Brilliant basics – 3 people strategy tips for micro businesses
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Most micro businesses do not have a people strategy
As a micro business with only a few employees you may not think that you need a strategy when it comes to people. However, in my opinion it doesn’t matter if you have a team of one or one hundred thousand, your people will be at the heart of business performance. Without a strategy you run the risk of reducing your opportunity to grow at pace, along with potentially increasing costs – especially the hidden ones!
For me a people strategy is even more important in smaller businesses as you are in the advantageous position whereby nothing has gone wrong yet – typically you won’t have high employee attrition, absence or performance challenges. This means that you can avoid the high costs that businesses acquire as they begin to grow by taking a pro-active approach and implementing a people strategy.
Developing your strategy won’t come without challenges, mainly relating to financial and time investment. However, through the use of people metrics you’ll be able to measure the commercial impact that your people strategy is having.
Another key consideration for a lot of micro business owners is how will they develop a sustainable business. When I talk about sustainability I mean in the sense that eventually you’ll need to step out of the business to focus on the strategy, so how are you going to maintain standards and expectations across your business? If you’ve embedded a long term people strategy from the early stages then this will form your culture and as you step away, the behaviours and habits will remain similar. The above is also important when it comes to potentially selling a business, our private equity partners no longer just look at the financials, they want to understand the full business – especially people!
The purpose of this weeks brilliant basics blog is to provide micro businesses with some simple to implement and low cost tips around their people strategy. All of the tips are based on projects that we’ve worked on over the last couple of years, supporting businesses between 6-650 employees.
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#1 Feedback and communication
Usually feedback and communication would sit separately however, for the purpose of this blog I’ve grouped them together as they are both dependant on each other.
I cannot emphasise enough the important of capturing regular feedback from your team. Every employee that you employ comes at a cost (to begin with). Why would you not leverage their knowledge and ideas on how your business could improve? As you begin to regularly capture feedback you’ll be able to analyse themes and trends based on the insight.
A typical trend for a lot of small businesses that we work with is lack of communication from the leadership team and their colleagues. Communication will provide direction and remove the Chinese whispers that exists in a lot of businesses. It will also naturally drive collaboration both between departments and also levels of hierarchy within your business. Here’s a few tried and tested ideas…
- Listening sessions – leadership team sit down with employees on a monthly basis to hear their thoughts on how the business could improve – particularly focusing on employee experience and customer experience
- Quarterly lunches – light touch, informal opportunity to build a closer relationship with your team.
- Quarterly surveys – use an automated tool on a quarterly basis that captures regular insight from your employees.
#2 Career Pathways and Progression
As a micro business you’ll typically find yourself with a competitive advantage over larger organisations in the fact that you can offer key career development opportunities. Offering your team the opportunity to support with operational business activities may excite some people. Others will prefer to lead on particular projects, as it gives them a unique development opportunity Reflecting on my own experience at Rencai I’ve had the opportunity to drive our PNL, work with legal partners and also lead on initiatives. I’ve also had my degree paid for – both are opportunities that I wouldn’t have had in most other businesses and it’s been a great experience. Here’s a few things to try..
- Define a clear career pathway for each employee – relating to academic development, leadership opportunities, promotions and skills development
- Aim to tie this into your workforce and succession planning strategies – this will help you to recruit for future needs
- Offer employees the opportunity to lead on projects and lead the team
#3 Values and behaviours
In the past most businesses have treated their values as a tick box exercise. The emphasis has been put on how these values are seen externally, as opposed to providing any guidance or structure for internal teams.
Your values provide you with a key opportunity to define your business culture. Again culture is a buzz word that a lot of people like to use but don’t necessarily understand. For me your culture is what you SEE, HEAR and FEEL on a daily basis.
The words or phrases that make up your values are not that important. As long as they represent your current culture or the culture that you’d like to transition to then that is fine. The more important area to spend your time on is your behaviours that underpin these values. Your behaviours will help bring your values to life and make up what you SEE, HEAR and FEEL on a daily basis. Here’s how I’d go about defining an developing your values and behaviours…
- Understand your culture
- Define your values
- Define your 3 core behaviours to underpin each value
- Decide how you’re going to drive adoption of these behaviours e.g. employee recognition model
- Create an action plan
In summary I cannot empathise the importance for micro businesses to implement a people strategy. The sooner you implement, the quicker you’ll see an impact on business performance. This week’s brilliant basics blog provides 3 areas to focus, based on the projects that we’ve been working on however, there’s plenty of others that you could look at. All that I ask is that you do not become another SMB with attrition and absence issues because you haven’t implemented a SIMPLE people strategy!
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As always keen to hear people’s thought’s so I’d welcome questions, comments and likes.
Employee Engagement and Client Delivery Consultant