This is a question that I am commonly asked by SMB owners, often when the business is a little out of control because it has grown to the point where the owner cannot personally supervise everything that is going on anymore.
My initial response is that you are asking the wrong question up front and you should first ask: “What is the best way to manage the growing number of people in my business?”
Firstly let’s break that down into component parts which I call the 4Cs of people management:
This is the base level of people management and is fundamentally about ensuring that the business has a plan providing clear direction and understands and is compliant with its legal obligations as an employer in relation to such things as:
- Wages and conditions of employment
- Workplace health and safety
- Equal opportunity, discrimination and harassment
This is about building the processes for managing people which include or add to what you have done in compliance but also facilitate:
- Effective conversations about team and individual performance and development
- Skills analysis and learning and development activities that are aligned with business needs
- Reward and recognition that has meaning, is properly aligned and is affordable, providing the right return on investment
- Targeted recruitment and retention of the right employees and fair and effective management of the exceptions.
Having put the systems in place, you need to develop the abilities of your people to apply them and comply with them in a consistent and competent manner by:
- Training your leaders and managers in the application of the processes with their teams and individual team members
- Educating all of your people about the processes and their roles and obligations
- Ensuring that you practice what you preach and both require and allow your managers to do their jobs and
- Incorporating the leadership qualities you need in your criteria for selecting your managers
This is when it all comes together – you know that you are compliant with your legal obligations, you have people management systems that work and your leaders and managers are really driving improvements because you:
- Have a clear vision and business strategy with measurable goals for improving business performance and “your people get it”
- Understand the competencies that you need and your investment in training and development delivers improvements in performance
- Engage your people in improving business performance and recognize and reward them for their contributions and
- Have leaders and managers who ensure that your people are on board, contributing and continuously improving their capabilities and performance.
The truth is that your specialist HR resource needs (ie the skill set required) will differ depending on where your business is in the above hierarchy.
At levels C1 – C2, there is a greater emphasis on administration, compliance and risk management whereas at C3 – C4, there is a much more strategic focus on organizational development, engagement and leadership.
What will not change is that you need your managers and leaders to be on board every step of the way because they are the real people managers every day.
That leaves us with a different but much better question: “How do I best support my managers to do their jobs better?”