It is an increasing phenomenon that many small employers seem to be paralysed with fright when dealing (or not dealing) with employee issues.

This ‘rabbit in the headlights’ syndrome is chiefly underlain by two factors, firstly ignorance or faulty understanding and knowledge of the legislation as it applies to employment and secondly, building on the first issue, an overblown misconception that employees have all the rights and employers have none.

Patently this is not the case BUT it is certainly true that the onus of following due diligence in terms of managing employees lies with the employer.

Fundamentally in small businesses a number of other areas relating to employment are problematical, often this stems from – amongst other things – poor recruitment practices, lack of policy and procedure as it applies to employment and lack of training in the area of sound performance management approaches, all of which exacerbate issues when they arise. Many small business owners lack any real idea of ‘what’ they can say to their employees or indeed of ‘how’ to say it ie fear of being accused of ‘bullying’, this leads to avoidance of issues which in turn generally leads to greater issues through lack of management.

Here are 5 things that every business in my view MUST have without prevarication regardless of how small your business might be in terms of employees:

  1. A sound Expression of Interest for Employment form that allows for critical information pertinent to the employment to be detailed as part of the recruitment process
  2. A sound Contract of Employment document that specifies the conditions of employment
  3. A Duty Statement of JDF (Job Description Form) relating to each position ideally this would also have performance measures detailed along with Key performance Indicators.
  4. Policy/procedure documentation as it relates to employment eg Disciplinary Policy, Bullying and Harassment Policy, Code of Conduct etc
  5. A performance management process that is clearly written so that all parties understand the requirements – this is particularly critical in the first 6 months of employment
Finally, 5 things you should do all the time:
  1. Meet regularly with staff and talk to them abut how they are doing, remember praise in public and discipline in private, keep informal notes of these meetings after all this is a genuine part of your performance process.
  2. Tackle issues early, don’t ignore them as this will often lead to worse issues over time
  3. Don’t just look at how well the employee does the job, also focus on their ability to ‘fit’ in with the rest of your staff and/or how well their work ethic will help you achieve your business goals – this is particularly important in the first 6 months of employment.
  4. Seek support in areas where you lack knowledge/confidence, get a business mentor and seek out people who can assist you in your personal growth.
  5. ‘Walk the ‘walk’ and lead by example, parenting children and managing staff have close parallels and the principles are the same. Be honest, be open, be fair and be decisive.

If you have read this article and decided that you don’t have time to do this and it’s all BS anyway you should listen carefully as that fizzing sound you can hear is the lit fuse snaking along to the powder keg you are sitting on!

On the other hand, if you want to be pro-active and work on reducing your risk exposure then, as a first step, take a careful look at your current operations and assess what, if anything, you can do to improve your skills as an employer. Take some sound advice and, remember, the road to self-improvement starts with that first step.

Author : Rob Littlewood – Clearwater Workplace Solutions