The Importance of Structure for SMEs

Guest post: Martin Reed, CEO, Thomas International

For a small or medium sized business, an unproductive employee can have a massively destructive effect and negatively impact the business. Yet, unfortunately, the smaller the business, the less likely it is to have a structure and processes in place to deal with challenging staff.

Many entrepreneurs or small business owners aren’t confident in dealing with underperforming staff and, without the weight of a large HR department behind them, don’t even know where to begin. Implementing more structured processes around recruitment, management and staff development can help employers deal with difficult situations and, when poor performance becomes an issue, give them the back up and confidence to address it quickly and efficiently.

It sounds like it should go without saying, but it’s essential to hire the right person in the first place. Choosing an employee who fits well with the role means the employee is more likely to be motivated from the beginning, stay with the company long term, and perform well.

However, SME owners have a tendency to hire people similar to themselves or simply because they like them on a personal level. Smaller companies usually have closer working conditions and can lose the objectivity of choosing the right person for the role by being too focused on who they would enjoy working with, rather than who is right for the company. While getting on with colleagues is clearly important, businesses need different people with different strengths in order to make up a fully functioning team and employees need to be hired based on their suitability for the role, rather than because their work style is familiar.

For example, extrovert entrepreneurs may need somebody calm and focused to counterbalance their energy, or a team of ‘go getting’ personalities may need somebody who has stronger planning and strategising skills.

Using a more objective, structured tool like psychometric assessment, can be invaluable in determining whether a candidate is right for the role by identifying both their strengths and limitations. By determining what sort of person and characteristics the role requires, employers will be more confident that they are choosing employees for the right reasons.

For example, an extrovert is unlikely to be a good fit for a role which doesn’t involve dealing with people in some capacity. Using some kind of framework, whether that be psychometric assessment or an alternative structured process of thinking through what an ideal employee for that particular role looks like and how to recognise that candidate when they appear, will give employers more control over the situation and increase their confidence in the decisions they make.

The same structured processes can also be useful further down the line if the realisation dawns that the role and the person employed to do it aren’t well suited. When faced with an underperforming employee, many employers feel adrift and don’t realise that the same structure can be applied to employee management as well as recruitment. In fact psychometric assessment can be used throughout the whole ‘lifecycle’ of an employee from recruitment, training, increasing motivation, developing talent, and recognising potential leaders.

Having proven processes at their fingertips – and within budget – can give employers the tools they need to understand their staff more fully and deal with the root causes of poor performance. With the economic climate in its current state, being clear on who is performing well in a business is every bit as important as managing your cash or stock and a small investment in this area can go a long way.

For SME owners who shy away from dealing with unproductive or uncooperative employees, ignoring the situation may only exacerbate the problem, sending the message that performing at this level is acceptable, impacting on the team in general and creating bad feeling among colleagues. By addressing the issue straightaway, using proven processes, employers can send the message that they are aware of the problem and are pro-active about dealing with it.

At this stage, psychometric assessment can help open up the lines of communication about why an employee behaves a certain way, without assigning blame or labelling behaviour as ‘wrong’. A poor performing employee isn’t necessarily unskilled, but could be unmotivated. By understanding what motivates their employees, employers can take steps to restructure their role, work with them to build on their strengths, minimise their limitations and fulfil their role to the best of their ability.

Having the knowledge to manage your employees in the most productive way is a powerful tool for an employer, especially when dealing with an unproductive member of staff. As the old adage goes – people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Bad, or even just clumsy management will affect the level and quantity of work produced. Adding some structure to your management can provide the confidence, knowledge and tools to recruit successfully and manage positively – ultimately leading to a more profitable bottom line for the business as a whole.

Find out more about Thomas International at: www.thomasinternational.net

Mike Southon

About Mike Southon

Mike Southon is a serially successful entrepreneur, best-selling business author, mentor and one of the world’s top business speakers on entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and sales.

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