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Research Results: Benchmarking Success through People

 Most of our readers will be familiar with our 8 Elements to Success through People© Model as a means to assess and prioritise value adding people-management practices in Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs).

We've had in excess of 50 SMEs complete the related diagnostic to date, so we thought it about time to aggregate the data and share some information about what it reveals about HR in SMEs.

The outer circle of the graphic (on the right) shows the average respondent score (out of 5) for each of the eight elements.

You'll see from the results that the elements that scored most highly were Managing Risk and Valuing Others:

Managing Risk is all about overseeing and mitigating the potential risks associated with employment: succession planning, attraction and retention, performance, work health and safety, Fair Work, awards and other legislative compliance

Valuing Others is about nurturing and valuing the contribution of your employees: recognition and reward structures, providing opportunities for growth, motivating for performance and saying thank you!

I was asked during a recent presentation to a group of HR professionals and small business owners if I was surprised by the results. Good question, and yes, to be honest I was.

In our own experience of consulting to SMEs for more than 10 years we've found, for example, that many owners and managers struggle with Australia's complex employment-related legislation – Fair Work, modern awards, National Employment Standards, work health and safety, tax, superannuation and a myriad of other legislation combine to make it difficult for those in SMEs to understand let alone meet their obligations.

While it's early days in terms of analysing these results, my thinking at this stage is that the discrepancy between the consolidated diagnostic results and our direct experience can be accounted for, at least in part, by the self-assessment nature of the diagnostic. SME business owners and managers directly complete the complimentary diagnostic, meaning that those who are unsure of their obligations may not realise the risks to which their business is exposed - that classic scenario of "you don't know what you don't know".

Similarly, while there's no doubt that there are many SMEs doing great things in terms of valuing their team, many other business owners and managers are often surprised when they receive feedback from their teams (by means such as leadership development initiatives and/or deployment of our Staff Pulse Survey, for example), that their staff feel undervalued. Many think that they are effectively Valuing Others, whereas those on the receiving end often think otherwise.

In terms of the lowest-scoring results, we have Clear Vision & Strategy and Being Accountable:

Clear Vision & Strategy relates to the business/organisation having a clear set of goals and plans, and ensuring that the activities of the employees are aligned to achieve these goals.

Being Accountable is about fostering a culture of accountability: setting KPIs and benchmarking, conducting customer and employee surveys, and being diligent in regards to performance management and review, for example.

These results are perhaps less surprising. SMEs are often so busy "doing the do" that taking time to contemplate, create, communicate and plan for the bigger picture of success often takes a back seat. Having a vision, mission, values and overall strategy are often in our experience seen by those in SMEs to be the domain of larger businesses. Not so – the vast majority of successful SMEs will have a sense of where they are going and a clear plan, well-communicated and regularly revised, to help them get there.

Similarly, holding others accountable can also be a big challenge for many within leaders and managers within SMEs. There can be a number of things in play here – it can relate to, for example, a lack of clear expectations against which to appropriately hold others accountable, a lack of experience in doing so (many of those in SMEs evolve into people-management roles, often with little opportunity for development/support), and/or the simple fact that holding others accountable will often mean engaging others in potentially difficult conversations in which the recipient's reactions can sometimes be challenging – anger, tears, passive/ or defensive behaviours etc… - which most of us tend to like to avoid!

We'll be further analysing and regularly updating our consolidated data as further SMEs complete the diagnostic. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn if you'd like to be kept informed of developments.

And of course, if you haven't already done so (or you did so more than 12 months ago), we'd love you to contribute to our online survey – it's completely confidential, free and will only take 10 minutes of your time to complete (note: if you elect to provide your email address after completing the survey, we'll produce and send you a tailored report (~15 pages) including practical tips and strategies you can implement to immediately improve your business).

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