by Debi Sanderson
The face and pace of our workforces are changing: the proliferation of technology, mainstreaming of artificial intelligence, trend to on-demand work and freelance economy, and shifting demographics are among the factors shaping the workforce of today and tomorrow. Customer needs are increasingly sophisticated, expectations are high, and there’s ready access to alternate service providers or suppliers. These forces converge to bring new opportunities – and pressures – to businesses around the globe.
Small businesses may benefit from being ‘nimbler’ or better able to pivot, but have fewer resources and challenges accessing capital. Team members often wear multiple hats and are called upon to take on tasks they may not be specifically trained for. Your team may be a mix of full-time and part-time employees, freelancers or contracted workers, resulting in a more fluid group of colleagues. Constant online accessibility brings expectations of quick responses. Team members juggle conflicting demands on their time and do not want to disappoint customers, managers or peers. While versatility and an entrepreneurial spirit help, employers can bring something powerful to calm the noise: clarity.
Being very clear about your business goals, desired outcomes, and how each member of the team – be they FT or PT employees, freelancers or contractors - contributes to those goals is essential to individual and team effectiveness.
Here are some tips using tried and true tools with a fresh lens:
1. Have a clear Vision, Mission and Core Values. Tell your team and the universe what your company stands for and the culture you foster and protect. Decisions and opportunities can be assessed against your vision: if we do this, will it advance us toward our vision? Is it consistent with our core values? Would this candidate positively contribute to our culture?
2. Have clear Business Strategies – Set 1- to 3-year business strategies to drive toward your vision; prioritize those strategies against the highest impact or ROI areas and be sure to resource those strategies first.
3. Review your Organizational Structure: Take names out of boxes and draw the ideal structure ‘fresh’, without regard for who is currently in each chair.
Do you have the right roles to execute your strategies? Is the size / scope of the role correct? Is there room for growth? Where are your biggest gaps?
Consider what areas you should invest in first to grow / thrive: e.g. client-facing, innovation or strategic roles, areas that manage risk, etc.
Now add the names back in all existing roles. Have your needs outgrown current capabilities? Should you consider new hires? More training and development? Reallocating or eliminating certain duties? Selective outsourcing?
Consider tools such as the Kolbe RightFitTM to help guide your decisions about staffing / hiring, and provide additional insight to managers and employees about matching roles with natural talents and abilities.
4. Once the structure is finalized, develop or update Job Descriptions. Use plain language, avoid cluttering business jargon, and focus on the key things that drive results. Ask yourself:
What are the top 3 to 5 things I want this role to deliver? What do I pay this role to do?
What are the independencies with other roles? Have I captured this in both / all affected job descriptions?
Be succinct and straight forward.
5. Set Performance Goals. Identify 3 to 5 performance goals for each position, aligned with business strategies. Involve employees; that leads to better / more realistic goals, increases ownership and identifies interdependencies for consideration.
What distinguishes superior performance from average performance?
Make sure the goals are realistic, measurable / observable, and within the person’s control.
Discuss professional development goals and career progression opportunities or interests. Be upfront about what skills and experience are needed and how/whether the company will support the employee’s development to contend for more senior roles.
Share the Vision, Mission, Core Values, and business strategies with the entire team. This should be firmly entrenched and widely understood.
Be sure each team member clearly understands how they contribute to the organizational goals, and what they need from others to succeed. Trace the flow of work through other roles to make sure shared goals are captured and everyone is held accountable for their part of the outcome.
7. Track progress: coach, monitor and support. Once the goals are clear, understood and accepted, ask if there are any obstacles to achieving them.
Provide the resources, tools and training required and hold people accountable for results.
Monitor progress and provide ad hoc as well as scheduled feedback and coaching sessions. Check in without micro-managing: employees benefit from regular support and early intervention if things are offside and thrive when they are encouraged bring new ideas or find better ways of doing things.
8. Recognize Results: people perform better in cultures where contributions are recognized, achievements celebrated, and employees feel valued and invested in. Make progress and achievements visible and share good news. If you have a bonus plan, tie achievement of performance goals to bonus decisions.
Being ‘clear’ takes time and effort. It spans the entire organization and requires regular and consistent communication. The benefits: better productivity, stronger alignment, more collaboration, better hiring decisions, higher engagement, less stress.
Invest in the simplicity of clarity to foster high performance in the changing face and pace of your workforce. We think you’ll be glad you did.