“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

I was recently asked if I was satisfied with the project and I was… to a point. The systems and processes of stock management, sales tracking and payment tracking were strong enough to give the business owners confidence to expand, and plans to do so were already in the works. However, the real potential for this small-enterprise was the yet untapped full potential of their staff. Yes, during the project there was a component of computer training and all of our process improvements were co-created with staff who gained experience in analyzing the organization.

Looking at the warehouse stock management process

To tap into the immense wealth of their staff, they had to truly invest in their people. I was lucky. The owners also felt that staff development was the next step and we scheduled a meeting to address this opportunity.

I framed the discussion with the four headings:

  1. Vision – what do they see when the look into the future of the company
  2. Structure – how will they set up their staff to grow and develop (roles, responsibilities and incentives)
  3. Daily interactions – how they work with staff and create an environment that promotes development
  4. Underlying values – what are their deep personal beliefs and how does that affect the way they work

The first two were easy.

Vision: We quickly solidified their vision for the company. It was to be able to focus on the big picture strategy to grow the business while staff ran the company.

Structure: Ideas on what roles the business needed were drafted. Staff were also asked to track all their daily tasks for the week since there was no cohesive understanding of the details surrounding everyone’s current role. All were also asked to identify what three things about their job excited them the most to help tailor responsibilities to fit what people would like to do.

However, the last two worried me. I knew from being embedded with staff that incentives and performance metrics didn’t actually motivate them. Many were actually demotivated by their working environment and the last two headings aimed to tackle that.

“Your incentives, aren’t working”, I said, “there’s a disconnect between what they’re measured on and what they feel they can achieve. What really matters is how you interact with your staff”. I saw nods of agreement.

This is where I began to talk about underlying values. How they interacted with staff depends a lot on how they view them. “You should be sure to focus on the positive characteristics and development of your staff. Much like the other technical advisor recommended to focus on the good shops since it’s a tendency for business owners to focus on shops that aren’t doing well, the same tendencies can creep into how you view your people.” They agreed and gave anecdotes reinforcing this fact. The structure and vision are very easy to set up. But being genuinely focused on people’s growth and trying to re-examine deeply held beliefs is more than difficult.

By the end of my placement roles were drafted based on staff input and another EWB staffer who came to assess the project saw indications that management was beginning to focus on the progress and wins that their staff have been making.

Mapping the tasks each staff is responsible for

If they continue to grow and genuinely invest in their people, I believe this small enterprise will go a long way.