It's important to regularly and frequently take a look at your business from a people perspective. Ensuring you have the right people on your team and doing the right things only serves to make your business better and creates far greater value.
But evaluating your people is hard work. Nonetheless, they are critical to your brand and your business, as discussed in a prior post. This makes the process all the more important.
The process, though, doesn't end with completing the assessment. (It doesn't ever end, really.) Each assessment has to be followed with coaching to keep everyone moving in the right direction.
You may be saying to yourself that you aren't sure where to start. That's okay. We've been there and understand what it takes to build strong teams. Here is a brief overview of how to go about assessing your team.
Going back to our post on branding, what does your brand (your business) really stand for? What does it represent? How does it speak to your customers at each touchpoint?
Furthermore, does the culture you have created within your organization reflect what you want your brand to be? In other words, if one of your customers walked into your office or one of your meetings, what would they experience? If it is not on brand, your culture needs fixing. Your brand and your culture have to be inextricably linked.
You have to rely on your management team to keep the business operating at a high level. Which means that they need to rely on their respective teams to function at a high level. Done correctly, this means that you and your managers can actually go on vacation, be out of the office for at least one full week and know that the business will continue to run smoothly.
This happens because you have a highly capable and competent set of managers who ensure that everyone else in the organization is clear on what has to be done and how they need to be doing it. This also happens because your management team is developing their people to be able to take on management roles in the future.
Creating this kind of depth allows your business to grow quickly and run much more smoothly. It is far more efficient to nurture your own team into new managers than constantly having to hire from outside the organization. Those outside hires are sometimes necessary, no doubt. But aim for building from within.
For your team to thrive, they need to have a firm grasp of your industry, your company, your brand and your products. They need to be able to spot your competitors' weaknesses and leverage your strengths against them. They need to know how to execute the company's plans and do so effectively. And so much more.
The only way to do this is through experience.
Don't take this the wrong way. We aren't saying that you should fall into the trap of hiring people "with experience only." (We would be happy to debate the merits of hiring from within an industry versus outside, depending on the needs of your organization, as well as people having the specific experience you articulate in a job posting.) No, in this case, what kind of experience is your team getting? Do your marketing people spend time "walking in the shoes" of your accounting group and vice versa? Who besides your salespeople goes out on sales calls? Who is spending time with your IT team? Does your IT team really know how the rest of the organization is using the tools provided?
This is the kind of experience that builds great teams, managers and leaders. It also gives them a deeper understanding of how the business functions, creates empathy and builds a more cohesive unit.
Decision-Making and Responsibilities
Your ability to grow your business, create value and eventually be able to exit successfully lies squarely on how well you delegate responsibilities and decision-making to your fully capable team. If all decisions must go through one or two people, especially if that includes you, you are creating an unnecessary bottleneck. And you create an atmosphere whereby no one in the organization, save those extremely limited decision-makers, accepts any responsibility for what happens (particularly when it is something that is, shall we say, not good).
Instead, seek ways to push decision-making down to your broader team. Certainly, there are decisions that must be made by the leaders of your organization and others that you must make yourself. Save those for the larger, more impactful items that can fundamentally impact your business. Give your team the power and responsibility for making decisions related to the day-to-day operations, within guidelines your and your management have established.
Taking this approach creates a greater feeling of ownership in the overall success of the business.
Employee Assessment Matrix
What we have shared so far is all well and good, but the real challenge comes in the assessment of your team. This is where the...er...more difficult conversations occur. It is, however, necessary. And it is critical to making sure you have the right people on the team doing the work they are best suited to do. You have probably also heard this referred to as "having the right people on the bus and in the right seats."
Let us introduce you to the employment assessment matrix. Chris McCrory, one of Fulham Partners' Managing Directors, first learned about the matrix several years ago and has used in multiple times with great success in building highly successful and well-functioning teams.
The matrix itself is represented like this:
Let's look at each quadrant individually.
Starting in the lower left quadrant, we have those falling into the Developmental category. They are the ones who show promise and potential for bigger and better things within the organization. Theoretically, this would include nearly all of your new hires.
Invest in these people. Give them opportunities to take on bigger responsibilities. Have them propose and lead a project. See what they are capable of doing to advance the business inline with your desired culture and overarching strategy.
Moving up in the matrix, we get to the Rising Stars. Typically, they will be moving into this quadrant from the Developmental group. They have proven successful with their projects and assigned responsibilities and demonstrate the leadership qualities necessary for a potential management or executive role within the company.
These team members can be real difference makers in your business. Treat them that way. If not, they likely will be recruited out. This group should receive your highest level of investment, because they will be delivering the highest return.
In the upper right-hand corner are the Experienced Professionals. They have a sufficient amount of experience for the role they fulfill. They do their job well and are highly reliable. At the same time, they tend to keep regular business hours, take their scheduled vacations and check out on weekends (unless it is an emergency). They tend not to have ambitions for bigger and better things for themselves.
Every company needs some Experienced Professionals. This group brings stability and institutional knowledge. They act as mentors. And often, they are the voice of reason. Too many of them, however, and your business won't move forward. Too few, and you will be wracked with chaos. Find the right balance.
Finally, we have those that fall into the Concerns box. When you do everything else we have discussed right, there should be very few people landing in this category. Nonetheless, you will have people here. And getting your managers to openly admit that someone on their team is a concern can be a challenge for a couple of reasons.
One, doing so could make them feel that they failed as a leader. On the other hand, someone could be put there as a scapegoat for the manager's own failures. That is why this needs to be a discussion among all the managers who interact with the individual. These can be extremely uncomfortable conversations, but they are absolutely necessary, because people that are Concerns bring down the rest of the company.
A final note about those that should be categorized as Concerns. Too often people that belong in that category are protected either by their managers or (cough) you. Everyone knows when those Concerns have defenders. You're not fooling anyone. Be honest with them, your team and yourself.
Why? Because there are only three options:
Coach them up to a point where they can be (relatively) successful in the business
Coach them out of the business so that they can find something better suited for them
Allow them to stay and be a drag on the organization
The third option really isn't an option at all and ends up being a surrender and admission that you really don't want the business to be any more than it is today. And you probably are OK with it being less. Don't. Just don't.
Manual versus Automated Tasks
Often the greatest hindrance to growth and profitability is the inefficiency of doing manual tasks that could otherwise be automated. It frustrates high performers and keeps them away from what they can do best. It also allows underperformers to hide behind tasks, creating situations they believe make them "indispensable." This is expensive and poisonous. Look for every opportunity to automate (with a positive ROI, of course) and harvest the lowest hanging fruit first.
Keep in mind, anyone in the organization resisting automation (openly or otherwise) is looking out only for themselves. This is understandable. But it is not in the best interest of your business. Further, there are far too many examples of automation making the lives of those resisters better while maintaining gainful employment at that same company. Make your business efficient wherever possible.
On average, how long do people stay employed at your business? When they leave, is it usually voluntary or are you terminating them? Why is that? Is there more turnover with one particular manager? If so, what is the underlying cause? Who left the company that you wish were still there? Why did they leave? Who is still at the company that probably needs to leave? Why are they still there?
In other words, longevity is not necessarily a good thing if your best employees are leaving and your worst are staying. Flip that. Fast.
Willingness to Change
Finally, it is important to understand the willingness of everyone on your team, including you, to change. Who embraces change and seeks to push it forward positively? Who resists it, whether openly or through more discrete methods?
Your business is a living breathing thing. For it to survive, it must continue to evolve and grow. Otherwise it will wither. There must be at least some level of willingness on everyone's part to learn. To grow. To improve. You owe it to each other (you and your team), and you all owe it to the company.
And you and your management team must constantly work to drive improvement throughout your team, based on what is learned through this assessment process.
Your people are the lifeblood of your business. They are critical to delivering on your brand promise. It matters who you have on your team and how well they perform. But you cannot get any insight into this until and unless you take the time to assess them.
Getting the assessment right, organizing your team effectively, creating management depth and pushing decision-making down into the organization allows the business to grow, become more profitable and enjoy a much higher value. It is absolutely worth doing. And worth doing right.