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Gulam Noon: Staff cuts won't safeguard businesses' future

by LLB Editor
11th Jun 13 5:51 pm

Curry king and non-executive chairman of Noon Products on why your business can’t take on the world without its employees

We’ve asked more than 30 of London’s business leaders how they think Britain can create economic growth, opportunity and innovation. Read the full publication online: Securing Britain’s Future

On 14 November 1994, the Noon Products factory in Southall burnt down. Everything was destroyed and the first advice my chartered accountants and solicitors gave me was to lay off all my employees. After all, the business had perished, so how was I to pay salaries?

Yet I couldn’t get myself to abandon the workforce who helped me build my business from scratch. I knew I would get my insurance money and be well-off. But what about them? So I instructed my accountant to keep on paying the employees until there was no money in the bank. Result? My employees worked with double the passion and vigour to get the factory running again and we were back in business within 10 weeks.

I think this incident taught me my most important business lesson: if you value and endeavour to retain employees then the profits and long-term stability of the business will be secured. So I have a few words of advice for the country’s business leaders.

In the current economic climate, axing jobs is the most obvious solution to cut costs. But what employers don’t realise is that it’s employees that make the bare bones of your business. If they don’t turn up for work, your business wouldn’t run, let alone make a contribution to the economy.

Employers need to get rid of the orthodox mind-set that they are doing employees a favour by employing them. They often underestimate the financial benefits of retaining existing employees. Why face a situation where you have to pay a hefty severance pay to a worker or shell out money for recruitment agencies?

British employers need to appreciate and incentivise their staff and say: “Thank you for sticking by me in tough times”. Firms need to realise their workforce is as much the face of the business as the top boss.

Small efforts to acknowledge their hard work can boost their morale. For example, we’ve got an exclusive tab on our website for Noon Products’ longest-serving employee, who’s a second-generation worker. Shouting about his loyalty to the business motivates other employees, who want to see themselves on that page.

The notion that a salary increase or a cash bonus can buy an employee’s loyalty is abysmal. You need to promote them and appreciate their work so that they don’t walk out the door.

Another underestimated technique to motivate employees is corporate social responsibility initiatives. Engaging employees to do a good deed for the community ushers a sense of pride in employees and makes the workplace more welcoming.

Above all, I think employers need to provide a fair and ethical environment in the workplace where no one is discriminated against. Employees should feel free to come up to the boss and speak their mind. It is your employees who have their finger on the pulse of the business and can help you identify loopholes that you perhaps couldn’t see on your own.

In my opinion, creating jobs and retaining talent are vital to kickstart the economy. We can’t start taking on the world without them on our side. We need to go beyond the norms in the book, we need to sell more, employ more people and give them reasons to not leave us for rivals. I urge all business leaders in the country to safeguard the future of their employees so that they can safeguard Britain’s future.

Read Securing Britain’s Future online now

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