The simple truth is that most entrepreneurs are not that interested in managing people. They started businesses because they had a good business idea, and that’s where they want to spend their time. Of course, another truth is that no business will be sustainable if its people are not well managed. The good news for business owners is that they can drastically reduce the time they spend managing employees by implementing a few simple solutions:
Adopt the motto: systemize the routine; humanize the exception
Generally, 80% of what goes on in your business can be fitted into some sort of structure, leaving you with 20% that actually needs your management. Of course, you need to understand that when you’re dealing with staff, emotion is always involved.
That’s why systemising staff processes has two major benefits: it saves you time and it means that when routine situations crop up, all you (and your employees) need do is follow the procedures you’ve put in place, which means that you can keep emotion out of it. To use a simple example, if you have a staff leave policy and procedure, you don’t have to individually examine each leave request.
In the odd instance that doesn’t fit into the system you’ve created, you will need to get involved. In these cases (to use the example above, if an employee requires additional leave due to a sudden family tragedy), invest time and energy in managing the situation compassionately and with tact, as required.
Document each position and the requirements for the role
In South Africa, hiring and firing can be a complex and costly process, so it’s important for small business owners to tackle staff appointments smartly. Create a job description for each position in your company that includes the job responsibilities. Ensure you incorporate specific details so that should a new person need to fill the role, he or she will be able to do so with minimum hassle.
For example, if you require your receptionist to answer the phone, include how s/he should do so, and whom the call should be forwarded to (e.g. if it’s a product enquiry, put the call through to the sales team. If it’s a job applicant, ask the person to submit a CV via email). This not only makes it easier for the new employee to settle in quickly, but cuts out the number of questions he or she will have, enables you to understand exactly what the position entails when hiring someone new, and empowers your employee to take decisions. If your receptionist is sick for the day, one of your other employees or a temp will also be able to cope more easily by referencing the job spec, without you having to get too involved.
Implement the systems you develop
It’s easy to develop a system, but it won’t start saving you time unless it’s properly implemented and is fully understood by your staff. For example, you may decide on a weekly meeting for staff report-back and problem-solving, but it hasn’t happened for the last three weeks. Firstly, address why not: were the meetings taking too long or did you forget to announce the meeting? Then combat the reasons: be stricter on meeting times and end when you say you will; put a reminder on your phone to call the meeting, or send out a meeting request. Book the boardroom in advance. Systems will only start to pay off if you ensure that you are committed to them, and if you get your staff on-board.