Today’s growing businesses know they need to become innovative ‘people companies’, transforming how they acquire, engage, and manage talent if they are to grow and prosper. However, business owners who don’t have a background in people management find it challenging to get the best out of people.
The good news is that even if you are not a natural leader, managing people is a skill you can learn and improve with practise and the right advice. Here are seven golden rules for people management in a growing business.
Learn to delegate
Delegation is one of the most difficult yet important lessons for business owners to learn when their company grows from a handful of people to a larger team. It can be hard to let go if you’re used to doing most of the work yourself. As tempting as it might be to hold onto as many responsibilities as possible and micro-manage when you delegate, it’s important to share the workload.
Start with repetitive tasks that drain your time and add little value to the business, such as admin tasks. Monitor how employees are doing, be available to support them, and invest the necessary resources in training them. Most people are eager to learn, so if they’re properly motivated, they can save you a lot of time.
Understand the basics of labour law
Whether you have one employee or 1 000, it’s important to understand tax and labour laws. While busy business owners often lack patience with paperwork and compliance, knowing the laws and regulations inside-out can avoid unpleasant disputes with employees. South African labour law sets out rigid procedures for disciplining an employee, and it’s important to follow them to the letter.
If you hold a disciplinary hearing, keep accurate records to defend yourself, especially if the employee wants to challenge your decision at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). Also, be sure to document the rules of your workplace, the requirements of the job, and your policies so employees know what is expected of them.
Speak to an HR or labour expert if you aren’t familiar with South Africa’s legal framework complexities.
Treat people with professionalism and consistency
Inexperienced managers often fall into the trap of treating staff members as friends or family. This can make matters more difficult if you must correct a staff member’s negligent or unprofessional behaviour or say no when they ask for a favour. Being friendly is necessary to drive good company culture; however, keep it professional. Never allow the lines between friend and manager to become blurred. Above all, be consistent and fair in treating each team member.
A good manager is a good communicator. Make sure your employees know their tasks, how they need to be done, and their deadlines. Give them regular feedback – positive and corrective – to help them improve and grow. Be honest and transparent with your team about how the business is doing and your strategies for the future. A transparent management style helps to keep staff motivated.
Build up your conflict resolution skills
Inexperienced managers often shy away from conflict, whether confronting an employee who is late to work every morning or mediating disputes between employees. It’s important to develop the skills to resolve conflicts constructively before they slow down productivity or dampen morale. Many business schools in South Africa offer training in this field.
Listen to your people
Active listening is about paying close attention to the person speaking, not interrupting them, and absorbing what they say. As a manager, it can help you better understand your employees’ thoughts and feelings. This builds mutual trust, equips you to address any obstacles preventing them from reaching their potential, and keeps you attuned to what’s happening in your business.
Automate admin and focus on relationships
As a business grows its workforce, the amount of HR and payroll-related admin grows, too. Sage research shows most businesses (83%) spend a significant portion of their time on repetitive tasks, administration, compliance, and maintaining employee records. Automating repetitive, low value activities frees up your time to focus on more strategic parts of people management. Leave the paperwork to an automated system so you can focus on nurturing talent and employee wellbeing, and how you will operate in the age of flexible work. An HR solution can help businesses with record management, leave management, staff scheduling and expenses, among others, creating an integrated experience of digital and human connections.
Gerhard Hartman is the Vice President, Medium Business for Sage Africa & Middle East.