The Importance of Keeping Employees Engaged in a Small Business
One of the most challenging aspects for a small business owner is to keep their employees engaged on a daily basis. This requires thoughtful input, as you most likely do not have the resources or opportunities to offer your employees like a big company can.
I personally have encountered all of these challenges, so I would like to give you my thoughts on how to deal with them, so that you can keep your employees engaged at the highest level possible.
Your Role as The Boss – It is vital for every boss, but especially for a small business owner to transmit a sense of confidence and self-assurance to his or her team. Nothing drains the motivation or inspiration out of a team more than a boss who has no focus, strategy, or plan as to how they want the company to grow and prosper. You must also show to your team that you are on an upward bound leaving curve and that you are learning something new each month. A boss who is just vegetating and moving forward on old knowledge and tools can hardly expect to have a dynamic team full of energy and with an unquenchable thirst to learn. You really do teach though example.
Overworked / Underworked – Small business can have staff that go from one extreme to the other when it comes to workload. Many are overworked and therefore tire out quickly and start to look for other opportunities. On the other hand, others are underworked and the sheer boredom of the situation drives them to look elsewhere for a more stimulating environment. You want to obviously aim for somewhere in the middle, allowing, of course, for moments when there may be more or less work. Engaged small business owners make sure that they keep their finger on the pulse and truly understand what is going on in their company when it comes to workload.
Little or No Growth Prospects – Many employees leave small companies because they feel that there are very few or no prospects for growth. To be honest, this may actually be the situation, so you need to become very creative when it comes to keeping your employees inspired and fully committed. Promoting and paying for online and in-house training can be a good way to start this engagement process – people who are not learning anything new will quickly switch off and become disengaged. This disenchanted state is why many employees decide to move on from small companies.
Routine That Does Not Inspire – The fact of the matter may be that you are operating in a sector or you have set up processes that do not offer an employee a lot in the way of changing their routine. Once more, you need to delve into your creativity and come up with way to break the routine. Can you change the routine with a new program or method that will help in alleviating the boredom for your employees for example? Maybe you can involve your employees in finding new and more challenging ways to do the old routine. Where there is a will there is a way!
No Training or Educational Opportunities – Thankfully, we are not living in the 1950s when it comes to what is available in terms of training and educational opportunities for employees. Inspiration among employees really plummets when they are not learning anything new. I suggest to create a small self-improvement library within your office where employees can avail of motivational materials such as CDs, DVDs, books, and magazines. Network with people who are willing to barter! Maybe you can do something in exchange for someone to come in and carry out a training session with your employees. Come on – get creative!
Zero Follow Through on Promises – The biggest destroyer of any relationship is when someone makes a promise that they don’t follow through on! As an employer, under no circumstances, should you make a promise that you know you cannot keep! Not only will you lose total credibility, but your will be inviting your staff to look elsewhere for another job! Employees can only take such much of broken promises before they finally quit and move on. Constant staff turnover, or what I call the “Central Station” phenomenon, is where staff is coming and going so quickly that you feel you are in the middle of a major train station. Nothing kills a company faster than this constant changing of staff, therefore, if you make a promise make sure you can keep it. If for some reason you can’t, make sure you keep the employee abreast of what is going on.
Underused Skills – Another reason why employees leave small companies, but to be honest this can also happen in large companies, is when they have specific skills that are underused, or worse, never used. Sometimes these underused skills can be very valuable for a company. For example, you may have an employee who is very skilled in the use of Social Media and this could be a huge advantage for you, given the importance of this medium now. Get to know your employees well and see what untapped skills they have – it may end up being a huge benefit for the company.
Very Few Benefits – Employees also leave small companies because they feel they have little or no benefits. Small business owners will scream and say that they don’t have the financial resources to provide a lot of benefits like big companies, and while that may be true to a point, we can also get creative and provide benefits that are either free or cost very little. For example, in the summer, especially if the weather is good, maybe you can allow an employee to leave at two on a Friday. Maybe you can use store points that you have accumulated to buy a present as gift for an employee who is excelling in their job. Benefits don’t always have to break the bank!
Feeling Left Out of The Big Picture – I have always chosen to involve my team in making decisions that affect the future of the company. Employee engagement in a small business must include this approach if you want people to see that you care about what they say and think. Just like you should not promise what you can’t deliver, you must make sure that you follow through on suggestions that you take into account from your employees. Failure to do so will result in them losing respect for you. Employees want to have a say in how things are being done, so please make sure that your team is part of the big picture when it comes to strategy and company goalsetting.
No Recognition – Put simply, as a small business owner, you must find ways to recognize your team for the good work that they do. For some people, this can simply mean saying thank you, while for others, it may be a financial incentive or some other benefit. From the word go, you must discover what kind of recognition each of your team needs in order to feel appreciated. Don’t be stingy with recognition – always remember that your employees are the ones that help you to grow your business!
At the end of the day, your business is very important to you, otherwise you probably would not have started it. The fact that you are a small business owner does not excuse you from thinking big! Staff turnover is devastating to any business, but especially in a small company where you may not have enough employees to pick up the slack. If you are lucky enough to have a great team, it will behoove you to take the time to see how you can keep them engaged so that they want to stay with you, rather than chose to maybe move on to one of your competitors!