When running a business, making the best use of the assets you have is crucial to success. But it’s not just about the tech, the supplies, or the information you use. Those employees of yours are assets as well, and how much they can contribute depends on a few factors. First of all, it depends on how well-suited to their position they truly are. But more importantly, it depends on how much you’re willing to invest in them. Here, we’re going to look at why you should constantly look for new opportunities to invest in your team, and the new heights you should aim to take them to.
Speak frankly and helpfully
If you’re just focused on getting the work you have done, then it’s easy to miss the single most important thing in developing a team and a real company culture. That most important thing is communication. You have to lead the charge by learning how to provide real constructive criticism. When you need to provide feedback to one of your employees, don’t beat around the bush. Identify the problem, pinpointing the parts of their process that you think isn’t currently working. But don’t just give them a brick wall, help them find a way of getting around it by coming up with solutions together. You don’t have to be mean to be honest, but nor do you have to try “soften the blow”. When an employer tries to ease criticism with a compliment, it’s obvious to everyone involved and it doesn’t make the employee feel any better about the criticism.
Encourage communication and engagement
Don’t think you can get away with simply giving them feedback and having that be the end of the story, either. Everyone in the business should be able to offer their own take on the processes they’re engaged with, the management strategies, and problems they have with their work. Keep an open-door policy to let them know they can share their concerns any time. When you have team meetings, ask someone to prepare part of the agenda, or send out the agenda ahead of time and ask people to think about what factors they want to bring to the table.
Help them grow better, faster, stronger
If you haven’t yet hit peak productivity, then that might be a consistent focus for you. However, shouting at them to work harder isn’t going to work. Working smarter is going to be a lot better. You need to find what elements of their day slows down their pace of leads to more mistakes or simply shows no sign of engagement. Put in place key performance indicators related to different processes that allow you to see how your team is developing. That way, when you have criticism, it’s not just a blanket critique of how they work, but a specific problem you can work on together.
Foster a brand identity in them
Take the most engaged, motivated, and charismatic of your teammates and make sure they get out there. Give them the duties of representing the business to the community with social media training. Give them the chance to network with new clients and customers. Make a team of them to rep you at trade shows, equipped with nametags, your very own lanyards, and a booth to give them presence and visibility. Find the people who truly care about the business and turn them into advocates and ambassadors to give the business a much more human face.
Expand their horizons
If you want to truly keep employees growing and getting more engaged with their work, you have to understand that a great deal of them aren’t going to be happy staying in one position for too long. Even those that are will want that position to grow (and their paycheck alongside it). When opening new positions, consider the route of internal progression instead of hiring from further afield. Not only does it mean you get someone you know, but it shows everyone else that a long future with the business does pay off. Otherwise, look at other ways to give their career the momentum they crave. For instance, what kind of training and personal development strategies do you currently offer them? If they’re not being trained in new skills or offered the opportunity to flex their muscles in new (perhaps temporary role) they are going to be more likely to get bored with their position and look for other opportunities elsewhere.
Pass on the reins
When thinking about internal progression alongside the growth of a business, it will soon become clear that you can’t be the only leader for too long. Things are going to scale, you’re going to spend less time on the “front lines” and you’re going to have to take a more strategic role at the top. Which means you have to find the leaders to take on the expanding roles of management and execution that the business needs. Finding leaders in your team isn’t simple. But you can help develop leadership. Teach those you identify as having real potential how to network, how to start taking responsibility for the work of others, and how to set a direction for others to follow. Give them chances to experience leadership roles in temporary projects and start fostering an ownership mentality
Be the way
Company culture is as crucial to developing the right employees as investing directly in them is. You want a culture that teaches them to innovate on successes, reflect on failures, handle accountability, and work as a team. All of that begins with you. You have to lead by example, showing your own self-reflection, your own ability to take responsibility, and the value of giving credit where it’s due instead of taking it. The rest will follow.
A well-developed, engaged, motivated team can transform a business. Don’t just be the boss of a workforce, be the leader of a team of experts. Make that progress part of your business canon so even when they leave, you have more promising talent ready to move up, take their place, and excel even further.