You always wanted to know what your staff really think of you but were afraid to ask!

Here at Advantage Business, we take an unusual approach to business analysis. Right at the start of the process, we talk to the staff (yes, that’s right – ALL the staff)!

An untapped resource

Many business owners don’t fully capitalise on the loyalty, goodwill, initiative and creativity of their staff.  When we ask why we often hear,  “because they aren’t committed, creative, loyal or clever enough” (or variations on that theme).

That may be true of a very small minority of SMEs, but we find over and over again that there is a huge, untapped resource available to business owners. If only they’d take the time to work out how to access it!

Our process

When one of our advisors starts working with a business for the first time, during the first month we almost always carry out a comprehensive, confidential staff survey.  We interview management, production staff, some contractors, admin staff – everybody.

In fact, in one case I remember well, we were dealing with some significant issues in a manufacturing business in the $2m turnover range. The owners, managers, supervisors and production staff could shed no light on the issues. However, when we talked to the Gorilla in despatch (and boy, did he look like a Gorilla), he said: “There’s only one @*$%* thing wrong in this @#*%$* business, and its that ……………” – a spot-on analysis that no-one else in the business had been prepared to admit to.

Staff feedback, often coupled with a comprehensive customer survey, is then fed back in a “depersonalised” report to the owners. Often it is the first time they’ve received completely honest feedback on their systems and management from the staff.  Obviously it’s very hard to stand up and criticise the management when your job depends on the boss’s goodwill!

We then present the key findings from the surveys to all the staff in a full “team conference”.  Sometimes its the only occasion the entire business has been together for years.

Transformative results

You’d be amazed at the transformation in many businesses from these seemingly simple steps. Although it’s easier to talk about than to actually do!

Owners often then go on to implement a simple and effective performance management system, which enables honest feedback to and from the staff on a regular basis.

As part of the communication process, we recommend regular “toolbox” meetings to keep the staff informed. These meeting also allow them to inform you of key issues facing the front line of the business.

The net result is much-improved morale, engagement and job satisfaction for the workers and invaluable feedback for you, the owner. Most importantly, of course, increased net profit! Happy workers are efficient workers.

I heard a comment recently from the owner of a business who has been practising these methods with a problematic salesperson (always the hardest to manage, other than family members). “What a change in attitude – now really positive and contributing really well”.  The salesperson was also exceeding sales targets – even more satisfying!

Final thoughts

So the simple moral is, engage your staff. Believe in the goodwill of your people in spite of any history you may have. Practice simple, open communication and be consistent, clear and fair. Allow yourself to be amazed at the result.

If you’d like to get a taste of how this might work, please get in touch. Let’s see if we can arrange a sample staff interview for you, no cost or obligation.

By Dr Dominic Moran