How to support your employees and offer valuable careers in a small business

3 years ago

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek, Author and business motivational guru

Employees are the life-blood of any business. Without their commitment, their talent and their hard work, it’s impossible to make any operation function properly. Once your business moves past the ‘one man band’ stage and to a point where you are actually employing others, it’s crucial that those employees have a good reason to turn up to work every day.

And no, it’s not just about money. A good pay cheque is only part of the package that keeps employees motivated, dedicated and loyal to your business. So how do you support your employees and give them a good reason to stay with you?

Make them feel valued

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” – Sybil F. Stershic, Marketing and business expert

We all want to feel that what we contribute to a business is valued by those at the top. In a small business environment everyone knows everyone else in a far more intimate and personal basis, from the boss down. So it’s crucial that workers feel engaged and that their contribution is important to the company.

More importantly, it’s also absolutely vital that they feel their contribution is valued, not just in monetary terms, but as a real aspect of the business’ success.

Research carried out by the University of Warwick in 2014 discovered (somewhat unsurprisingly, it has to be said) that we work better and are more productive when we’re happy. The study found that under laboratory conditions, being happy made people around 12% more productive. So not only is it important on a personal basis to make your staff feel valued, but it’s important to the productivity of your business too.

Professor Andrew Oswald of Warwick University – one of the lead authors of the report – explained that: “Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.”

Scale this down to the mirco level in a small business and that 37% achieved by a giant like Google could be proportionally higher.

Make them a financial part of the business

Offering incentives and benefits packages is an added bonus in any small to mid-sized company. It helps toward increasing morale within the team as well as emphasising how much the employees are valued as an important part of the company. There are a number of third parties that provide employers the ability to offer their employees deals and perks that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to provide. For example Perk Box provides employees a huge range of rewards and offers. .

One thing that is rising in popularity is providing employees with a way of being directly involved in the financial success of a company through shares offers. This is a way of retaining loyalty too – employees are more likely to stay with a business that they’re financially invested in. And because they want to see the value of their shares go up, they’re also more likely to work harder to achieve better results.

However, if there is no opportunity to provide shares within your business other options are small bonuses once a year (e.g. a small percentage of profits to be divided amongst the employees) or small monetary incentives such as “Star of the Quarter”.

The amount of jobs, tasks and responsibilities that you have as an employer can at times become overwhelming. Things do occasionally slip through the net. However, it is essential for the trust between yourself and your employee, not to mention the morale of the team to ensure that individuals are both paid correctly and on time.

This is crucial so that not only are you running a viable business but you maintain loyalty from your employees reinforcing a good relationship and continuing to successfully support them. Sage One Payroll can help with ensuring payroll and salaries are carried out correctly, in a timely fashion and in line with the appropriate regulations.

Investment in training is never wasted

“It’s about getting the best people, retaining them, nurturing a creative environment & helping to find a way to innovate.” – Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo!

Providing ongoing training for your employees is one of the most tried and tested ways of offering a more attractive and proactive working environment. It’s also one of the most direct ways of providing support for them, and engaging them in the progression of the business.

Training can be everything from designating an employee as the company’s trained First Aider with a day course with St John Ambulance, through to a more specific training course in bookkeeping and accounting for financial employees/interns.. Training nurtures development as a natural progression, and it also makes employees feel valued and useful members of the business.

Give them meaningful, work-related challenges

“Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar,  Author and motivational speaker

If there’s one thing that will dull the enthusiasm of employees it’s monotonous repetition. If they find the work too easy it can become tempting to just use the minimal amount of effort to get the job done. Giving employees challenges that stretch them gives them that added interest – as long as their achievements are recognised.

As a boss it’s important to acknowledge the work employees do, and when they go above and beyond their remit or succeed in work-related challenges then their investment in the business increases. It also drives the business forward and provides a better customer experience.

Keep them in the loop

The feeling that they’re being left ‘out of the loop’ is guaranteed to send an employee scuttling to update their resume and start looking for other employment. So keeping everyone informed as to what’s going on in the business is vital. This is particularly important in small businesses, where changes can have a much more immediate effect on everyone.

In a larger business there is a process of filtration, and employees are usually shielded from the ‘big’ decisions, only becoming aware of them when they directly affect their department. But in a small business those ripples on the management pond spread much more quickly.

If employees feel that they’re not being kept informed, then they will feel alienated and disengaged. They may also start to doubt just how loyal the business is to them. So keep your people up to date. If something important happens that affects everyone then tell them sooner rather than later.

Learn what you’re doing wrong – and what you’re doing right

“The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.” – Tom Peters – Author and writer on business management techniques

It’s common today to perform an ‘exit’ interview with departing staff to find out why they’re leaving. It helps business owners to improve the working conditions for other employees, such as offering flexible working hours for those with families, helping workers to feel more engaged and so on.

But it’s also important to find out what you’re doing right, and improve on it. So make those ‘annual evaluation’ interviews much more worker-focused and encourage them to tell you what they think you’re getting wrong, and what you’re getting right. Again, this tells the employee that their contribution is valued, and that they are being listened to.

And finally…

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs, CEO and Co-founder of Apple

Wise words from Mr Jobs. Create an environment where employees love what they do and you’ll create a strong, forward-thinking and successful business with solid foundations built on the contribution of everyone – from the boss right down to the new intern!