Wednesday, August 17, 2016
When an employee represents him or herself as well as their company, a business shines, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
I’ve never bought into the corporate robot strategy. We’ve all dealt with companies where there is a strict uniform code, scripts for dealing with customers and a set reaction to every scenario that has been predetermined in a posh boardroom. Name badges are attached level with the third buttonhole, smiles are forced and company policy is drummed into staff to the point where they can hardly think for themselves.
It’s not for me to question the way other companies do business, but I prefer staff to represent themselves as much as the company. The more memorable visits I make are the ones where staff are confident, polite, well-mannered and communicate well because that’s how they want to be remembered as individuals, not because they were told to act that way in a memo. One can tell the difference a mile off.
Imagine how good it looks to a visitor—customer or otherwise—when their first port of contact greets them as if a friend had made the introduction. If staff represent themselves, a business will look good automatically. I don’t want visitors to any Rope and Sling depot to think our front of house team is well drilled or rehearses their conversational exchanges. I want them to think Alan, Tony, Tim, whoever it is, takes pride in the impression they give as an individual.
A lot of people have a tendency to hide behind a company badge and blame the business for their own shortcomings. If it is demanded of a person that they behave in a certain way, they’ll also start to resent the authority. A business where people take pride in their own work in addition to being part of the company they work for can therefore more efficiently troubleshoot itself. In short, it’s bad for business if staff have to adopt a persona that’s completely unnatural to them for the hours they’re engaged in professional activity.
As I’ve said before, our staff is our biggest asset. Without them we wouldn’t have a company. We can buy the best kit and have the best systems in place but people bring it altogether. The challenge for me and other business leaders is to man manage these individuals to get the best out of them. It’s important to have the right people in the right jobs and recognise people’s strengths and weaknesses. Again, this can’t be achieved by a corporate strategy that stifles individual personalities.
There are of course key criteria that I look for in employees, but it’s as much about being an individual as opposed to fitting a mould. Employees must be able to work on their own initiative, accept responsibility and be flexible. The latter is very important as we are a service industry and things change every minute.
Don’t confuse this with a laissez-faire style of management. I’m fully aware that human nature dictates that complacency can set in if a business leader allows staff to slip into the comfort zone, which is as big a problem as a suffocated workforce. That’s why we look for continued improvement every day and constantly challenge staff so they don’t drop into the dreaded realm of underachievement.
All of the above means recruitment is very important. I’ve blogged before about staff retention and training, but without making astute decisions when selecting people to grow the team, staff turnover will be great and training fruitless. Rapid staff turnover puts unnecessary pressure on a company as time and resources are constantly being wasted on recruitment processes and getting people up to speed. Then they leave and the process starts again. It’s a merry-go-round.
Business leaders need to first identify when there is a need to recruit. At Rope and Sling, we typically align recruitment with our growth strategy (we’ve just opened our fifth depot), new inspection contracts or if someone of particular quality becomes available or expresses an interest in joining the company. It’s important to budget for recruitment but I’d urge companies to build flexibility and contingency into those plans. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that would be gone by the time the next financial year arrives.
Recruitment can be over complicated. Experience tells me, in this industry at least, that word of mouth and intuition are more effective than advertisements or working with agencies. It’s important to tailor a recruitment campaign to a sector. In the lifting business, for example, there’s no point reserving a whole day for shortlisting because the volume of quality candidates rarely warrants it. As a rule, we struggle to find an abundance of quality, available people.
A good handshake
Experience is key. This is a niche, specialist sector and it’s different to selling a consumer-based or run-of-the-mill product. And that’s what one needs to be mindful of, especially in a vertical market. Interviews have become an art form in themselves in recent years with interviewers practising bamboozling questions and candidates rehearsing their answers. Remember what I said at the outset. Companies should be looking to get to know individuals and candidates should go into an interview with a view to giving a good impression of him or herself as a person.
I’d urge candidates to be personable and build a rapport with the interviewer. This is a strong technique in demonstrating how one might come across to a customer, supplier or future member of staff. When my son heads out for his first interview, I’ll remind him that it’s important to be confident, polite, well-mannered, communicate well and, most importantly, greet the prospective employers with a good hand shake!
Will that interview be at Rope and Sling, in the lifting business, or something completely different? Well, that depends on a lot of things and it’s not something I’m impassioned about either way. What I’m more interested in is that he goes into a career that will be his passion. If fate has it that our paths cross, it would only happen if he were to bring added value to the company and not take it as an easy option or because it’s convenient. He owes that to himself as an individual, not just the company.
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Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd