Crisis Management

Too many small businesses suffer from it

Most employee problems can be avoided or can be easily handled if you have the right systems and procedures in place. However, while most small businesses
employ staff, they don’t usually have the luxury of a Human Resources Department. They also usually don’t have the expertise to handle employee problems when things go wrong.

Typical problems include:

  • No business focus – the business is built around the intuition of the owner but
    there are often no clear goals or strategies in place and values are not defined.
    This results in inconsistency and lack of direction within the business.
  • Poor time management – the owner is often so busy working that he or she does not manage the business effectively. The business cannot run without them because all the policies, systems and procedures are in their heads!
  • Lack of consistency (fairness) – because there are no documented policies and procedures. As a business grows, the small business owner cannot hope to remember everything!
  • Poor staff selections – research has shown that for a business to succeed, one needs to get the right team. Poor selections can be very costly and damaging, especially if the employee remains with the business for any length of time. The chances of poor selections can be greatly reduced by the use of competency-based recruitment and interviewing techniques.
  • No contracts of employment – small businesses often do not have contracts or have poorly worded contracts which do not protect them. Fixed term contracts are also sometimes abused resulting in unfair dismissal disputes.
  • No induction of new staff – if new employees are not taught the right way in the beginning, they will in all probably, pick-up bad habits from existing staff. Mini Khumalo, a friend of mine tells a delightful story of how he was inducted into his first job. The foreman took him to the work station where he was to work and simply left him with another worker. This worker taught him where to hide from the foreman in order to avoid work and all the excuses he needed to know should he get caught loafing!
  • Probation is not properly used – probation should be used to screen out poor selections. If you have made a poor selection, as long as fair procedures are followed, the sooner this is remedied the better for all concerned, including the employee. Being in the wrong job is not good for anyone’s self esteem.
  • Poor organisation structures – structures often evolve which are often not logical or conducive to good business. Sometimes this results in over or understaffing. Unequal distribution of work results in some employees becoming disgruntled and others not pulling their weight.
  • Lack of consistency and fairness
  • No performance management – staff are not told where they stand and how their performance can be improved. In some cases, this results in over-reliance on threats of punishment to get work done.
  • High absenteeism and sick leave abuse – often these are not properly monitored and there is no structured approach to dealing with it.
  • Poor understanding of labour law – particularly disciplinary procedures. This results in dismissals being overturned with unnecessary cost implications and sometimes serious consequences. Failure to comply with Basic Conditions of Employment Act requirements can also result in problems.
  • Poor conflict management – this is often exacerbated by no formal procedure for handling complaints and grievances, including tricky situations such as sexual harassment complaints.
  • Insufficient training and staff development – even in a small business, today people need to be constantly updating their knowledge and skills. There are several initiatives to assist small business owners but often the view is ‘We can’t afford the time’.
  • No succession planning – when the owner goes, there is nobody capable of taking over the management of the business.

    A coach with the necessary training and experience can help the small business owner overcome these challenges.

    The coach will require the business owner to commit to at least four but preferably six coaching sessions, during which priorities will be set and an action plan decided
    upon by the business owner.

    The coach will not tell the business owner what to do but through catalytic questioning and active listening, the coach will steer the business owner to make appropriate decisions and to get on top of relationships in the business through good leadership.

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