Donal Laverty is partner at Baker Tilly Mooney Moore and in this piece, co-authored by Jonathan Richards, CEO at breatheHR, he explains why now, more than ever, staff wellbeing should be at the top of a company’s list of priorities.
Change is happening all around us. There’s no escaping it. In fact, research suggests changes in the global economy are happening 10 times faster than before, and for entrepreneurs, it’s hard to keep up.
Businesses are more people-centric than ever. The wellbeing of employees is fast becoming a differentiator as well as a recruitment and retention tool to lure talent in and keep it.
However, with research suggesting that finding the right talent and keeping it is going to be one of the biggest business challenges in 2017, even more attention needs to be given to the heart of the company – its people.
While change can be exhilarating, it can also create turbulence. Unique business models, such as the gig economy, are prime examples of change creating waves. Take Uber, firstly celebrated for offering flexible working, but soon derided for exploitation and little workplace protection. A classic case of businesses embracing change, but thinking about its people too late and the all too common belief that HR isn’t a necessity until it causes a problem.
Interestingly, most of us use the term HR without actually thinking about what it means, and when asked to explain, may not have much to say. That’s why HR is being replaced with something more digestible – employee experience. A strategic function with the primary purpose of unleashing human potential.
As Uber demonstrates, new business models may emerge, but if the way in which organisations manage their people doesn’t keep up, it can cause problems. The organisational structures of the past, built on a hierarchy that started at the middle and sprawled outwards, like you would imagine a tree in winter, aren’t suitable for the companies of the future.
As organisations develop from an authoritative management style to a more participative model, people management should understand and reflect the aspirations of employees. An employee-centric approach that promotes agility, resilience and sustained high performance will be vital to organisational success. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to catch up with this change.
Indeed, a significant factor in four in 10 small businesses not making it past five years is poor people management. An overwhelming amount of small businesses assume they don’t need it. However, in reality, whether you’ve got two or 20 employees, you’re doing people management.
So how can small businesses adapt to this change? Here are some tips to ensure your businesses don’t fall by the wayside.
Tip 1: Encourage a collaborative workforce
Small businesses that create connected and collaborative workforces, rather than teams working separately, will ultimately produce the best outcome. Picture a cobweb rather than the tree in winter.
A connected workforce encourages employees to work as a team, allowing them to bounce ideas off one another and improve co-worker relationships. Humans are social beings and businesses should capitalise on that.
Tip 2: Shift towards accountability and outcome-focused
We’re seeing an increased focus on outcome and accountability for individuals in the workplace, and promoting this allows employees to feel they have a say, giving them more responsibility and the feeling of empowerment, resulting in higher productivity.
Tip 3: Focus on staff wellbeing and stop worrying about admin
Use technology. Now more than ever, line managers and HR specialists should embrace the array of technology tools on the market that take care of things such as absence forms and expenses, and automate the process. This saves employers time, allowing them to focus on a more strategic role in ensuring employees are developing and growing to their full potential, and also frees up employees’ time, allowing them to focus on more rewarding tasks such as business development.
Tip 4: Data-driven decision making
Businesses should use data to drive better decision making. Instead of making decisions based on hunches they can make more definitive choices and back these up with data. Data can spot trends that business owners might not have thought of. It may even encourage longer holidays to reduce the number of sick days taken and increase that productivity.
Every employer has the responsibility to look after its employees. And the more fulfilled your workforce is, the better results they give, the longer you will hold on to them and the easier it will be to recruit.
With the ever-changing business landscape, companies that can free themselves from administration, focus on employee experience and give themselves the time to have high-quality conversations with their people will make it past those first five years.