event, held long after any meaningful feedback or adjustments can be made to an employee’s performance. What use are they? Formal feedback is far more meaningful and useful when given on a regular basis, monthly should be the minimum. Informal feedback should be constant so that employees stay effective and on course. Employees need to be informed of their progress and how it affects overall production. This is a powerful mechanism for keeping them engaged and knowing that they are part of a good team.
Layoffs improve business performance – right? Why did we have those excess employees anyway? This is quite a conundrum. If a business is able to shed employees when times get tough, doesn’t that imply that those who are leaving weren’t essential to the business? Sometimes layoffs are necessary, but they are not the way to improve business performance. It is preferable to ask employees for suggestions in tough times and if they are valuable to the organisation, keep them on part time if possible. You’ve trained them well – why let good team members go to the opposition? Avoid the need for layoffs by being proactive; keeping up with the trends and really listening to your employees and customers will make the real difference.
It can be a big relief to hand over responsibilities to employees. However, it can be a fatal mistake to give autonomy without guidelines. Employees must be convinced that the task has value so they become intrinsically motivated and are encouraged to use creative thinking and persistence. The downside is that the employee’s heightened sense of control may lead them off the desired path. Employee autonomy with appropriate checks and balances is essential to a well-run company.
Cutting marketing and training budgets is normally the first step and will undoubtedly bring about temporary relief to the balance sheet in these difficult times. However, this is one of the biggest mistakes companies can make for their continuing viability in their sector. Companies need to invest in their staff in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Give your employees the training and coaching they need to become a more knowledgeable, productive, and valuable workforce. It’s a good idea to perform a cost and benefit analysis to study the repercussions that budget restraints would have on the company’s ability to meet customer demands. You may be surprised.
Is your company part of the twenty-first century? What are you doing that is making the bottom line difference?