“I really don’t want to employ staff!” a company director, called Ravi, who employs 50 in a London marketing consultancy told me recently. He had asked to see me because of his increased stress levels which manifested themselves in his inability to concentrate, sleepless nights and frequent mood swings. However, he blamed his problems on his workforce.

So exactly what were his problems? Why was he stressed-out? Why did he think that his employees were the root of his problems? I made an appointment to see him.

He said that many of his staff always seemed to be dissatisfied and frequently complained. Most of the workforce appeared to be demotivated and morale was at an all-time low. He therefore decided to run a Confidential Staff Attitude Survey — the results of which made him feel even worse than before. This is what it highlighted.

His management team said that they had never been properly informed as to the vision of the company or even what the management plan was for the next five years. In other words, they did not know in which direction the company was headed and not even informed of the details of corporate policy.

Apparently, there was little or no ongoing professional development or up-to-date training for their roles and they were therefore unable to progress in their jobs or qualify for promotion. There was a once-a-year performance review but that was totally insufficient to maintain good productivity during the whole year.

It was reported that very few employees appreciated their role and their worth within the organisation and a majority felt undervalued. These feelings were discernible in nearly every department which was the reason why energy levels and morale were so low.

During our conversation, we tried to deal with each issue systematically, as follows:

Company vision

First of all, we looked at the company vision. Where was the business at present and where did Ravi want it to go? What was his vision for the next five years?

He needed to come up with his own management and performance plan for the future, and he agreed to have a 360-degree feedback exercise with his top management team where each member was given 10 minutes to deliver his individual thoughts on how the business could be improved. It wasn’t an easy exercise as everyone was being asked to be open and frank but confidentiality was assured.

By the time this exercise was completed, Ravi was able to see what everyone needed to be part of his vision for going forward. They all appreciated that it would take time to get to where they wanted to go but with all the feedback properly implemented, this would be used in going forward.

Continuing professional development training

The next stage was to ask the team to see what they felt was missing from their existing training and what they might need in the future. Many roles had changed over recent months due to the economic climate and there was also a knock-on effect on team members.

For instance, John, one of the company’s IT directors didn’t feel that he was sufficiently up to speed with internet marketing and, because of this, he could see that they were losing market share. Action was immediately taken for him to attend various social networking training programmes.

Performance reviews

Instead of these taking place once a year, they will, in future, be bi-annual but will now not be the only times when a two-way conversation will take place. Every manager will now have a structured one-hour weekly meeting where everyone would bid for time to speak. Records will be kept from each meeting and actions required noted next to each person’s name to ensure follow through and accountability.

The above three issues were just a start to turning Ravi’s business around and it is now two months since this process started.

In speaking to him last week, he says that morale and motivation have more than doubled, and both he and his staff now enjoy going into work. Of course, Ravi knows that he has to maintain this improved productivity but now that he has new structures in place, it will give him a greater chance for sustainability. This approach has certainly decreased his stress levels.

Key Points

* People are always the most valuable asset.

* Continued professional development is vital.

* Good communication equals high morale.