Look after your staff and your staff will look after you

Richard Branson recently employed an ‘unlimited leave policy’. Risky, maybe, but it was a bold move and it worked.

- Advertisement -

The idea is that an employee of Virgin may take a month, a week, or even an hour of leave spontaneously, without consulting anybody.

By trusting employees to manage themselves, morale soared, creativity increased dramatically, and productivity skyrocketed.

It also reduced costs, as Virgin no longer had to track leave. And as you can imagine, it was a fabulous recruitment tool. Branson has always said that a company is just a whole bunch of people with a specific and similar goal. He showed his ability to listen, appreciate and understand his employees, and once again separated himself from the average business owner. He understands that if one looks after one’s staff they will look after you.

- Advertisement -

When I forecast my expenditure for the next financial year the number one expense is always my labour in the form of management and permanent and temporary farm staff. This forces me to see where I can cut that cost down to a bare minimum, without sacrificing productivity, which often leads to retrenchment. This in a country where the unemployment rate is frighteningly high.

I read an article recently that stated that, of the unemployed people in this country, 80% of them have stopped looking for jobs altogether. We live in a country where employers actively try and avoid employing people. This leads to unemployment on a massive scale with consequences like a high crime rate.

I have looked into the eyes of someone who is being retrenched, knowing he has a wife and a family to support. It is gut-wrenching for the both of us.

More and more farmers are spending fortunes mechanising their farming enterprises, at the expense of the ordinary farm employee. I can completely understand that, because they know that their farms will be much more efficiently run without the labour.

Having said that, I do believe that if you invest time, effort and maybe a little extra money as an incentive, you can train your staff to ‘look after you’. If you listen to them, understand where they are coming from and, above all, show appreciation for their efforts, you will be rewarded with increased productivity.

Your employees’ morale will soar. They will have been taught to use their initiative, rather than being lorded over and told what to do all the time. You, as the employer, because of the work you put in, will foster an environment of mutual respect, and the loyalty you earn as a result is priceless.