When working with a Client recently to support them in managing a Grievance, it occurred to me that sometimes we can be so focused on the positives of growing our business and recruiting new talent and skills, that we can often overlook the implications of these changes for those we already have working with us.

Every Managing Director is excited to see their business grow and develop, after all, that’s why you’ve spent sleepless nights working out how many new Clients you need to break even, let alone make a profit and why you’ve fallen asleep at your laptop for the 3rd night in a row It’s your baby and to finally see it taking off is very exciting. However, as any parent knows, each phase in a child’s life brings with it new challenges and a level of growing pains that all too often they weren’t prepared for. Therefore, just like the growing child, as your business grows and develops , it too will face ‘growing pains’ that you as the ‘parent’ will need to be ready to manage, particularly as you start to expand your team and restructure to accommodate new recruits.

We’re all emotional beings who attach value to our place within a business. Not necessarily our role or title, per se but where we fit in to the bigger picture, the level of accountability that we have and the reliance that the business has on us to help them succeed. We’ve all heard the phrase that people ‘need to be needed’ and it is particularly true in small and medium sized organisations where employees ‘grow up’ with the business and see themselves as an integral part of the organisation. However, as a business grows, it is true to say that the roles, relationships and responsibilities within a business need to change too, which can be painful for you, the business owner, if you’re not equipped to manage this process effectively. At best, you may have some individuals who are disgruntled but eventually ‘get with the programme’, at worst, you may find yourself sitting across from an ex-employee in an Employment Tribunal, signing your name to a cheque for an amount equal to that 5* holiday you’ve been promising yourself as a reward for your success, wondering where it all went wrong.

So how can we ensure that as we grow and expand our team that the experience is great for everyone? Firstly, it pays to be clear on how the structure of your business may be impacted by growth. What new role/roles will be needed? Where will these roles fit in – who will they report to and more importantly who will report to them? What are their duties and responsibilities going to be and will this have implications for anyone else in the team? Is there anyone internally who might be directly impacted by any of the new roles e.g. if this is a senior position, and there are already individuals in your business who perform a similar function, have you given them the chance to throw their hat in the ring, even if you know they haven’t really got the level of skills or experience that would be required for such a role? Lots to think about, so now that you’ve asked the questions and come up with the answers, what next? COMMUNICATE!

Often when dealing with change within an organisation it’s not so much ‘what’ we do as ‘how’ we do it that matters. In a small business with 3 or 4 employees communication is easy – phone calls are overheard, discussions are in open forums and the individuals we have employed are confident multi-taskers that we rely on to ‘step in’ and support us, even if what we need them to do isn’t really what they were recruited for. They get ‘it’, and you, and everything seems to flow easily.

However, as the business grows and the team starts to expand, a focus on communication can easily become overlooked. Additional team members mean you forget who knows what, new offices with meeting rooms mean phone calls and meetings are behind closed doors and suddenly, whilst you have your head down pushing the business on, that confident multi-tasker, who had seen themselves as a key staff member perceives their role as being marginalised, their accountabilities reduced and their status as your right hand man (or woman!!) being taken from them. How did this happen you ask? Just as a child needs reassurance and security, so too do your employees. Therefore, in order to ensure that they still feel part of the bigger picture, it is necessary to focus more than ever on your communication strategy. Here are our top tips to reduce the risk of today’s rising star becoming tomorrow’s fallen angel:

  • Meet with individuals when a change or development in the organisation affects them directly, even if they are on Maternity or Paternity Leave, off on Long Term Sick or have been travelling frequently and so have been out of the office. Reassure them that they are still a valuable team member; however, the business now has different needs. Take them on the journey with you and keep them up to date as far as possible.
  • Advertise all new roles internally and allow individuals the chance to apply, even if you believe they do not have the skills/capabilities for the position – they may surprise you and even if they don’t, they will appreciate the opportunity.
  • Ensure that where an individual has been unsuccessful for a new role that you provide them with feedback as to why they were unsuccessful and discuss how you or their new line manager can help support them to develop.
  • Where possible, have an ‘Open Door’ policy where anyone can come talk to you, even if they now have a new line manager
  • Consider a monthly meeting with your direct reports, that they can then cascade to the wider team
  • Set up quarterly ‘skip level’ meetings, where individuals who don’t directly report to you, can meet with you to discuss their views and ideas for the business
  • Remember, you can’t always be everyone’s friend but don’t forget to have fun! Business is exciting, challenging and rewarding and when you can share that with your team and move forward together, that’s the best reward of all!