Have you given much thought to how much time it takes for someone to understand how your business works, the way you want them to deal with everyday tasks, and how you expect them to cope with exceptions?
The fact is, most organisations do a bad job of induction. New staff are thrown in the deep end and are expected to cope. No wonder we spend so much time looking over the shoulders of new staff and checking up on them. If you wanted an excuse for micro-management, this is a great start.
Now consider what it must be like for the business that is growing at 20% or 40% a year. Not only are they in a constant round of interviews and selections, but they also have to replace those people who leave. Hard won knowledge of the business walks out the door and novices walk in – what a disaster.
The business owner is pedalling fast just to cope with the changes to their oganisation as it grows; new customers, new products, new distribution channels, upgrading systems and processes and finding the finance to fuel the engine. It doesn’t leave a lot of time to be checking up on all the new people.
Of course, you would hope that good performance setting and monitoring systems are in place. Staff will have well thought-out job descriptions, so that you do know basically what they are up to, but even so, you are creating new types of positions as you grow, so that alone is a never-ending demand on your time.
But there is only so much you can document. There are always going to be exceptions and someone has to deal with them. If the person at the coal face isn’t able to do so, it is simply going to use up a supervisor’s time or the time of the old hands. What if you could empower staff to make more of these exceptional decisions; wouldn’t your business be more productive?
While this may seem simplistic, the answer lies in ensuring that there are strong values in the organisation. If the business has a culture that is well embedded in its day-to-day activities, many decisions can be made based on those values.
Thus if “the customer is always right”, or “quality in everything we do” are the norms of behaviour, and you indicate that decisions made on that basis are encouraged and supported by management, many day-to-day decisions will look after themselves. It is only the unusual problem that has to be referred upwards.
Effective organisations drive growth by being productive. If you need to have multiple people making every decision, you are seriously inhibiting your productivity. By pushing down decision making through the use of well defined and supported values, you are not only empowering staff and making their working time more meaningful, you are supporting growth.
New staff need to be inducted into the way they undertake their tasks, but also need to know how to cope with problems, issues and events that are not documented and that require a choice of solutions.
When they have a thorough understanding of the corporate values, many of those choices are very clear to them and they can proceed to make a decision with the knowledge that they will make the right choice for the organisation.
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