We were asked to meet with 2 business owners who had the opportunity to make some significant changes in the business they set up around 20 years ago. The plan hinged around moving to new, expanded premises providing them with capacity to take on larger design and build projects for more clients. The difficulty they were having was in seeing how to realise new business opportunities at a time when they were already busy, and with resources which were already stretched and carrying a lot of responsibilities.
Key case facts
Number of employees: 10
Key strategic objectives: to create a strategic plan for the business to grow
Key HR objectives: to develop a new organisation structure and people plan which would deliver planned growth for the business
The Collins Green Solutions
Creative ways to develop and share ideas and ambitions
We had 3-4 meetings where we just talked and drew pictures as that emerged early on as being the way in which we could easily talk to each other, swap ideas and articulate our ideas. We took all the pictures and developed them into a new-look organisation structure including new roles and new arrangements for delivering some key business administration tasks through outsourcing.
These changes meant that the owners would be able to progressively delegate workload and responsibilities to release time for them to build the sales and take some time away from the business without worrying. The changes also meant that we removed the “single points of failure” in the business; i.e. where only one person had the knowledge and experience to carry out integral tasks and in their absence the work didn’t get done. That was costly, inefficient and a significant business risk.
Facing the realities of change: celebration and challenge
The clients were very pleased with the initial plan we set out as it illustrated clearly the changes which needed to be made to achieve their personal aspirations for the future, and benefit the business. It also provided a wonderful opportunity to recognise the contributions and work of existing members of staff by creating promotion opportunities. The smiles faded somewhat when we talked about other implications and the reality that the business structure they envisaged would involve redundancy measures.
Implementing initial changes to the team
The client decided to go ahead with the changes we proposed. We prepared job descriptions for all positions in the business and 2 employees were promoted. They consulted (with our help) with those at risk of redundancy and identified redeployment options which we eventually all agreed were not appropriate alternatives and so some people left the business. We subsequently interviewed with the client to select new members of staff to bring experience into the business and with the mandate to introduce and embed changes to working practices.
The company is on course for the next phase of growth
This process took about 4 months to work through from start to finish and now, some 12 months later the benefits are really starting to show. The owners have more time to concentrate on sales and marketing, the newly appointed line managers are settled and making their mark in their respective areas of responsibility and the expansion plans are growing as we write.
Distinguishing between capability issues and poor attitude
By gathering this information we are also encouraging our clients to consider which factors could be relevant to how the employee is performing and whether the issue lies potentially in their capability to do the job or in a poor personal attitude which is more to do with misconduct and may lead to disciplinary action. Talking to someone about their performance can be uncomfortable (even if it is necessary) and we have both sat in on, and coached clients on how to structure the conversation and make sure that the feedback given to an employee is fair, balanced, clear and based on concrete examples of what is not going well. We have come across one situation where the feedback to the individual was so badly constructed that if he didn’t know what was wrong before he was given the feedback, he had even less chance afterwards!
Giving the employee their say
We also emphasise the need to listen carefully to what the employee says in return and to factor what they say into the next stage which is to set out areas for improvement, identify any training or additional support which might be required and plan out a period (usually 4-6 weeks) during which time the employee can work towards building up their performance and the client will review progress with them regularly.
Informal solutions are possible
Through this period it will become more apparent whether the poor performance is a matter of the employee’s ability to do their job or their attitude towards the work and/or the employer. In the case of the latter we’ve had employees resign because they realise that the employer is on their case and if they don’t improve disciplinary action will be taken and ultimately they could be dismissed. We’ve also cheered successes where that informal chat and a period of additional support have been just what was needed to put the employee back on track.
Taking action is vital
Poor performance is expensive and it will be costing your business money, irritating colleagues, making your working arrangements inefficient and probably causing you loss of sleep because you know you need to do something about it.