When it comes to staff relations it is always a challenge, either in a boom market, or when times are harder. In the boom times there is always another company who will pay more. In the lean times people may move on because they feel insecure or perceive another company is a better bet.
Treating staff well is not all about spending money, but there is a time investment. Good communication is just as important in lean times as it is when everything is going well. Big companies will have newsletters and lots of social events, but these will get dropped when finance becomes an issue. For smaller and medium sized companies this was probably never an option because of tight margins. From the start with a new employee I kick off with good communication like a regular phone call. It allows some instant feedback from the staff member which in itself could help the company, or even if it is just letting them have a moan, a bridge is being built. It takes honesty on both sides. It is no use just telling someone what they want to hear if it is not true.
Richard Branson said, train people well so they can leave you but treat them well so they don’t want to. I have used this in my business and again it has paid dividends, even just spending small amounts on developing people.
I said it’s not about spending money but one of my golden rules has always been to make sure people are paid correctly and on time. I use this rule with my suppliers as well. People have bills to be paid and they need to have that trust. Small gestures that only cost a small amount, like a bunch of flowers for the Engineers’ wives and partners birthdays has always been a big hit for us. It also spreads the cost over the calendar year. I have also given small loans out to my staff when I know they are struggling after sickness or a downturn in the workload. I have always been repaid and it goes a long way to build loyalty.
The majority of our work is still ad hoc so communicating with the staff about what is coming up can calm nerves as well.
Ultimately at times there is no option but to pay people off and like many companies in our industry we have had to do this over the last two years.
We have managed this without any issues and have maintained good relations after people have left because they feel they have been treated fairly. I know they say it is a position that is made redundant not a person but try telling that someone you are laying off! People still have to be treated as individuals and with dignity.
My people both present and past are the best marketing campaigns for my business.
By : Colin Burney, SUBC Engineering Ltd