Covering bases: helping your team perform to the best of their ability

When you first start a business, founders will often work independently formulating the potential product and initial strategy. During this stage the founders will take care of most aspects of the enterprise. 

When you move past that ideation stage you will start to take employees on. Taking on employees is a big responsibility. As the executive you will need to keep their health and wellbeing at the forefront of your mind. You have to actively help them and encourage them to work to the best of their ability.

As part of the ‘Covering bases’ series of articles, here are some starter tips for those founders who have perhaps not managed teams before:

Create a great working environment

So many business owners make the mistake of scoping out the cheapest office space and fit out possible.

Sure, there are many ways you can cut costs when it comes to your offices, warehouses or other commercial premises. But all in all, you need to see these spaces as an investment and make sure they’re up to scratch.

At the end of the day, your employees will generally spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week in these premises, and if they’re really grim, it can have a profoundly detrimental impact not only on your employees’ happiness and wellbeing, but on their health and their productivity too. Let’s take natural lighting as an example.

Generally speaking, offices with big windows and plenty of natural light flooding through tend to come at a higher cost. But at the same time, natural light regulates your employees’ circadian rhythms and determines how alert and productive they are during the day.

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The big windows are consequently more than worth the investment.

Request honest feedback

Sometimes, your employees will be aware of issues with the workplace that you’re not exposed to and that will otherwise slip entirely beneath your radar. It’s always a good idea to keep a route of open communication open where complaints or suggestions can be raised. You can then act on these things to create a better and more productive working environment where employees feel comfortable and can focus on the tasks being given to them.

Something as simple as the temperature in the workplace fluctuating too much can have a profound impact on employees’ performance. If someone raises an issue with this, you can become aware of it and have the issue fixed, setting everyone back on the right track. Of course, getting honest feedback can often be difficult.

Employees don’t generally want to be seen as being negative or complaining, so if you ask them on a face to face basis, they’re likely to say that everything’s just fine – even if things aren’t. This issue can be tackled by sending around anonymous surveys to staff members. Aim to get one out once a month.

This can include questions regarding general employee satisfaction, text boxes for recommendations and suggestions and more. Digital distribution is best, as people will feel comfortable that their responses can’t be recognised through their handwriting.

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Conduct team building exercises

Team building is often met with raised eyebrows and sighs all round. People don’t want the awkward moment of having to break the ice with people they don’t really know on a personal level. But it is an essential for every business and once the ice is broken, communication can run a lot more freely. This isn’t just an exercise in making friends of colleagues.

It’s essential for a productive workforce. When a team becomes better acquainted with one another and have spoken casually in the past, they’re much more likely to be able to communicate effectively when it comes to work too. Individual brilliance can produce some great work. But for most businesses, teamwork is required to get big projects complete. Now, there are various ways to go about team building.

Generally speaking, it’s best to commit one day a year to a big team building day out. This will remove people from the office environment and loosen them up a bit, making things easier.

Drug testing

This is often a sensitive subject to discus and consider. However, if you suspect that any of your staff are struggling with substance abuse, it is acceptable to conduct drug tests, such as meth drug testing. Employees struggling with substance abuse are unlikely to be completing work to the best of their ability.

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Plus, it’s probably best that the issue is faced and tackled for their own wellbeing. If positive results are found, you may want to help them seek professional help, where they can quit their habit and get back on the right track. This will be a difficult time for them, so be as empathetic and lenient as possible.

Offer continuous training

Most businesses offer their staff some sort of training when they first take them on board. But this is generally where training ends. This is a huge mistake, as the market and your business will consistently change over the years and your workers may require new knowledge or skills as time goes by in order to complete their work to the best of their ability. This is why continuous training is extremely important for any business.

Sure, it’s an outlay, but it will ensure you have the most competent individuals possible working for you. If you’re unsure what your staff might need to be trained in, it’s a good idea to simply ask them. They’re the ones who are familiar with their field of expertise and they may have seen some great programmes that could truly benefit everybody.

Remember, these are just a few examples of things you can do to help your employees to awork to the best of their ability. What will best suit different companies will depend on the companies, their needs and their preferences themselves.

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