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One of my passions is gardening.  It started out very small and simple and grew into something much larger.  I have always loved plants but often executed indoor plants, which made me give up all hope.  Upon moving into a new home with my family I noticed a small plot of dirt with nothing in it or on it.  The rest of the yard was fully landscaped, so I thought it was a bit out of place.  That was the year I planted my first real vegetable garden.  It did pretty good.  Later my wonderful husband built raised beds for me to expand my gardening possibilities.  Next came the addition of berries and herbs - the I ran out of space.  We recently moved into a new home on acreage and I have plans for what some might call a small farm.  

 

My last year at the old home was saddening because I wasn't able to work in the garden while we were in the process of selling.  Now I am in process of planting a small orchard with plums, cherries, apples, and pears.  I also have raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes.  My vegetable garden - is huge!  I am so excited to get planting.  Yay!!

 

Much like gardening, the art of managing people takes a lot of preparation, sowing, nurturing, weeding, and harvesting.  I like to use this analogy, well, because it works!  

 

Planning

When starting a garden of any kind you must prep the soil, add amendments and compost, and map out the placement of each variety so that each plant receives the proper nutrients in compliment to surrounding plants.  When bringing in new staff you must know what their work will entail (i.e. job description), prepare all the necessary paperwork and equipment for a smooth transition, and have a concept of the "perfect company employee".

 

Start by doing an assessment of those that already work for you and are in your mind a good representation of the company.  You can evaluate their skill set, education, personality traits, etc.  At the end of this process, you will likely find that these individuals have a lot in common.

 

Prepare your employee handbook, job description, policies, and training modules.  Many employers have a habit of throwing people into the flames without the tools and resources needed.  Sure, people can figure it out - but think about how much more they would accomplish if they had all this up front!  Even better is that once you create it, you can use it for future new hires and it only requires updating every so often.  So, invest the time and reap the rewards.

 

Sowing

This is the best part - for me, at least!  This is the part where you bring your plan to life.  You have carefully mapped it out and now you get to watch your seeds germinate and grow.  

 

In this moment you have already equipped your new hire for success by properly prepping the conditions in which they will work.  Now you get to place them in their new environment and assign an individual that will mentor and help them sprout.  Under the perfect circumstances, when the environment is friendly, helpful, resourceful, and advisory - your new hire will prosper and begin to grow quickly.  The better and more balanced the environment, the quicker your new hire will reach full potential in this role - giving you a greater harvest.

 

Nurturing

Nurturing plants requires appropriate watering, sunlight, temperature, and communication.  Yes I talk to my plants.  

 

With a new hire you will want to schedule times on a regular basis to meet with and discuss the on-boarding process.  You will learn of any concerns they may have, any additional resources they may need, and of abilities that could be opportunities for the company and the individual in the future.  This gives you the ability to create the best environment possible for your growing new hire.  

 

Meeting with the new hire's mentor is also suggested.  Sometimes your experienced employee will have insights to share that can further improve the company's goals.  Initially meetings will be more frequent but in time, with positive feedback and growth, can be reduced to a more infrequent schedule.  

 

Tip:  Remember that this time is important to the growth of the individual and the company.  Discussions should be held with an open and exploratory mind set.  Do not get defensive and justify the reasons something is "the way it is".  Instead ask questions of their experiences and ask if they have suggestions.

 

Weeding

I despise weeding.  It hurts my hands, my knees, and my back.  It is cumbersome - but essential to the habitat and environment of my plants.  A weed that invades another plant's nutritional state will cause the plant to suffer and produce less or cause it to die.  Because of this, weeding is a necessary part of gardening if you want your garden to thrive.

 

If you notice moral is down, productivity is slowing, and people in general are more aggravated - you have a weed.  If your new hire isn't thriving in the conditions you set forth, you planted a weed.  Don't get hard on yourself - it happens.  Remember from our blog on failures that these are also opportunities.  However, despite all that you have done to create the perfect environment for your perfect company employee, you have also created a perfect environment for more weeds.  There is no easy way to say or do this - you must carefully pull the weeds.  I say carefully because you must get down to the root and you must ensure that no seeds were spread in the process.  If this is your new hire or an existing employee - you have a responsibility to your company and to your other employees to take care of this issue immediately.  You shouldn't be surprised if the move is also a relief to the individual.  They probably knew they needed to move on a long time ago but couldn't for whatever reason.  

 

Tip:  Sometimes weeds are actually beneficial.  I have pulled weeds from my garden that actually had beautiful flowers and brought in bees for pollination.  I have also pulled weeds that had herbal properties and attracted wildlife so they these critters would stay away from my garden.  The same applies to your weed.  Before you pluck them from the company try to discover if they would be better placed in a different role for the company.  Sometimes an underutilized employee gets frustrated because they aren't working at their potential and sometimes and overutilized employee gets burned out.  I had an employee that was placed in customer service role in one department and horribly failed.  After a discussion with this employee, they were placed in a customer service role in a different department and they quickly became one of the top employees in that department.  So, sometimes your weeds are flowers and are just improperly located.

 

Harvest

Finally, all your hard work has resulted in a bounty.  You have incredible, well trained employees that share in the core values of your company and are propelling you to heights of success you only dreamed about.  Yes, this is what happens when you properly plan, sow, nurture, and weed your crop.

 

Now you get to think about your next move.  When it comes to gardening, I have a ton of canning, storage prep and gifts to make.  With a company you will need to re-evaluate your goals and strategy so you can keep moving forward.  How exciting is this?  I can't wait for you to sit back one day, have a sigh of relief and a smile of accomplishment.  

 

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April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets.  Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.

 

Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency.  Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.

 

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