Unless your business is a seriously hi-tech one that uses very expensive equipment, the chances are that the biggest costs you face are staffing costs.

Another way of looking at this is not to think in terms of costs, but, rather, of investment. And, unless you think that this is just playing with words, let me reassure you that it is much more than that. If you want to get the best out of your staff, then it is essential that you think of them as an investment, not just a cost. So, that raises the question of how do you get the maximum return on your investment?

Most Or Best?

One significant, but a common mistake is to try and get the most out of your staff, rather than get the best out of them. And this too is not about playing with words – the distinction is crucial. Getting the most out of staff means squeezing every last bit of work out of them, putting them under pressure to do as much work as they can. The danger with this is that it can create resentment and ill-feeling which, in turn, can create low morale, higher levels of sickness absence and higher staff turnover – all very expensive consequences for a business.

Trying to get the best out of people, by contrast, is about making sure that they feel supported, valued and safe. That way, they are more likely to want to learn, develop and improve. They are more likely to feel engaged because if they feel they are being treated well, they are much more likely to have a sense of belonging and commitment. This means that there will be less sickness absence and less tension, so fewer conflicts, grievances and disciplinary matters to contend with. Plus, not only is it likely that you will get less staff turnover, but also the reputational benefits mean that recruiting the best people becomes much easier.

This isn’t about ‘going soft’ on staff; it is about treating them more as partners than wage slaves. Engaged staff can be a huge asset to a business (and make for a much more positive and pleasant working life all round), while disengaged staff can be a source of many major problems.


Increasing Engagement 

So, how do you increase engagement? First and foremost, you need to listen to your staff and know what their issues are. Staff who don’t feel listened to will be far less engaged. If your business is small in scale, you may be able to do this informally. However, for bigger businesses, you are likely to need a more formal system. There are two ways of achieving this. First, you could use an online survey to explore with your staff how well things are going in terms of workplace well-being issues. I have had a lot of success in helping companies build on what they are already doing well and build up those areas that are problematic in some way (and, let’s face it, no business is going to be perfect in how they manage their staff).

Second, you could use an ongoing engagement enhancement system that allows staff and managers to communicate about issues anonymously via the system’s dashboard. I have seen how this type of enhancement system can bring very positive results that more than justify the modest investment.

But, whichever approach you choose, the key is to remember that how well you handle the investment you make in your staff can make all the difference. Success in any organization generally depends on getting the people issues right.