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How to get the best from your employees

3-minute read

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and managing them well is one of your most critical business challenges.

“If you do a good job, your employees are more likely to be loyal partners in helping you build a thriving company with growing profits,” says BDC Senior Business Advisor Émilie Poirier, who advises entrepreneurs on human resources issues.

Here are Poirier’s seven tips on how to better manage your people.

1. Foster good communication

Open and honest communication is at the heart of a happy and productive workplace. Start by explaining to your employees your company’s vision, goals and plans for achieving them. Focus especially on clear communication in times of change or uncertainty.

“Meeting regularly with employees face to face is very important in smaller companies,” she says.

In larger companies, you can also share written information, such as a printed or electronic company newsletter. You can include employees’ contributions, staff success stories, company news and business performance metrics.

2. Give feedback

Positive feedback strengthens employee engagement. You and your managers should give meaningful feedback through the year, not just at year-end performance reviews.

Negative feedback should be fair, carefully expressed and focused on specific behaviours (not vague complaints). Also ask the employee to tell their side of the story.

And remember that feedback should be a two-way street. Encourage input from your employees, including ideas for improving operations.

3. Recognize your team’s value

Consider rewarding employees for things like meeting goals, contributing to innovation and helping you recruit new talent. Rewards can include performance bonuses and/or non-financial perks your employees will appreciate, such as a company dinner or concert tickets.

4. Delegate

You can’t do it all. Learn to empower your employees by entrusting them with important responsibilities, and then stand back and let them do their job. “You’ll be free to take on higher-value tasks, like focusing on your strategic direction,” Poirier says. “And your employees will appreciate being able to contribute to the company’s success.”

Before giving new responsibilities, evaluate the employees’ capabilities, and provide any needed training.

5. Head off conflict

Conflict between employees can hurt productivity, staff retention and customer service. Head it off by clearly defining job descriptions and business procedures. Encourage respect for diversity. If conflict occurs, don’t let it fester. Meet with those involved to mediate and implement solutions.

6. Train and develop your team

Training and developing your employees makes them more productive and engaged. It also helps attract and retain skilled workers—a growing issue as the population ages.

Don’t focus only on formal, classroom-style training, Poirier says. Also explore semi-formal learning such as mentoring, job-shadowing and focused reading. Reinforce training with opportunities for workers to apply their new skills on the job.

7. Offer a flexible workplace

Changing demographics may mean you have to offer a more flexible workplace. Older workers and those who care for aging family members may need more flexibility. It will also help you retain younger employees who have kids or are turned off by traditional work hours. This could mean allowing work from home and/or offering flexible hours and job sharing.

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