For all growing businesses, and for start-ups in particular, one concern which often appears at an early stage is the risk of dilution of the ethos of the organisation as new employees join who may lack buy-in to the founding concepts.
An important step which can be taken by a business is to capture what makes the business tick and build it into an employee handbook and induction for new joiners.
It is understandable that, for a lot of new businesses, this may appear to be a time-consuming and bureaucratic task which is not their primary focus. However, the handbook does not need to be lengthy and getting it in place is key because it is often the original values and mentality of businesses of this kind which set them apart from competitors, from the perspective of both users of their services and prospective talent in the employment market.
It also forms one of the building blocks of a good employee relations strategy for a growing organisation, which should focus on direct employee engagement. This in turn can give a business the full benefit of the skills and talents of its employees and maximises employees’ opportunity to contribute and develop.
In preparation for future growth, businesses should then seriously consider laying the foundations for a strong Employee Forum. Any administrative and time costs should easily be outweighed by the benefits to the business of the workforce having a real, meaningful level of ‘ownership’ of their engagement with their employer while keeping employee relations in kept in house and appropriate to the ethos of the business.
When it comes to establishing an Employee Forum, the business would need to provide a “legal” training day to chosen employee reps. They would then be in a position to be trusted partners, who for example, can help deliver messages to the wider workforce is essential. Having Individuals on the Forum who are trusted by their colleagues to act as companions in disciplinary and grievance processes is a valuable asset for maintaining harmonious employee relations.
Once the Employee Forum is up and running, it is essential that senior management is seen by the workforce as supportive of and working with the Employee Forum and that the Forum is able to get decisions implemented. Management must understand that the Forum reps can act as companions and may challenge management decisions without putting their own careers on the line.
To maintain credibility, outputs and results also have to be observed and there has to be a regular injection of ideas to ensure that it does not become jaded.
Alongside an Employee Forum, we would recommend the use of focus groups, particularly as the business grows in number of employees. These are an excellent way of testing the temperature within the workforce. Employees will feel that their views are being taken seriously and they provide another direct form of engagement with the workforce. These provide the company with a good steer on issues and can be run periodically, supported by surveys as appropriate.
Focus groups or an Employee Forum can be used to find out the perks that interest employees , such as consumer benefits, discounted insurance benefits, health related discounts, travel deals, gym membership, vouchers etc. Look at providing any affordable perks if you do not provide them already because this can be a cost effective way to both demonstrate and improve employee engagement.