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“A company’s employees are its greatest asset and your people are your product.”— Richard Branson

This statement is made by many owners/managers of businesses; maybe not in those actual words, but by implication. However, there are few business owners who do not experience challenges relating to their employees. This is a reality for us all.

The question remains as to what goes on behind the scenes in a business where employees are seen as a troublesome necessity; or as the greatest asset, in the alternative.

One or more of the following practices can be found in businesses where employees are seen as a troublesome necessity:

  • The business’ strategy and value practices have not been clearly articulated and communicated – employees do not know where the business is heading, or what the moral compass (values) of the business is.
  • Not all employees are being paid a market-related salary.
  • Work has not been clearly delineated – employees do not know what is expected of them.
  • Employees receive few or no fringe benefits (provision for retirement, medical care, leave).
  • The work offers few or no prospects for advancement.
  • The business makes no effort to improve the employees’ level of skill.
  • Management practices appear draconian and may have unrealistic expectations of the employees.
  • Employees do not feel respected.
  • Staff turnover in the business is high.
  • The physical working environment is inadequate (work station, work aids, relaxation area).

On the other hand, many of the following practices can be found in businesses where employees are seen as an asset:

  • Note: The list above could also be used as a guideline on which practices should be considered if employees are seen as an asset.
  • All employees have written job descriptions and contracted key performance indicators (KPIs) – employees know what is expected of them.
  • Continuous performance evaluation of employees takes place to monitor progress against contracted outcomes and to make adjustments where necessary (extra assistance, further training).
  • Employees receive market-related remuneration.
  • There are clear and regular communication practices in the business – employees feel informed.
  • A bonus structure is in place to reward employees who perform according to their contracted outcomes.
  • A share incentive scheme could possibly be utilised to reward senior employees and to let them share in the growth of, and increase in, the marketable value of the business.
  • There is mutual respect among employees on all levels of the hierarchy.
  • Management practices are participatory – the input of the employees is valued and used sensibly.
  • The business is a ‘learning organisation’, where time, effort and money are spent to equip all employees to be able to do their work.
  • The business offers its employees opportunities for growth and promotion.
  • Employees are good ambassadors for the business.

In conclusion

The key questions that all business owners should be asking if we want to place ourselves in the shoes of our employees, are:

“What would my expectations as an employee of the business have been and do my current employment practices meet these expectations?”

To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straight forward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success

Go to to download your free copy.

Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market



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