Top 10 Best People Practices
Success isn’t just about products or services:
it’s about the people who help you drive your vision forward.
Welcome to our guide on the Top 10 Best People Practices - a journey into the heart of small business excellence. We’ll explore the essential elements of cultivating a thriving workforce, unveiling 10 key people practices that can help transform your company into a powerhouse of engaged, high-performing, and happy employees.
From hiring perfect talent to nurturing a culture of diversity and inclusion, each chapter is a roadmap to creating an organization where your people flourish and your business profits soar.
Best Practice #1: Hire Great People
Sometimes easier said than done, right?
The key is in evaluating not only the skills and experience that someone has but also the behaviors that they will bring to the job. Workplace behaviors are what create workplace culture, and to create a high performing, engaged workforce, you need to hire individuals whose values align with yours.
Behavioral interviewing is a technique that can be used to help identify key traits as well as weed out those who say they can do something but when asked for specifics, can't really elaborate. It focuses on an individual's past experiences, and how they've navigated them using their knowledge, skills, and capabilities. The goal is to ask specifics on how they handled a specific situation rather than asking hypothetical questions.
It is also a great tool for better understanding a candidate's perspective on things. For example, you could ask 'How do you deal with an upset customer?' and they could say 'Great! I've handled lots of them, not a problem for me.' But ask, 'Tell me about the most challenging customer interaction you've had: what was happening and how did you handle it?". Their answer may show you they are great at customer service or their answer may indicate they escalate calls quickly, or don't do well with conflict, or that their customer service skills are not up to what you'd need in the role.
Best Practice #2: Onboarding
Think structure and consistency when you think about onboarding.
While it's great to find individuals who know the job you're hiring them for, it's not a best practice to throw them into the proverbial pool and see if they can swim or not. Onboarding is not only about job orientation, it's about making the new hire feel included, valued, and a part of the team as soon as possible. Often, this can be started even before their first day!
Plan for their arrival, and take care of things before they get in the door. Have all the tech they need to do their job ready to go. Consider having an orientation buddy they can partner with on their first day to learn the ropes and ask questions. Make sure they meet lots of people and are included in lunch activities, group meetings, and other similar gatherings. Have HR reach out to check in on them in their first week, to check how things are going.
Lastly, consider a 30-60-90. This is an action plan that notes what the expectations are in their first 30 days, the next 30 days, and the last 30 days of the first three months of their employment. This leads right into our next best practice: clear communication.
Best Practice #3: Clear Communication
Providing clarity around job responsibilities and expectations can save you from a whole lot of problems later on. The use of a 30 - 60 - 90 or similar tool to establish the expectations during their first three months with you will help set them up for success.
By clearly outlining deliverables and the performance levels they need to achieve (think learning, applying, and fully demonstrating), and providing an opportunity to have a good dialogue about what they might need to achieve those goals, can help mitigate any potential potholes that may crop up during their probationary period.
This approach also promotes conversations around what tools, training, or support the new hire might need to fully meet those expectations. And continue on that path of open conversation and clear communication frequently.
Best Practice #4: Coaching for Performance
Coaching is an ongoing activity. It's about highlighting what is going well, and giving tips for how to improve certain aspects of someone's role. It requires ongoing feedback with encouragement and support and often takes a community not just one manager.
Today's worker needs to be celebrated for great work and provided training or coaching to bring forward other skills that may not be where they could, or should, be. Simply telling someone they need to do something better, or giving them answers, isn't effective; what is helpful is asking coaching questions that help them learn and troubleshoot issues themselves.
Set goals, provide guidance and support, and celebrate successes.
Best Practice #5: Employee Development
It's no secret that staff will leave an employer when they feel there isn't anything else for them to learn, or nowhere for them to go in terms of career progression.
One of the main things you can do to help retain your team members is to help them continuously grow and develop. Allow them opportunities to learn new skills and invest in them - courses, conferences, job shadowing, mentorships, etc. Help them create a career path within your organization, and then help them get there.
Best Practice #6: Work/Life Balance
Today's hottest topic is about flexible work schedules. A huge contingent of workers want to work from home or at least have a hybrid arrangement whenever possible.
If you can't provide remote or hybrid work, do consider how else you can provide a better work/life balance for your employees. Encourage breaks and balanced workloads, and ensure your team takes their vacation time. Do not contact staff on off-hours unless they are on-call (as specified in their employment contract). If you happen to like doing emails at 11 p.m., let your team know that you do not expect them to respond and it just happens to be a great time for you to get some work done.
Best Practice #7: Engagement & Culture
There are two main things to focus on if you want a highly engaged team and a great company culture: 1) Ask your team what they want and what they need to be happy and 2) Set expectations around behaviors in the workplace and enforce those expectations.
Conducting employee surveys a couple of times a year can provide a lot of insight into what your team members are thinking, and can help measure levels of overall engagement. But don't just conduct the surveys: report back on them as well as what steps you'll be taking to address any concerns.
Culture is an outcome of workplace behaviors. If they are bad, and not stopped, the culture will be toxic. If expectations are established around what behaviors are expected in the workplace, and then individuals are measured against it, you'll create the culture that you want. For example, if you want the team to work collaboratively, don't let individuals go off in silos. Reward the team, not individuals, when they succeed.
Best Practice #8: Total Rewards
Compensation is not just about 'cash in hand', although that is important. What also is important is highlighting all the other benefits that individuals receive when they work with your company.
This can vary from benefits such as medical and dental to paid time off, bonuses, or retirement plans. It can also include perks such as staff discounts and memberships, paid training or certifications, as well as covering annual fees for professional memberships.
While base compensation is the one constant across employers, everything else is a variant. Document what you provide on top of compensation so that prospective employees can truly evaluate what they are being offered and the total value it has to them. In addition to promoting this on your website's career page, it's also a great tool to use during the recruiting process so that candidates can compare offers. You may not ultimately be offering the most money, but when you add in all the other benefits, your offer may just come out on top.
Best Practice #9: Diversity, Inclusion, & Equity
Promoting diversity, inclusion, and equity within your workplace is not only the right thing to do, it's also a way to avoid exposing your company to legal and reputational risk. It is a key practice in attracting and retaining talent and allows you to build a diverse team that will be better at making informed and well-rounded decisions through the reduction of groupthink and exposure to a wider range of experiences and ideas.
It also is key to enhanced creativity and innovation, as well as expanded market reach given that a diverse team is better equipped to understand and connect with a broader range of customers.
It also demonstrates ethical leadership: doing what is right, not just for your business but for society as a whole.
Best Practice #10: Conflict Resolution
The fastest way to create an unhappy workforce is to leave conflict unresolved and simmering. The best advice is to always encourage staff to speak with you about their grievances and then help them to resolve them. Having clear procedures, and a fair and consistent approach, to resolving conflict can also help.
Conflict is inevitable, and in smaller companies where teams work closely together it is critical to address things swiftly. It isn't just about smoothing ruffled feathers; it is about helping create an environment where disagreements can be used as opportunities to learn and to grow.
Encourage empathy among the team, and help them always search for common ground in disagreements. Emphasize that conflicts should be resolved professionally and without personal attacks. Focus on the issue, not the person.
Keep in mind that each business is unique and your priorities vary. Keep this list of the Top 10 Best People Practices handy, tackle each one based on your specific needs and capabilities, and be prepared to adapt them as your business grows.
Remember: Your people aren’t just your greatest asset - they're your competitive edge!