The Real Magic of Engaging Your People

January 18, 2016


Ask a business leader what managing people means to them and they’ll undoubtedly use words like payroll, employment legislation and record keeping. Some will tell you stories of how they couldn’t do what the business needed because of the threat (perceived or otherwise) of being taken to Employment Tribunal.


Many will tell you that their employees are the business’s greatest asset but very few will be able to tell you about the activities they take to ensure their people are engaged and motivated. This is shocking when research shows that 86% of employees are either not engaged or worse, actively disengaged. 

This focus on HR administration is totally understandable given the seemingly never ending increase in employment legislation and proliferation of tribunals in recent years. Business leaders have more than enough work to keep their businesses growing so when someone offers the chance to "eliminate the worries of HR” it gets their attention.


Tens of thousands of businesses have signed up to services that treat HR as little more than a glorified insurance policy - promising to pay out when it all goes wrong. Pay lip service to a specific set of HR procedures and the insurance policy will take care of the mess if an employee takes the company to tribunal.

This must sound so appealing to the over-burdened manager but isn’t it a bit like Direct Line telling me I can go out and drive like a lunatic because I’m insured? All I need to do is make sure I’m not caught breaking the rules! This oversimplified approach completely misses the point, managing people is not that simple and cannot, must not, be dismissed so easily.

Any approach to managing people that leads with administration makes it all too easy for businesses to miss out on the real magic that comes from valuing their people and engaging them around a shared set of beliefs.

We take a different approach because we believe that the magic starts to happen when business leaders make space in their day to care about their people. Richard Branson put it so well:

“Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow. If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success.”

I’m not for one minute suggesting that managers should ignore payroll, employment legislation and record keeping but they shouldn’t let them take centre stage. There is no shortage of HR advice available to support the embattled manager and tools like ours at breatheHR can help reduce the admin headache.

Given that the typical manager in a small business spends over 20% of their time on people management issues there’s plenty of time to be saved and put to better use.

First and foremost a leader’s job is to set the direction for their people and clear roadblocks for them along the way. By inspiring your people to reach higher and further you will create a great place to work and release all of the magic that comes with it.

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