Who’s Better than You?

Most new business owners are stretched to the limit trying to accomplish as much as possible each day. To the owner, none of the routine tasks seem particularly difficult but it also seems that it takes subordinates an inordinate amount of time to accomplish the simplest of tasks. In their minds, justified or not, no one can complete a task as thoroughly and efficiently as the boss.

The Issue
Small business owners have tried to resolve this seemingly intractable issue in several ways. Recognizing that all employees are different, some develop a best practice manual that they expect employees to follow diligently. The hope is that, with repetition, these employees will eventually learn to do things the “right” way.

Others, still believing that their methods are best, attempt to hire “clones” of themselves who perform tasks in a similar manner. The reasoning is that only the procedure need be explained and that the implementation will go smoothly since the new hire thinks like the boss.

The first effort is usually doomed to failure as many employees will still attempt to do things “their way.” There is simply too much leeway in a company’s Policy and Procedure Handbook to micromanage the performance of many tasks. The problem is less severe with the clones as they have a natural predilection to perform tasks like the owner but they can bring problems of their own.

The Question

For years, business psychologists have attempted to categorize the various types of employees using such terms as “Type A” or “The Nurturer” or even just “Red.”  Major companies have exacerbated the situation by embracing these ideas and ballyhooing their efficacy.

Undoubtedly, there is some validity to these categorizations but, in reality; they are of very little use to the small business owner as he does not have the resources to perform personality tests on the majority of his employees. In addition, categorizing people doesn’t really answer the fundamental question.

“Once a business owner has the resources to hire more staff, should they diversify or concentrate on finding clones of themselves?”

The Risk/Reward of Employee Diversification

A broad range of experience and opinions is a lovely thing at dinner parties and political debates but it is not a sure conclusion that diversity of thought is essential for the success and growth of a business. In fact, the vision of the owner is often the only thing that differentiates a company from its competition.

Still, diversity brings a wealth of experience and expertise, presumably, some of it different from the owner. It is never a bad thing to have another perspective but, once an issue is decided or a policy implemented, there should be no further dissension. At some point, every employee must toe the company line.

On the other hand, a slavish devotion to the status quo is also not healthy for a successful business. While clones are not necessarily sycophantic, they are predisposed to think like the boss with the obvious disadvantages.

The Big Picture

So, are the metaphorical clones of the owner the ideal employees for every company? In truth, it’s not particularly clear and in the long run is not at all practical. The real issue revolves around the business owner and his management style. In one way or another, he must manage his subordinates and the solution depends on his comfort level with delegation and non-conformity.

There are several solutions, however, to aid the business owner. For instance, a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) can be implemented quite easily and then trusted to effectively monitor that the more reliable employees are faithfully following the company policies and procedures. Management of the more routine tasks of these employees then becomes a simple matter or running the reports and checking for compliance.

On the other hand, for the more individualistic employees, a more humanistic approach may be necessary and a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) the better choice. These companies provide expert assistance in the HR realm while providing a human touch for your employees.


About the Author

Carolyn Sokol is a frequent contributor to CompareHRIS.com, working alongside such businesses as ECI Empower, Sage Abra, and Ultipro among others.