The Bottom Line

Written by Joe Driscoll

November 27, 2009

Sometimes it seems that business owners are caught in an impossible squeeze. Employees want more pay, higher benefits, and shorter hours while customers want lower prices and better service.

Despite all the talk about creating a better environment for employees and satisfying customer needs, more than one employer has dreamed about how few headaches there would be without employees. The only problem is that there wouldn’t be much of a business left, you can’t “throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Some sole proprietors do nicely without employees, although most businesses require employees. Employees can be compared to a dual edged sword. At times it may be hard to work with them, but you know you can’t operate without them.

Employee performance is often the distinguishing factor between excellent and average results. An outsider’s first impression of a business is based on its employees. How productive, industrious, and courteous are they?

If you are an employer, what are some strategies for minimizing the pain and maximizing the gain? Unfortunately, a good staff is not built over night, it is developed over time.

A traveler stopped to admire a flock of sheep grazing on a farmers field on day. He decided to inquire as to the farmers secret for keeping such a beautiful flock.

“How is it that you have such splendid sheep” he asked.

The wise farmer replied, “I take very good care of my lambs.”

I take very good care of my lambs! Think about it. Isn’t it the well tended seedling that eventually produces the most fruit as a mature tree? The prudent business owner can learn from the wise farmer.

The key to a productive work force lies in selection and training. If you choose the right people and get them off to a good start, there won’t be so many problems down the road.

It takes a lot longer to get rid of one bad employee than it does to hire one good one. Invest the time up front. It costs more to repair the damage than it does to train the team. As the car repairman said, “pay me now or pay me a lot more later.”

An investment in developing employees is a true investment. Hiring new staff doesn’t save time on day one, it takes time. If you are working a ten hour day, recruiting and training may well add to your current work load. You invest the extra time to do things right today so that it will pay dividends down the road.

It is important to anticipate what your personnel needs will be. Too often the hiring process begins after a vacancy has been created. You then have to operate under the pressure of having an immediate need to fill. This inevitably leads to a process that is rushed, incomplete and has a low probability of yielding the best candidate. Regardless of the short term pressures, don’t rush a decision with long term consequences.

Many employee related problems can find their root cause with a busy boss. New employees are usually hired as a response to the pressures of being shorthanded. That pressure often results in hiring without adequate screening and putting people to work without proper training and indoctrination. In the short term, the results are satisfactory. The immediate pressure is relieved, but small compromises in the short term can result in big problems down the road.

Aim high when you hire. Recruitment and hiring are areas in which a company can substantially improve its performance with very little effort. Getting good people to work for you has the special benefit of becoming an annuity that regularly pays future dividends.

Employee related problems don’t occur in isolation. Where there is absenteeism there will be turnover. When productivity is low, accident rates are invariably high. There are no easy solutions.

Just like the farmer that cares for his lambs enjoys the bounty of a splendid flock, like the seed that is nurtured into a strong tree, the employer that invests in selecting and training will eventually profit from the fruits of their labor.

You May Also Like…