When I asked for suggestions on future columns that might be helpful to you, the overwhelming request, couched in many different forms, had to do with people.
The old equation P = P, People equal Problems, is out there, as alive and disruptive as ever! It is true, it is inescapable, you can’t grow a business without them and yet often they are the reason for the business failure.
But that same equation represents “People equal Profits” and, dear readers, that is what this column intends to be all about.
Let me be blunt. If you have people problems, you probably have a problem with the leadership that is administering your people programs. It is my observation that in most instances where companies unionize, it is directly related to the poor job that management, at all levels, has done caring for its people.
Your first step is to get to the top of the problem and look in the mirror.
This is not an easy subject to cover one page at a time or one month at a time because the subject is so large and the problems so rampant. Little changes, nevertheless, can make a big difference.
If you want to attract good people, then the first step is to be certain great people lead them. Worse than bad hiring processes, layers of nepotism and cronyism send clear messages that who you know and to whom you are related are much more important than doing good work.
It happens quite innocently. In the beginning most contracting businesses are one-man bands rather than teams. In most instances it takes a long time to field 11 players on a contracting team, let alone populate the benches with great reserves. You are too busy to take the time to do a proper search for the right people and so find yourself hiring convenient people.
You need more people and this bum who just swung off a freight this morning walked in and you thought he was an answer to a prayer. Don’t laugh, it does happen. You have a great foreman and you take the easy way out, the low road, and hire his brother-in-law and his wife! Something goes wrong and now you may need to fire three people instead of the one problem.
If you are too busy to do a proper job search and screening process, I would suggest you get some help in organizing your priorities and delegating. The bigger you get, the more involved your business becomes, the more important will be clear-cut rules about hiring, performance reviews and promotions.
This may seem tough-minded to some, but I’ll take it as a compliment. Don’t tell me how many of these rules I have violated. Where the hell do you think I learned how important they are?
I’ll start with the toughest. If there are other family members in the business, they must work harder and be treated less permissively than others. At the same time you should make it clear that you do not hire any relatives of any employees even for part-time seasonal work.
Stomp down on company romances to the full extent of the law and set a rule that no employee shall live with a supervisor. That statement covers so many different problems that you will be astounded at its simplicity! It does not speak of gender, connection, vows or sin; it merely eliminates a group of corrupting and sometimes copulating employee teams.
Corporate-related dishonesty, intemperance or immorality are unconditional firing offenses. If you have problems with firing an employee because a supervisor has used his power position for lust, then I have found that firing the supervisor to be a long-term cure to relationships that take advantage of high position.
Interestingly, this is a rule that never is quite respected until that fateful day when the boss’s office is cleaned out. I assure you that all eyes open a little wider and all walk a little straighter on such a momentous day!
After you have cleaned up your internal act, whether your company is three or 300 people, good potential employees will notice. Good people will start looking to you when they are unhappy or mistreated in their current employment. Word gets around, and it is important that you be known as a good place to work if you want to identify, hire and retain a winning team.
Your assignment. I noticed Dale Carnegie’s fine old book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” on sale at a chain office supply store. At $7, it’s an unbeatable first step in training anyone to relate to customers, fellow employees and their families.
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