How to treat staff as a new MD

The appointment of a new managing director can be an unsettling time for staff.

David Crabb, MD of IT services company Cambridge Online explains how to inspire trust while bringing in new talent.

Since my appointment six months ago at Cambridge Online Systems, new jobs have been created, but I’ve always wondered how to preserve the traditional values of the business. I guess it’s simple.

You must try not to parachute experienced people into mature teams – this simply ruins the team dynamic. Better still is to promote from within and back fill with junior roles to grow talent. If you advertise jobs internally and let staff know what you are doing then even with a mature and settled workforce, internal interest will always be high.

So what happens if your business does not have the people ready to move up a level? Well, progression does not need to be promotion. Most people like change as it keeps the mind stimulated and offers staff a chance to demonstrate their talent, which in turn helps people feel secure.

If you create an opportunity internally, identify someone who can grow into it, who has the aspiration and skills. Attitude is a big factor in making a role a success. It is a major risk putting a new recruit into a new role, with often too many variables. Offer the opportunity to existing staff who have shown commitment and loyalty first.

To do this, first get to know your staff. Identify their talents, understand what’s important to them and then formulate your plan around the people you have. Most companies put people in pre-defined jobs, which in my opinion is flawed as people do not fit neatly into boxes!

Companies who fail to recognise the individual needs of their workforce will fail to motivate the people they rely on to deliver results. Never assume that a pay rise is motivational – to some it may be so insignificant after tax that it can be insulting or at least deflating.

I do not believe that you need to treat people the same, as we are not the same. Yes of course we should respect equal opportunities, but consider how employers can make a positive impact on their staff by offering different things of similar value to different people.

For example, rather than the obligatory 1 or 2 per cent salary increase offered to everyone, an upgrade on someone’s company car or an increase in holiday may not differ in value but could have a greater effect on motivation.

My message is do not assume but ask and you may be surprised by the feedback you receive. Make your staff feel special, and your business will reap the rewards of their commitment.

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