I hear it all the time: “It takes too much time to manage people! It seems I’m always checking them and fixing the things they don’t do correctly, and getting them going in the right direction, and keeping them focused. They just don’t ‘get it.’ Why can’t I find people who can figure out what needs to be done and then just do it?!”
Good question. Let’s assume for a moment that the business owners I hear this from actually hired the right people in the first place (that’s another topic altogether). This situation could be fixable with some perspective, patience, and a good internal communications plan (yes, even if you only have a few employees — or even just one). And when it is finally fixed, when their employees don’t need to be checked and guided and prodded all the time, these business owners will find that they’re suddenly making more money per employee, their management time is greatly reduced, allowing them to get on with the important work of business building (or taking time off, or whatever!), and their lives are much less stressful.
Why You Need an Internal Communications Plan
Hard to believe that an internal communications plan can do so much, isn’t it? Well, think of it as a maintenance plan, like you get when you buy a new car. Keep up with the regularly scheduled maintenance, and the car will be much less likely to be trouble down the road. If something does start to go wrong, you’ll find out about it in time to fix it. And the time and money you spend taking care of the vehicle over time will pay off in the long run, helping you to avoid costly repairs and annoyances.
Your communications plan doesn’t have to be a long or detailed plan, it just has to be a plan that fits your business. And you need to communicate it to your staff.
Here are the three steps to a plan that will turn your staff from a problem team into a money-making machine:
Step 1.) Take stock of your staff dynamics.
Step 2.) Make a touch point plan. (It’s not difficult, and I’ll give you the basics.)
Step 3.) Communicate it to your staff.
Step 1.) Take stock of your staff dynamics
Employees want three things:
• They want direction and regular feedback;
• they want to know your philosophy and the direction
the business is going, to know what they’re working towards;
• and they want to know how they fit into the plan.
Your staff, while unique individuals, will want these things too. Take the time now to talk with them, individually if at all possible, and ask a few key questions so you can determine their most effective communication styles. Ask them what motivates them, what they need to feel supported in their work, and what they consider to be their strengths. Tell them you’re working on a plan for more effective communication — they’ll feel more supported just by the fact that you’re asking questions and beginning this type of dialog.
Step 2.) Make a touch point plan.
You wouldn’t be an entrepreneur if you didn’t have your head in the clouds, so your employees expect you to be a bit different, a bit unpredictable. But you’re their boss, and they look to you for direction, and it can be frustrating for them if you leave them on their own too much, which is something a lot of business owners (myself included) do. It’s really tempting to just hire someone good and let them do their thing — just cross that “to do” item off of your list and move on. But that doesn’t help you build a great team.
A regular program of employee communication is a must for even the smallest company, and it needs to include a series of regular communication touch points. I work with my clients to develop a system of simple touch points, scheduled times that they get together with their teams, that work into their business styles. The important thing is that they happen, and that they happen consistently.
Step 3.) Communicate it to your staff.
Let your staff know what your plan is, and the logistics of how you’ll implement it. Adding this structure will be a great boost to many of your more detail- and task-oriented team members, who like to know when and how things are going to happen. The plan also lets all team members know there are set times for them to bring up specific issues and/or topics, and serves as a platform to keep everyone on track with deadlines and timelines.
A well thought out internal communication plan will help even the smallest business (yes, even you, with the one employee) smooth out the bumps in your management road, as informed employees are much easier to work with. Because they’ll understand their part in the larger scheme of things and know what’s happening on a regular basis, they’ll require less of your management time, they’ll be able to anticipate needs and present solutions, and they’ll be more proactive in their jobs. This translates into less stress and more free time for you.