How to Get Employees to Work When you are Away
Having had an in-depth understanding of the operations of numerous organisations, I couldn’t help but notice common practices amongst the more established businesses. These practices have allowed the owners popularly known as the ‘shareholders’ to appoint CEO’s and high calibre managers to run the organisations on their behalf.
I must add that in my interactions with these established organisations, I have met only a handful of owners. It’s on very rare occasions that you will run into them on the corridors of the magnificent offices that their businesses occupy. The shareholders / owners have perfected the art of getting the employees to proudly work for them in their absence. Needless to say, these common practices have by and large been referred to as “best industry practices”.
So what exactly are these best practices that allow you to go on a ‘Vacay’ while others are proudly working for you?
I remember my MBA lecturer narrating the Henry Ford story on how he was the first person to invent an assembly line for the mass production of automobiles. Through division of labour, his innovation reduced the time it took to build a car from more than 12 hours to 2.5 hours.
The basic principles of the assembly line production have been applied to many modern day management practices. In the book “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber, there is a large emphasis on “assembly line style” business practices – that is, setting things up so that you, the manager or business owner, are needed as little as possible in the day-to-day activities.
That little history up there is important but it’s not the point. Here is what you need to do in order to get your employees to work efficiently and effectively when you are away.
1) Establish a Proper Organisation Structure
For employees in an organisation to operate in unity, there should be a clear arrangement of people, and jobs working together towards a common goal. One of the ways to do this is to have a proper organisation structure in place. The structure is basically a hierarchical arrangement of job positions, roles, lines of authority and the reporting structure. This will show how responsibilities are coordinated and how information flows between the different levels of management. Organisations are set up differently depending on their unique characteristics. As a business owner, you should think about the organisation structure right from the beginning of your business’s life. As your business grows, so should your thinking on the organisation structure change. A clearly established structure allows the employees to function in an orderly manner even in your absence.
2) Clearly Document the Processes, Procedures and Guidelines
It’s important to logically lay out your team’s workflow so that everybody understands how the tasks flow from beginning to the end. Tasks should be broken down into activities with clear instructions on how to handle each activity. Some organisations go the extent of developing logical flow charts to show how activities flow from one point to another as well as the responsible parties. Having a clearly documented process or procedure will enable the employees understand how they fit into the overall goals you are trying to achieve as a company.
3) Lay down the Rules and Policies
Well written company rules, policies and standards allow the employees to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities within pre-defined limits. The business owner is therefore able to guide the business operations without constant intervention. Most established organisations identify the key activities to be performed (based on their goals) and provide rules on decision making surrounding those activities in an attempt to overcome problems. This means that as a business owner, you have to think far and wide of all the possible scenarios that could result in problems during implementation and provide guidance on how to resolve those scenarios. The rules, policies and standards will promote consistency, guide disciplinary action for violation, and help to shape the organisation’s culture.
4) Clear Job Descriptions
Clearly documented processes will allow you to identify a cluster of activities / tasks that can be performed by each individual. This can then be used to develop job descriptions for each job position. A job description basically describes the general tasks an individual in a specified position is supposed to perform, the responsibilities, to whom the person reports to and the qualifications and experience required to perform the job. This document can further act as a tool to hold the individual accountable for his / her performance.
5) Set Targets and Goals for Everyone
Organisations have a vision and goals that they want to achieve in the long run. This is usually embodied in a fancy document popularly known as “the strategic plan”. The plan is a layout of the organisation’s roadmap for the future. There is a famous saying that goes like “If you do not know where you are heading, you will never get there”. In order to move closer to attaining the vision, it’s important that everyone understands what they are expected to do in order to move the organisation forward. One way of doing this is setting targets and goals for everyone. This will provide clarity and laser focus to move the business forward. Most organisations have a policy for all the employees to set their goals before the financial year begins. The targets are usually derived from the organisation’s strategic objectives.
6) Regular Performance Appraisals
Once individuals set goals, the next logical thing to do is to conduct regular performance appraisals in order to assess the individual’s performance against expectations. The regular performance appraisals not only benefit the organisation, but also the employees through continuous growth and development. When employees know their goals / targets and expect their performance to be appraised, they will work with little supervision. A lot of organisations have formal performance appraisals on a quarterly, semi-annual and on an annual basis. In addition, continuous performance feedback is provided on the job to improve situations early enough.
7) Provide Incentives
Most rational individuals love gifts, rewards, and generally appreciation. When you peg these incentives on performance, then you will be rest assured that somebody will be working hard with or without you in the picture to bag that hefty bonus at the end of the year. The other day I saw hilarious memes on social media when Centum investments in Kenya announced a Kshs 1billion bonus payout to its 90 staff members translating to an average of Kshs 11.1 million per employee for a job well done of consistently increasing shareholders wealth. Some of the posts were from people asking for connections for job opportunities at the organisation. This goes to show that when you have incentive plans in place and these have been properly communicated to the employees, they will work hard to achieve them.
8) Open lines of communication
Employees feel comfortable representing you when the lines of communication are open. They can come to you to report problems that would adversely affect your business without fear. Encourage your employees to listen to one another, be mindful of others, use appropriate language, be respectful of one another and reach out to one another. Appoint someone in the office to be in charge. In addition, provide a point of contact to handle urgent issues which you may not be able to respond to while you are away. You will need someone not to just make decisions but also resolve problems. This person will hold employees accountable so there wont be people calling in sick, or going for long lunches.
While it’s difficult for business owners to be away from their team, it’s very doable and it becomes more and more comfortable with time. By following these 8 steps, you can be rest assured that there is forward progression as you kick back on the beach or spend quality time with your family.