SMEs come in all shapes and sizes of course, they operate in every market sector imaginable and offer every service and product possible, but in general, they all have something in common. The biggest asset an SME has is its staff. This does not just mean the management team, but the entire staff, in an SME they are the core of your business, because unlike large multinationals, it is difficult to carry any dead weight in smaller companies, everyone contributes to the success. With that in mind, looking at ways to improve their performance make a lot of sense.

However, knowing the best way to approach this is important, disruption in a workforce can be devastating for any SME, and here there are two approaches to take, optimisation and improvement.

Optimisation is a phrase commonly applied to processes, whether that is computer software, sales funnels or management, but it can apply to people to. In this context, optimizing personnel is all about the right people in the right positions, and keeping them there. We all know finding the perfect employee for any position is time consuming, it’s also costly. High staff turnover means lost productivity and endless recruitment, all of which impact on profitability. In this sense optimization is about ensuring that staff are happy and motivated, which usually means they are more likely to remain in their jobs.

How you do this can vary, while wellness programs that can ease issues with stress and other mental health problems, give employees motivation and keep them healthy and at work, they are not suitable for very small businesses as the cost involved can simply be overwhelming. However, good management and leadership can fulfil the same role, by being proactive with staff to motivate and encourage performance, but also to spot signs of problems early, and encourage a better sense of belonging to the group.

Personnel improvement can take many forms, and works hand-in-hand with any optimization programs, but here the focus is on helping employees advance their skills and competences. This could mean skill training, academic training and so on that help employees advance beyond their current skill levels. This has many benefits, first, investment in people builds confidence and a sense of belonging, so actually works as part of the optimisation process to retain employees, but it also allows you to reward that loyalty and dedication with improved positions. This means internal promotions, which also saves money.

it’s much cheaper to recruit internally than it is externally, and also leverages that employee loyalty as well to lower staff turnover rates. A good team is worth investing in, simply in the reduced need for recruitment and the costs and lost productivity that go with it, the return on that investment is well worthwhile. Over time with increased performance and a cohesive team it only ever increases.

Finding the right staff is one thing, keeping them, and making the most of those people is another, we all know about the first part, but just how many of us forget about the second?