Winner of the Excellence in the Management of People award for 2017, category for Medium Enterprises

People management: no end in sight

Never be lulled into thinking that your people management practices are as good as they can get. No matter how well they have worked up to now, and how hard you have worked at them, something will invariably come along and upset the apple cart.

“There is never a situation where we can say we’ve arrived. There is always something that needs fixing. People management is about constant fixing,” says Teryl Schroenn, CEO of Accsys, payroll and people management specialists.

Accsys won its first tt100 award for excellence in people management in 2007 and has since won the title several more times, including in 2016 and 2017.

Part of its strength is understanding that excellent people management is a constantly moving target.

Accsys experienced this for itself in late 2017 when Transaction Capital acquired the company from BCX and Telkom, says Teryl. “This caused huge upheaval and a lot of uncertainty among our staff.”

Communication was both the solution and the problem. “No matter how well you communicate, if people have their own particular viewpoint, they do not hear you,” she says.

“This was a huge learning curve for us. We found that doing all the correct things wasn’t enough. We have had to dive deep to make sure we are all on the same page and that the same message filters down and all the way through.”

One change introduced with this in mind is to require every manager to hold formal one-on-one meetings with everyone reporting to them, once a month.

“One-on-ones are critical if you really want to talk to people,” says Teryl. “The moment you lose the connection, they feel disconnected. The employee surveys we have done show that more than anything, people want to be appreciated and seen to be an important part of the company’s success.”

Another recent change has been the up and coming introduction of “Let’s talk” sessions, linked to a revitalised suggestion box system. “People put their suggestions – which can be anonymous – into the suggestion box and then we will sit down and discuss them at a Let’s talk meeting.”

Teryl emphasises that good people management is “about reacting to change as well as being proactive. You have to do both. And you have to be ruthlessly honest with yourself when things are not going well and accept that things do not always go the way you had planned. Then you’ve got to address the issues and fix them.”

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