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How do you grow your employees during a skills shortage?

How do you grow your employees during a skills shortage?

Skilled workers are getting harder to find – as our Spring Pulse Check revealed. The big question is how do you keep your employees happy and engaged so they’re not tempted to head somewhere new?

In pre-COVID times a pay rise might have been just the thing to keep them onboard but as times get tougher that may not be feasible. How do we tackle this tricky topic in these difficult days?

Pay and conditions are top of the list for many employees but in today’s world people look for more from their employer including the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Excellent internal communication is vital to ensure your employees know what is going on and that they feel listened to and understood. Small businesses frequently report that their staff are like family but sometimes, as can happen in any family, people don’t talk to each other enough and problems arise.

All businesses – small or large – must remember that while employee engagement is important, the employee experience is now a critical consideration. The employee experience has a number of different aspects, internal communications being one, with the others including training and development, recognition of their work, how change is managed, flexibility and a sense of purpose.

You may not be able to provide a pay rise at this point in time but the other aspects of the employee experience are within your grasp.

Focus on training and development and, again, if budgets are tight, look for help and support through schemes like the Regional Business Partner Network. Communicate constantly – keep your employees briefed on the changes and challenges the business may face and celebrate the wins. Recognise their efforts – it could be as simple as publicly acknowledging a job well done – but let them know you appreciate their skills and abilities.

After our year of working from home, working through disruption or not working at all, we all understand the need to keep people engaged when the organisation is operating remotely and there are many approaches to help with this but don’t forget to maintain the good communication habits you cultivated during the crisis and stay connected to your employees.

If you find you can’t recruit someone who has the skills necessary to support your business look to your existing staff – there may well be someone already working for you who is willing to grow and is capable of doing the job but they will need you to invest in the extra training or development to undertake the role and, of course, pay them appropriately for their work. 

Above all, be a trustworthy employer. Your employees will be looking to you to lead them through this period of time and effective communication, a good employee experience and a demonstration that you care will help keep your ‘work family’ together and growing happily.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Credit issues are on the rise

Credit issues are on the rise

Our recent Business Pulse Check showed 7% of respondents have experienced more late payers and defaults, while 4% are struggling to pay creditors. In recent client coaching sessions, I am also noticing that there is an emergence of fiddly credit issues that are starting to take up a little more time for both business owners and their credit staff.  These issues range from company liquidations, more creative excuses for not paying, down to just not paying on time, or paying later than normal. In some cases, the debtor has grown their exposure with the company over recent months without any further analysis of the increasing credit risk.

In a paper I wrote earlier this year on the Changing Face of Credit Risk I emphasised the need to continue to be vigilant with your credit control processes and procedures.

With the Christmas break coming up it is critical that everyone makes sure they have robust processes in place for collecting outstanding debts – including pro-actively following up overdue amounts expediently. Anything left outstanding on Christmas Day is unlikely to be paid until late January, with the resultant impact on your company cashflow at a time when it is most needed.

In the meantime I would suggest you remain focused on the following:

  • Watch for changing signs with any clients i.e. increased exposure/delays or excuses in paying.
  • Where appropriate be pro-active in updating Terms of Trade, particularly in cases where you may not have personal guarantees and exposure is increasing.
  • Use credit checking more regularly for clients who are showing different patterns in their payments.
  • If appropriate, consider registering under the PPSR register.
  • For clients showing changes in trading/payment patterns consider putting in place credit watch processes.
Photo of Christchurch TBO Steve Wilkinson

Steve Wilkinson is the owner of The Alternative Board Christchurch and North Canterbury.  You can contact Steve on  021 334 203, [email protected], or connect with him on LinkedIn.

What does your business plan look like now?

What does your business plan look like now?

We’ve all been learning fast this year as we’ve had to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and growing uncertainty. As we approach the end of 2020, we’ll need to bring those learnings into sharp focus as we either renew or adapt our business plans to take account of the changes we’ve collectively experienced this year.

Take supply chain management. Many of our business owners have started to experience disruption in this area so our planning for 2021 needs to address the risks and issues around our supply chain, what that might mean for the business and what we need to adapt in our planning process in order to meet the challenge.

If this feels too hard, or trying to look ahead seems overwhelming, don’t be deterred.

Take a breath, follow the process step by step, asking the following questions:

  • Where do I want my business to be by the end of next year? Think about things like;
    • business structure,
    • revenue,
    • profit,
    • cash,
    • staff,
    • customer experience,
    • my role
  • What do I need to get right to make this happen? In other words, what are my top three Critical Success Factors?
  • What are my key objectives (no more than seven) for the year?
  • How will I know I am achieving this?
  • Who will hold me accountable for meeting my goals?

If you are struggling with any of these questions, talk to us. We’ll bring you together with a board of other business owners who want to help you to get this right and achieve your goals.

Business Mentor and Business Coach

Scott Morris is the owner of The Alternative Board Auckland East.  You can contact Scott 0n 021 686 696, [email protected], or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Unsettled Spring brings supply chain disruptions

Unsettled Spring brings supply chain disruptions

Issues concerning working capital and supply chains have emerged in the Spring Pulse Check, with members flagging problems with orders, disruptions and payments.

Difficulties with supply chains, imports and exports have been due to port and shipping disruptions but despite the challenges, members are proactively planning their future after a year which saw most business owners change the way they operate. Some have opted for digital transformation, others increased marketing spend while still more reduced their costs and, in doing so, increased profits.

The Spring Pulse Check found that overall, confidence and optimism remain high and job prospects steady in small-to-medium size businesses outside the hard-hit sectors of retail, tourism and hospitality but there is a rise in the number of businesses having difficulty finding skilled workers.

At a personal level, business owners are exhausted – the majority would like nothing more than to switch off for a few weeks or, at the very least, have a bit of a rest, but the main reflections provided in the Spring Pulse Check have been the ‘three wishes’ they would ask of Government. These included continuing financial support, consistent policies plus a plea to give small businesses more work and greater involvement in discussions about their sector.

Stephen James observed: “Our members have flagged a number of issues and, although numbers are relatively low at present, it suggests there will be no smooth sailing into summer.  Member confidence levels and optimism remain high but fatigue is setting in. Having maintained confidence and resilience through the main crisis periods, their hard work and stress is starting to take its toll. 

“The ‘three wishes’ they would ask of the Government were continuing financial support, something that has been a lifeline for businesses large and small, consistent policy, so keep doing what you’re doing but do it really well and, lastly, a plea to put small businesses to work starting with less red tape and providing greater accessibility to government contracts or tenders.”

The Spring Pulse Check surveyed 269 members and associates between 30 October – 6 November with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error. You can download a copy of the results in full here.

The Alternative Board conducted the Spring Pulse Check with 269 members and associates between 30 October – 6 November with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Stephen James is the owner of The Alternative Board NZ.   You can contact Stephen on 021 606 934, [email protected] or connect with him on LinkedIn

Minimum 3, Maximum 7 (Optimum 5)

Minimum 3, Maximum 7 (Optimum 5)

A big frustration for many people is having too many things on their lists or, alternatively, not thinking they have enough options when faced with a problem.

Think about “Minimum Three, Maximum Seven, Optimum Five”.

This is a great rule to keep things simple, make better decisions and assist with planning for business or personal issues. The key is to force your thinking to come up with at least three or more items on any list you prepare (minimum three), and to limit the list to no more than seven (maximum seven).  The optimum number is five.  This rule can be used in many facets of our everyday lives, and helps to clarify thinking, and make decision making easier.  Start looking around
and I am sure you will see it in practice, and many places where it can be applied.

If you have an issue that needs to get sorted and you can only think of one or two solutions, keep thinking until you have at least three.  If you are brainstorming and have created a list of ideas or options that is very long, go through and prioritise the list.  Often, as you are prioritising, you will see that some of the options are really just hybrids of each other.  Reword and shrink your list down to maximum seven.  Some items may become part of others within your list.  The end result of this is a very manageable and focused list of three-seven items.  Five is the most manageable number, and often gives the best results in terms of being most effective with resources available.

Extensions of this rule are everywhere.

• How many staff do you manage (effectively)?
• How many projects are you running (successfully) at one time?
• How many (quality) meetings did you have today?
• How many (important) customers/clients do you have that you manage very well?
• How many (profi table) products / services / divisions does your company have?

Look for the three-seven rule in your business.  It may help you solve issues in a way that you just haven’t used before.

Business Mentor and Business Coach

Scott Morris is the owner of The Alternative Board Auckland East.  You can contact Scott 0n 021 686 696, [email protected], or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Business Planning