Being small does not mean thinking small

I am surprised by the change in my staff as a result of starting a formalised objective setting and review process. We have not even finished and the change in her is remarkable. All we have done is come to an agreement on her job description and how the formalised objective setting and review process will work. She is beginning to take things over from me without being asked. She is also showing good signs of working independently.

In a previous blog post the majority response was don’t formalise staff appraisal. Do it as and when. This is fairly typical of small practices. Reasons given were lack of time, too formalised and so on. I respect this opinion but do not agree with it. Clearly it works for some people. On reflection this is not the way I want to go.

If properly thought through and applied formalised staff objective setting and review process is vital. It enables:

  1. Both parties come to an agreed set of objectives through discussion
  2. Set a time to review the objectives on a regular basis and of course provide help and support where staff is having difficulty. Also where necessary revise those objectives.
  3. In the worst case scenario where it becomes a disciplinary matter there is clear evidence that a review process took place and it is evidenced. If the case goes to an employment tribunal, a business would have firm ground to say it went through due process.

Formalised objective setting and review process is hugely time saving. Misunderstandings are avoided since expectations of each party are put on the table discussed and clear objectives agreed.

 

Comments
petersaxton's picture

Do what's needed and not more

petersaxton | | Permalink

I don't think anybody said that you shouldn't follow disciplinary procedures correctly.

If you have systemised your practice you can also say who should do what and you don't need a full blown HR system. Just talk to each other.

FirstTab's picture

we do

FirstTab | | Permalink

We talk to each other. As I said in my blog I disagree with not having a formal review process. Having a formal process is not a full blown HR system. It would be great if it was.

I

 

david.price's picture

A dangerous route    1 thanks

david.price | | Permalink

Formal job descriptions, "procedures", etcetera simply encourage a "jobsworth" approach by staff who end up working 9-5 and ticking all the boxes without ever putting their brains in gear.

In a small office, you indicate there are just the two of you, I simply cannot see why you would want, feel the need for, or waste your time on, objective setting and review processes.

In fact if you think it's neccesary to have such formal processes in place when you only have one member of staff, I would suggest you're employing the wrong person.

  

ShirleyM's picture

Monitoring    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

I think most people here are thinking along the lines of one single competent member of staff.

Going by comments made previously regarding this employee I think this may not be the case here. So what do you do when that single employee isn't so competent, and doesn't respond to 'informal' chats?

FirstTab has the right idea and is trying to help himself, and his employee. He is trying to get his employee up to the competency he needs, and recording the progress along the way. If it turns out the employee just doesn't have the ability he then has proof that he tried, and can either move her into a different job description, or get rid altogether.

Flash Gordon's picture

If it works...    1 thanks

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

If it works for you FT (and your staff member) then it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. It sounds like its focussed your staff or let her know that she can take on more and doesn't have to ask so much so that's great. You both benefit.

I don't think in this day and age that having some things formalised is a waste of time regardless of the size of your office. And if she works better having her objectives down in writing then that's another bonus. It's very easy when you're talking to assume the other person knows exactly what you're thinking just because you can see the thought in your head. Having it on paper prevents misunderstandings.

Besides if your practice keeps growing you'll need more staff and it's so much easier to have the systems in place from the start than be running to catch up!!

 

 

petersaxton's picture

Your clients and staff are people

petersaxton | | Permalink

Shirley said: "He is trying to get his employee up to the competency he needs, and recording the progress along the way. If it turns out the employee just doesn't have the ability he then has proof that he tried, and can either move her into a different job description, or get rid altogether."

Do you think it's a good idea to record progress in the early stages? The "staff" will think that FirstTab is trying to fit her up. I think FirstTab is doing the right thing to set up systems to run his practice - I have templates in place even when there is only me because it helps me.

Flash said: "And if she works better having her objectives down in writing then that's another bonus. It's very easy when you're talking to assume the other person knows exactly what you're thinking just because you can see the thought in your head. Having it on paper prevents misunderstandings."

FirstTab should be explaining to her how to use the systems he has devised and DOCUMENTED. He should then be monitoring how she uses them and explain anything she gets wrong or is unsure of. He should be on his "staff" 's side and not be noting things down for potential use in an employment tribunal. What's her objectives? To do what he has set out in his systems? He can put names in his systems. Updating the system documentation shouldn't be difficult if it is required. I think his system is documented enough for her to understand and if there are any problems they need to be rectified by face to face discussions.

I wouldn't start documenting the "staff" 's errors until I was getting seriously worried. At that stage I would explain what she was doing wrong in writing and set out improvements needed in writing. Before that stage I would be as helpful and friendly as possible.

ShirleyM's picture

I sympathise because I have been in the same position    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Peter ... we are both making a lot of assumptions, and yes, maybe FirstTab does make mistakes. Don't we all? I have had my practice many years and I still make mistakes, but hopefully, I learn from them and don't repeat them.

None of us are perfect and we have to devise ways to get around our weaknesses, and play to our strengths. It sounds like FirstTabs strengths relate more to large companies than small accounting practices. He may, or may not, learn the skills as he gets more experience. How will he know unless he tries?

The reason I sympathise with FirstTab over the staffing problem is because I have been in that situation in the past. It isn't always black & white and surely, it is better for FirstTab to try any way he can think of to solve the problem, rather than just throw in the towel and sack her, although this may be the ultimate conclusion. I also know from personal experience that sacking someone can be fraught with danger unless you have stringently followed recommended procedures.

Sorry FirstTab, for talking 'about' you, rather than 'to' you. Stick at it ... I often try many different ways until I hit upon the 'right' solution.

Flash Gordon's picture

People person    1 thanks

Flash Gordon | | Permalink

I'm not convinced that people persons (or should that be people people?) are in the majority on this planet anyway. A large number of the people I encounter seem to put themselves well and truly first and not spare any mental time for others. FT is putting systems in place and it seems logical to me that these would include staff. He's giving her the opportunity to meet his expectations - I wish my last boss had been that bothered! That can only benefit her surely?

 

I've always thought of objectives as being 'start doing tax returns without hand-holding' or 'prepare accounts to TB'.. that sort of thing. Peter seems to see them as more job description - more what you are (supposed to be) doing rather than what you can grow into doing. Which might suggest that we're both making assumptions and having it written down clarifies it? :)

petersaxton's picture

Wait a few months

petersaxton | | Permalink

Mod note - due to earlier moderated comments, references in this post may now be out of context. Apologies for any confusion / inconvenience caused.

 

"maybe FirstTab does make mistakes. Don't we all? I have had my practice many years and I still make mistakes, but hopefully, I learn from them and don't repeat them."

That's why I said: "I'm not saying that I am right all the time but I make a decision and move forward. You keep coming back to previous decisions without any obvious reason."

I would assume that FirstTab is not paying his "staff" a big salary. He can always come back and disagree if he wishes. If he does sack his "staff" he will most likely replace her with somebody who is no better. I think in his position he is unlikely to want or be able to get somebody who is high quality. I would review the "staff" 's work and consider whether paying the staff and reviewing her work is cheaper than doing the work yourself.

When I worked for an international firm of accountants my work was reviewed by everybody up to partner. It was amazing what a person looking at it from the outside could see. Maybe in FirstTab's case it's more about seeing whether there are any errors.

When I was in industry and in charge of a department I would go through all the post and give it to my "staff" - more than one - so I was aware of what was going on and consider any problems. I dealt with genuine issues on a day to day basis. Everybody in the company thought that personnel reviews were a waste of time and never addressed real problems. If anybody got sacked it would be through fabricated reviews to support the view required and a payment of sufficient to ensure the victim wouldn't complain. I've seen this happen in more than one company. I would prefer to trust my judgement in dealing with "staff" rather than copy what a big company does. FirstTab is at liberty to copy what a big company does.

carnmores's picture

i loved the use of 'my staff'    1 thanks

carnmores | | Permalink

and then its one employee

and yes First Tab does make mistakes - he has just admitted it on CEO's blog - all power to his elbow - admit and learn 

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