Luke Watkeys, Business Manager
One classic gripe we hear from managers in SMEs (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) are the lack of promotional opportunities for their ‘high fliers’. It is true that larger organisations are usually able to offer more growth, with staff moving up the slippery pole by either being promoted within their department or transferring to another division.
Want our take on this conundrum? Sometimes you have to be honest with yourself (and your staff); if the opportunities aren’t there, they aren’t there. The best thing you can do is acknowledge it, offering to give your staff as many development opportunities as possible so that when the time comes (either in your organisation or another) they’ll be in a great position to go for it. It will help to keep them engaged whilst they are with you, and they’ll continue to love your organisation for helping them along the way.
So what are the ‘development opportunities’ available to staff in an SME? Large organisations tend to have bigger budgets for learning, creating economies of scale by investing in training packages for their bloated headcount of staff and managers.
If your budget is tight then consider alternative development methods. There are so many other learning methods (both on and off the job) available which may be better suited to learners’ needs, many of which can be delivered at virtually no cost.
Small organisations tend to find it harder to justify ‘formal’ training cost, but in a smaller workplace, achievements and results often seem more noticeable and employees can often be given a wider scope of opportunities to gain skills and experience e.g. on the job coaching, work shadowing, secondments, mentoring, research on the internet and networking.
3. Politics with a small ‘p’
There’s no avoiding politics. One of the clear differences that define smaller and large organisations is the bureaucratic nature of the larger entity. This can result in teams working in silos, or without an overarching understanding of the nature of the business, needing to use political nous to get things done. The structure in these worlds tends to be epitomised by policy manuals, HR inductions, job descriptions, handbooks and endless reams of meetings.
By contrast, in an SME due to the flatter nature of the management team, it is often easier to interact with decision makers as they will probably sit only a few feet away. Staff may also have long standing personal relationships with each other, often remarked upon as a ‘family feel’. Whilst this can lead to high engagement, with staff really feeling part of the action, it can definitely lead to heightened difficulties if said personal relationships break down for whatever reason.
We can learn something from larger organisations; have clear processes for dealing with issues, no matter what size. It won’t remove the family feel- it will just mean that should the family have a spat, there will be a clear and fair way of dealing with things.
As an organisation grows, so does the workforce. Nonetheless, small or large, you’ll always have staff challenges. There is no substitute for taking stock of your people situation as you grow, and making sure you have a sensible and pragmatic approach to keeping your staff happy and engaged.
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