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People management

A business’s most important asset is its people. If your business is to succeed, you’re going to have to get the best out of your employees. 

You’re only legally obliged to have an employment policy for disciplinary and grievance procedures and a written health and safety policy if you have five or more employees. But good policies about real-world issues can also remove any doubt about what’s expected of employees and employers. 

HR management  

Even those with years of HR (human resources) experience can find it tough to manage certain people some or all of the time. All employees are different and their personal and professional circumstances can change from day to day. 

What motivates one person might not motivate another. Some will naturally be more driven or have higher work standards. Some require little supervision, while others need lots.

Being fair yet firm will work with most employees, while a quiet word of encouragement might be more effective with others. You’re more likely to retain a good employee if they feel valued and appreciated. As well as being able to put your points across, you must also be able to listen to your staff. You’ll have to be flexible, too, because this enables employees to juggle their professional and domestic responsibilities. 

Staff appraisals 

You need to set clear, achievable objectives for all your employees. Only then can you assess how well they’re performing and help them to develop. You also need to remove obstacles and make sure employees have the resources they require. 

Staff appraisals provide the perfect platform to give feedback (good and bad). Employees can also tell you about any problems they’re experiencing. You can then agree the best way forward. An annual staff appraisal complemented by a shorter meeting every three months is advised, but you and your employees should be free to raise employment issues at any time. 

Morale and staff motivation 

Where feasible, involve employees in important decisions about their jobs and your business. Never make promises you can’t or won’t keep, because it will erode trust.

Don’t give your employees impossible workloads, either, it usually backfires. But that doesn't mean you should be a soft touch. Tackle ‘skivers’ immediately and don’t be afraid to give an employee a 'pep talk' when their performance or conduct dips, but give them the opportunity to explain themselves. And remember – even simply saying thanks to your employees can have a big impact on morale.

Don’t tolerate bullying or discrimination and make sure employees know the importance of acting professionally (which doesn’t mean they can’t have a laugh or enjoy their work). Keep your premises clean, tidy, spacious and comfortable, because working environment affects morale and people's health.

Rewarding good performance is crucial and cash bonuses always go down well – if deserved and you can afford it. Some small companies even give shares or offer perks. Promoting employees can also increase motivation, but overlooking deserving people will have the opposite effect, so be fair and even-handed at all times.

Discipline and grievance  

Discipline and grievance problems can happen in all organisations – which is when having a written employment policy, which details your discipline and grievance procedures, can protect you.

Your discipline and grievance procedures must comply with employment legislation, otherwise a wronged current or ex-staff member could take you to tribunal.

If problems arise, act quickly, fairly and decisively. Good mutual communication can prevent more serious consequences. Seek professional advice before disciplining or sacking an employee, if in doubt.

To find out how well your business manages its people, use the Acas Model Workplace tool.

More on this topic:

Find more articles, videos and tools in the Resources box on the right.

You can also find detailed guidance on your legal obligations towards your employees on the Law Donut.