IAN FERGUSON: The human touch in small business


Ian Ferguson

More than 80 percent of Bahamian businesses do not have the benefit of on-staff human resources professionals. Literally thousands of Bahamians are operating without a buffer between them and management.

Human resources is said to be the nucleus of any company. When the nucleus is strong and healthy, the firm thrives, but when the nucleus is damaged or absent, the cell ultimately dies. Some staff-related matters simply cannot go unaddressed. This week’s column shares three human resource questions facing many small businesses and seeks to provide answers.

Question 1 What is the easiest way to fire an employee?

Answer: There is never an easy way to terminate an employee. No matter how egregious the infraction, or how much the company cannot financially support the worker, we must always remember we are dealing with human beings. The three crucial rules that must be respected when severing ties with an employee are:

a Consult the labour laws. Know exactly where both you and the employee stand in light of any challenge to the company’s decision. Sometimes the employee is unfairly or wrongfully dismissed, and the company is forced to pay them thousands of dollars in compensation.

b Communicate the message with tact and precision. It becomes more painful to the team member when there are delays and the company wanders around the process. Swift and decisive action, after deep contemplation, is always best.

c Be as kind and respectful as possible throughout the process. Give the employee as much as you can in terms of severance pay, references, words of advice, an exit interview and anything else that will give them closure.

Question 2 How do I keep my staff motivated without many opportunities for upward mobility?

Answer: Most small businesses do not have the luxury of hierarchal structures and managerial roles for star employees to aspire to. The small business owner, then, must find ways to incentivise the diligent employee, encouraging them to remain even in a line staff position.

Some of the ways we suggest include:

1 Create a family environment where people feel a part of the company. People do not leave what they are vested in.

2 Involve them in decision making. Sometimes people do not need the title; they just want the opportunity to lead.

3 Compensate them according to their level of productivity. Give them a performance bonus as your company continues to thrive.

Question 3 How do you know when social media has become more of a distraction than a blessing for employees?

Answer: In this digital age, no progressive company operates without taking advantage of technology, including social media. By the same token, many employees seems engrossed in What’s App, Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. There are any number of security controls that employers can use to ensure social media is not abused by any employee. The company’s policy manual must speak clearly to social media use, and ongoing training must be directed towards encouraging compliance. The best way to ensure employees do not over-use social media is to give them meaningful work assignments. When employees have clearly defined deliverables that they are held accountable for producing, they will find less time to be idle.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.


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