Potential is a free-flowing thing. So is passion. But job profiles limit both. While they certainly are useful, job profiles should not be so rigid as to discourage employees from taking an interest in anything else. If an employee displays great enthusiasm in their role, chances are they will have something to contribute in other areas as well. They may be very good at what they do, and you definitely do need their skills there, but they may also have skills that you could use in other fields. You will never know until you try. Allowing for flexibility in job profiles is one way to do this.
So how can your small business benefit from flexible roles? In a number of ways. But primarily, flexible job profiles allow you to do the following:
1. Make the most of your limited resources
The cardinal rule for new small businesses is to make the most of their resources. And people are your most valuable resource, next to money. Start with specific job profiles and see how your employees deliver. Depending on their performance and potential, start involving them in other things, and look to expand their job profiles. You need as many ideas as possible in the initial days.
To give you an example, I run an online invoice factoring company. Like any online business, I need good writers and technicians to keep my website running smoothly. (I also need other people, but let’s keep this simple.) If I feel a writer is very versatile and talented, I try not to keep their abilities confined to writing assignments and blog posts. I get them to write general content for my website, and solicit their ideas for improved web design and ease of use. A good writer knows a lot about aesthetics and they can play around with words. I pair this writer with my web designer for a better looking, up-to-date, and flawless website. And in turn the writer may be able to improve the techie’s ability with words.
2. Explore the talent pool you have
Carrying on from the previous example, not everybody who uses a computer for work is actually good at making the most of it. But techies usually are. Get them to share some of their expertise with your non-IT people. I have some of my IT guys teach the new writers and researchers, over short hour-long sessions, how to use the Internet to their maximum benefit.
That involves an introduction to terms like meta-search and mega-search engines, among many other things, for a better search online. In my experience very few newcomers know of this, much less use it. As a result, the output of the writers and the researchers is that much better for using these resources, and as the owner of the company I benefit directly from better informed employees all around.
3. Boost creativity of your staff
We often get stuck in our thinking patterns, especially those among us who work in specialized fields. Involving employees with different job profiles in a brainstorming session regarding a problem that may not concern them all directly, can lead to some radical, out-of-the box ideas. It also encourages them to speak up and get rid of their inhibitions. Further, by involving your employees in a number of things, you give out a clear signal that you value their ideas. It makes them feel appreciated and important.
4. Tap into the experience of your employees to train your staff
Instead of hiring an outside trainer or motivational speaker, you can turn to one of your employees. If you have hired people with considerable experience, they will likely have attended management training programs in the past (in their previous workplaces). They will have ample experience of working with people of various age groups, backgrounds, and cultures. They will also know about the challenges of assimilation, work politics, a loss of motivation, etc.
Assign them the task of devising a program whereby they can channel their experience into a presentation aimed at motivating the staff and improving their performance. Even the most motivational of speakers seldom tell you that which you don’t already know.
So save the money, and get your most experienced people to do that. Team them up with the technically accomplished employees for beautiful-looking presentations. Coming from the fellow employees, their words will resonate more deeply with your staff.
5. Allows you to groom them for leadership
Encouraging people to take initiative leads not only to some creative thinking but also lets you spot those with a natural leadership talent. People often rise to the occasion if you give them a challenge. So please, go ahead. Some of them will play ball. (Not everybody is good with multiple things, however. Trial and error is the way forward.)
6. Finally, make them a deal they cannot turn down
Small businesses cannot always pay their employees great, and there is always the likelihood of youngsters learning their ropes with you and then moving on to bigger places. Those whose hearts are set on moving on, will do so. But you can improve your chances of retaining the talent by giving your employees non-monetary perks and benefits.
Offer them a good work-life balance. Make the office a delightful place to be at. I take my employees out for lunch and a movie every few months. At least once a month, we have our designated ‘takeout’ day, when I order lunch for all of us. I have lots of young employees so I let them play music at work. I also let them work from home the day they aren’t feeling well enough to come to the office. It is my experience that the more you please your employees, the more likely they will be to give you their best.
Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC LLC & Factor Auction. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Prior to CBAC, Andrew founded an annuity financing company relieving tort victims of financial hardship.
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