I think we all can agree that we want restaurant employees to wash their hands after using the restroom and before returning to work. We would be horrified, both as an employer and patron, if they didn’t. We trust that restaurant employees follow sanitation rules and regulations to maintain the cleanliness of the food we consume.

We’ve all seen the signs in the bathroom that say, “Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work.” Really? I’ve always thought this reminder sign to be absurd for two reasons. First, doesn’t everyone intuitively know that they should wash their hands after using the restroom? And second, how can any restaurant owner make certain that this important rule is followed?

The answer to the first question is, they don’t. Not everyone in my perfect world knows about or practices good hygiene. The answer to the second question is, you can’t. There is just no way to monitor and enforce some of the most important rules and behaviors in the workplace.

So, when it comes to rules and regulations, how does a small business owner enforce the unenforceable and manage the unmanageable? These are conundrums that puzzle both large and small businesses alike. In the end employers must do the best they can and trust employees to do the right thing.

I once had a boss whose pet peeve was employees leaving dirty coffee mugs in the communal kitchen sink. This boss installed a video camera over the sink, reviewed the incriminating videos it produced and then shared the clip of the offending culprit with his employees to jeers and laughs. The incidences declined, but so did respect for the boss.

The bottom line is, no matter how egregious the offense, petty attempts to openly humiliate employees to correct behavior only demonstrates the employer’s lack of trust in employees and leads to employee resentment. This can lead to a decline in the productivity in the workforce, loss of key employees, HR complaints and, in the worst cases, lawsuits.

The lesson here is employees don’t like to feel distrusted, vulnerable and invaluable in their workplace. Trust, security and value are what motivate the best employees, in some cases as much as money. I’ve seen employees pass on better pay because they felt loyal to the small business owner who valued and trusted them as human beings.

So, how can difficult to monitor and enforce workplace behaviors such as safety breaches, poor sanitation, procrastination, long breaks, personal use of equipment and credit cards, sloppy handling of confidential information, lax protection of trade secrets and other violations of rules be effectively monitored and enforced? Although it is extremely difficult, there are steps that a small business owner can take to reduce if not eliminate them.

Hiring the right people, training them and instilling company values are the first steps. Many small business owners, if they have been in business for a while, gain a sense of what types of people will grow into good and trusted employees. There are no “perfect” employees, but with experience and good hiring and training practices small business owners can get close.

At Joe Pine Coffee in Marshall, co-owner Geoffrey Davis understands this well.

“We started by building a team who understand and believe in our company values,” Davis said. “One of our values is ‘Experience is Paramount.’ Our team feels personal responsibility to meet and exceed expectations to create amazing experiences for guests, and we measure this by the growing number of returning guests and the consistent excellent feedback about our team from online reviews.”

Excellent employees will buy in to the values of the owners, who should lead by example.

“Employees are the hardest aspect of owning a small business,” said Katy Julian, owner of Chicken Row Market in Carthage.

Julian believes that protocols should be in place to protect both the employee and the owner.

“The workplace should be where employees feel as if they have a stake in ownership and know you care about their well-being as if they were family,” Julian said. “The more feeling of ownership, the more pride employees take in their roles to make the business a success all the way around. It sure is a fine line and takes work on both sides, but it is possible.”

Here are some good practices that will get you closer to hiring quality employees with integrity and character who will be more likely to follow the vision, values and rules of the business owner:

Perform background checks – These are critical for any business where the employee will interface with the public or will have positions where trust is paramount. Background checks can uncover criminal history, verify a person’s identity, confirm if the candidate is legally allowed to work in the U.S. and more. Make it a part of your hiring routine.

Require and check references – Require applicants to provide at least three references and call each reference. Although supplied by the employment candidate, these conversations can be revealing if you ask the right questions.

Train and communicate – Train new employees not only in the technical details of their jobs, but in the aspects of the job that cannot be monitored. For employees to be motivated and productive, they need to be trained to know what their job is, what their responsibilities are and what is expected of them. Clear communication and training are key. Re-training on a regular basis reinforces key behaviors.

Impart company values — Continually remind employees of your company values and philosophy. Posting values in an open area will reinforce them, as well. Small business owners must lead by example and follow their own rules and values to be trusted by their employees.

Manage by walking around – One of the most effective ways to manage a workforce is to join them in their workspace and show them that you care. Rather than skulking in the shadows and spying on your employees, this technique simply involves being present, visible and approachable in order to engender camaraderie and teamwork.

Use checks and balances – These are critical operations that concern quality of products and services or dealing with money. In quality control this means that the boss or lead employee is responsible for checking the work of another employee. In handling money or accounts this means putting such processes in place that will reduce the chances of theft or fraud such as point-of-sale closeout procedures, double signatures on checks or reviewing credit card statements on a timely and regular basis.

Incorporate open work areas – Closed offices for the boss, bookkeepers and financial officers are necessary when concentration, privacy and security are required. Open work areas for administrative staff, sales reps, and operations staff help promote a sense of teamwork, energy and motivation. They also reduce the possibilities of time-wasting, fraud and other aberrant workplace behaviors.

Engage with employees – A boss hidden in the office or missing altogether can be a serious demotivator. “When the cat’s away….” Unless a small business owner has a trustworthy and motivated surrogate to lead the company, there is no substitution for the owner. Small businesses whose owners actively engage in their businesses and with their employees have proven to be more productive.

Invite employees to become part of the solution – Like Richard Branson says, if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business. And, employees are often the best source of ideas. Ask them how to solve the problems of managing the unmanageable and they will create the solutions and be more likely buy into them. Employees are a small businesses greatest asset.

Managing the unmanageable and enforcing the unenforceable are as old as business itself. The bible contains plenty of verses and parables pertaining to the proper interaction between bosses and their employees. The bottom line is simply this, treat your employees as you would like to be treated as an employee, with respect, honor, inclusion and trust. Do these things and the unmanageable will be managed by your employees themselves.

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— Day Shelmire is the Director of the UT Tyler-Longview SBDC, which covers Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk and Upshur Counties of East Texas. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can contact their local SBDC for advice on how to start, grow or fix their small business. Call (903) 757-5857 for an appointment with an experienced business advisor.