Being at the helm of a small business is a great responsibility and one you should not take lightly. If you succeed, there are many rewards for you, but you also need to look after the people making this journey with you. With everything else you have to do, it can be easy to overlook key staffing issues, and while it might just be an inconvenience to you, it means a whole lot more to those on your payroll.
To ensure you don't make the kind of basic errors that cause morale to drop and staff retention rates to plummet, you need to address some important areas, starting with probably the most important.
When you first started, it might have just been you and the occasional person drafted in to help. Now you have an office and possibly a shopfloor and warehouse full of people working for you; you need to hand the HR over to the experts. This does not mean hiring a whole HR department, as this could significantly dent your budget. Instead, you should consider outsourcing to a specialist company that can do it for you.
This will be the perfect solution if you feel out of your depth supporting your team, especially if one or more of them have needs you have no previous experience dealing with. There are some definite benefits to having your HR on your doorstep, so if your business is in Bristol, you should also have your HR Dept in Bristol or nearby. That way, the HR company could visit and see your requirements so they can tailor their service to meet your needs exactly.
If you don't have the right people with you, then your business is likely to go nowhere. As above, you might have started as a one-man band, but you can't do everything yourself. Thus, you need to recruit correctly. If you are busy, you might be tempted to offer a role to the first applicant. However, this could lead to problems further down the line, either with results or with your current employees.
Instead, you should take time and use the right strategy to look for the right person. Thus, advertise the role as widely as possible, and even get agencies involved. When carrying out interviews, don't just do it yourself. Instead, involve the people the new hire will be working with to see if they will be a good fit for the existing team. It is often better for some roles to find the right person and train them rather than recruit somebody with the right knowledge who will disrupt the equilibrium.
On that note, if you see training as an annoyance rather than a necessity, then you are asking for trouble. The benefits of fully trained staff far outweigh any cost savings made by cutting corners here. Just having a new recruit with ten minutes of 'on the job' training can lead to quality problems and having to recruit again. This is because they are likely to leave after a short while as they don't know what they are doing.
This can be avoided by writing down procedures for all of the processes in your business. If you don't want to do it yourself, you can outsource this to those who know what they are doing. It might also be wise to ask them to collaborate with you as you draw up a training program for new starters. Also, create refresher courses for those who are still with you.
Training can affect morale, but it is not the only factor. Having poor morale in the workplace can affect quality and sickness levels. Not to mention, the willingness of your workforce to do overtime or put in extra effort when you need them to.
You should ask for and act on feedback from those who work for you. After all, you won't be able to spot every issue yourself. There might be unreliable machinery or software that constantly breaks and has people tearing their hair out. Or, you might need a dedicated break room for true relaxation. Or, perhaps you need to offer different hours to those who might need it due to family commitments.
Just because you are at the helm of the business, yours is not the only opinion that matters. Nothing sends morale through the floor faster than a workforce that does not know what is going on. Rumors can start, especially if you are going through a lean patch. Or, if you are spending a lot of time in your office planning.
Open meetings with everyone can solve this problem. This way everybody knows what the short-term future looks like, how full the order book is, and any changes that need to be made. Of course, this might lead to more feedback, but that can improve the ideas you have even further.