Over the years I have managed a lot of employees and learnt a lot in the process. In my opinion it is important to start by selecting good employees to work for you. Take your time going through a thorough selection process. You then need to train each successful candidate properly. This is the area where management often falls down.
I hear so many stories of people not doing their jobs properly. More often than not, it is because they have been poorly trained. If you train employees correctly from day one, and they then fail to do something correctly, then you can point out their error. If the employee continues to make the same mistake, then you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
When training employees I used the "now show me" technique. I would show the employee what to do, and then say "now show me." If they cannot do what you demonstrated, then you have not shown them properly. If they do the job correctly, you will know they understand what is required.
If at a later date, the employee later fails to do the job correctly, you will know that retraining is required. If he or she continues to make the same mistake, then you have a problem employee on your hands.
Another thing I have discovered in business; is that you need to be flexible with some things, but not flexible with other things. I like to give employees a level of responsibility and trust. They will not get everything right, nobody does. I like employees to have some authority to make some decisions and to do some things their own way.
However, some tasks require 'non negotiable' standards. This is because every business needs to have certain ways of doing things, with rules and guidelines to operate by. You cannot just have employees making up the rules to suit themselves. Procedures and methods need to be in the best interests of the customer, and for the smooth operation and success of the business.
Here are a couple of examples from my own experience in business.
I operated retail stores for many years and involved employees in making some of the decisions that directly affected them. When I decided to update the uniforms worn by employees, I got them involved in the design process. After all, they were the ones who would be wearing the new uniforms. However, in saying that, the new uniform design needed to meet certain requirements pertaining to practicality and marketing image.
After discussing the options with employees, I realized that opinions varied a little, depending on the age of each employee. The older employees preferred a slightly more conservative styling and the younger ones favored a more contemporary look.
After deciding on the basic color scheme and design, we agreed on various acceptable combinations, so employees could modify the uniform to suit their own personality. However, employees were required to wear the uniform...that was non negotiable. The uniform needed to be worn within the stated guidelines using the acceptable combinations... that was non negotiable.
So, as you can see, there was flexibility for employees, yet they still needed to comply with 'non negotiable' dress standards as a condition of employment.
I took photographs of the various combinations that were acceptable, and let employees decide which one they wanted to wear. The employees were extremely happy and proud of their new uniforms despite some aspects being non negotiable.
Procedures relating to 'cash handling' were also non negotiable. Each cash register had compartments for the different denominations of notes. Employees were required to put the notes into the cash register in the correct compartments with each note facing the same direction. That might sound a little strange for anyone who has not worked in retail. However from experience, I knew it took just as long to put the money away in a tidy manner, as it did to shove the notes into the register in any fashion. It was a simple procedure that worked. The cash registers remained tidy and with the notes all facing the same way, counting the money was quicker and easier. This just became a habit for employees, even though it was a non negotiable standard.
In summary, people deserve proper training when starting a new job. So, train employees thoroughly. They need to know what is, and is not, acceptable. There needs to be some flexibility, but non negotiable standards need to be clearly understood. People need to be treated as individuals, but work as part of a team. Remember to keep training employees to ensure standards and product knowledge is maintained.