Many companies emphasize in their communications that people are important to them, but not all seem to truly understand that a great organization really can only be achieved by taking good care of its people. They are more important than your products or your profits.
So how can you take better care of your people?
First, ensure you have a dependable human resources (HR) department, because they can give you valuable signals about problems invisible to you in your company. They are a bit like the quality assurance department for organizations: they can’t build organizations on their own but are good at pointing out when the standards in one are falling.
For example, if the compensation your company offers isn’t competitive, you may not be aware of this until some candidate mentions the problem to HR. This in turn will allow you to reassess the compensation offered.
Second, invest in training your staff to better fit their roles – this is absolutely vital. Every company has their own procedures and tools, and it would be a fallacy to assume that an outsider will pick them up without training.
What’s more, this training should be functional training, meaning it should give employees the experience and skills necessary to succeed in their jobs and hit their goals.
Once the individuals have the tools necessary to succeed, you should also provide management training to the management team. Here, you tell managers how you expect them to train their staff and what sort of performance feedback they should be giving.
These two factors – a quality HR organization and abundant training – are the cornerstones of taking good care of your staff.
Anyone who has ever had to hire someone knows that selecting the right candidate is far from easy. Indeed, recruiting the right people is a matter of life and death for any company. So how can you do this well?
When recruiting, your first priority should be hiring people for their strengths, not rejecting them for their weaknesses. After all, the strengths are what will help the person excel at the job.
For example, when the author was looking for someone to run his sales organization, his top candidate was Mark Cranney. Cranney had all the skills and strengths necessary to be an outstanding sales manager, but was considered a poor cultural fit, as he made people around him feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the author hired Cranney, because he had all the necessary strengths. In fact, without those few blemishes, Cranney would probably have been snared by another company long ago and therefore unavailable.
The second key thing to keep in mind when hiring executives is to make sure their experience matches the size of your company. After all, an executive’s role in a small company is very different from its role in a big one. In large companies, executives tend to have a lot of incoming work landing on their desks, meaning that they have to adjust and review existing projects. In small companies, on the other hand, executives are expected to create their own projects and drive their own work.
These discrepancies can result in mismatches in rhythm, meaning the expected working pace and skill set.
A rhythm mismatch could occur, for example, if an executive arriving at a small company from a larger one expects the same hectic pace as before, and is surprised when his desk is not inundated with new tasks and projects every day.
A skill set mismatch, on the other hand, could occur if an executive arriving from a smaller company would find themselves struggling to cope with the complexity and scale of the larger company.
You should do your best to avoid such mismatches.
Every CEO and founder wants their company to be a place where people are happy to work.
So how can you make this happen?
First of all, it’s important to curtail corporate politics, meaning the maneuvering that some people employ to, for example, get an undeserved promotion.
The best way to avoid such politics is to only hire people who are ambitious in terms of the entire company, not just their own careers. Especially at the executive level, everyone must be fully focused on the company’s success, and this will also stop them from diverting energy to political maneuvering.
Another tool with which you can try to avoid corporate politics is the creation of strict processes that mandate regularly spaced performance evaluations, compensation scales and promotion schedules. These fixed timelines and processes make it more difficult for anyone to get an undeserved promotion.
A second way you can make your company a pleasant place to work is by designing a culture that distinguishes you from your competitors.
For example, Amazon wanted to demonstrate that it would do everything it could to save their customers money, so it got its employees to work at desks made out of old doors.
Finally, communicate to all employees what their role is and how their work is valued.
This means that you should have a clear hierarchy of titles, so that terms like “vice president” and “manager” actually mean something. This hierarchy helps people work out how valuable their work is and how much money they should be earning with that title.
However, when valuing work based on titles, be sure to avoid the so-called Law of Crappy People, which states that the most incompetent person who holds a given title determines the value of the title in general. For example, if your company has three senior marketing managers, people tend to look at the worst-performing one and then extend their poor valuation to the other two as well. This leads to the other title holders feeling undervalued and demotivated.
Check out my related post: What is a strategic leader?