As a small business owner, you have infinite passion for what you do. You’re invested in everything you do, not only because it’s your livelihood, but because what you’re building through your business is the reason you get up in the morning (if it’s not, then you might have a problem with your own level of engagement). No hurdle that you come across is big enough to stop you from making your business successful.
By now, you might have noticed that it’s hard to inspire the same sense of passion and motivation in your employees. To many, if not most of them, your business is another job. And even if they see their opportunity with you as a good career move, chances are they are not actively engaged with their work.
In fact, the numbers are stacked against business owners. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace study suggests that only 13% of the world’s workers are actively engaged with their work. In the UK, whopping 57% of employees are not engaged, and 26% are actively disengaged. Yet small businesses depend on their employees to be brand ambassadors. It’s a challenge that small business owners come across every day. Before you can make customers fall in love with you and your business, you need to woo your own employees.
1. Get to know them
Just like you know your customers – who they are, what they like and what keeps them up at night – you need to know each one of your employees. What are their dreams and aspirations? What are their fears? Where do they eventually want to be professionally? Knowing all this will not only help you give them what they need to feel fulfilled on the job, but it will also bring to light whether they’re a good cultural fit for your company.
2. Make sure they know you
Another Gallup study suggests that only 41% of employees feel they know what their company stands for. Considering that your employees represent your business, it’s imperative that they understand exactly what your brand promise is . Make sure that they are able to conversationally explain the most important elements of what your business does and what you stand for. Perhaps even more important, your employees should be clear on what makes your business different from others in the marketplace.
3. Nurture each role
Every employee, from the back end to the front end, plays an important role. Ultimately, they all affect customer experience, and hence your business. Make sure that each employee knows how their role affects the customer experience. Show them employees that their efforts are valued, and share your thoughts with them when their work is making an impact. After all, 93% of employees who feel valued are more likely to do their best for their employer.
4. Let them know what’s expected
It’s important to make your expectations for each employee crystal clear. In some studies, knowing what’s expected often correlated with productivity increases of 5 to 10%. It also made customers a lot happier. That’s because clear expectations empower your employees to deliver on your brand’s promise. And knowing what’s expected can play a big role in generating fresh ideas from committed employees.
5. Create a trusting environment
A trusting environment is where your employees can be open and simply ‘bring themselves’ to work. This ties in closely with number 1 on this list – getting to know your employees. It’s important to emphasize continuous learning and shared knowledge in your workplace. This will instill a sense of camaraderie, but it will also encourage your employees to stay on top of their game. By getting to know them, you can discuss strengths, talents and development objectives with each employee. You can also encourage mentoring between your more experienced employees and the juniors.
6. Offer them flexibility
The truth is, employees might appreciate perks, but they appreciate the gift of time even more. Many employees fear that allowing flexible schedules will cause employees to not put in their hours. But as Prerna Gupta noticed in this New York Times article, smart people work best when they are able to choose their own place and schedule for work. Of course, you also need to take into account that while flexibility might increase productivity and engagement, it might decrease collaboration. You can strike a balance by allowing remote work for 1-2 days per week only.
However, depending on the kind of business you’re in, the flexibility of remote working is not possible. Having flexible start and end hours or simply being accommodating when one of your employees needs a day off are also good ways to offer flexibility. Not to mention that offering flexibility will also show that you trust your employees.
7. Focus on customers’ needs
Placing the customers at the front and centre of your business will surely drive up engagement. That’s because most of us are more likely to feel engaged when we take care of others’ needs. You can even ensure that everyone on your team feels a personal connection with your customers by including everyone in your customer support or customer satisfaction system. Let your employees communicate with customers often. Seeing first hand how they are improving somebody’s life, even in a small way, will make them more committed to their jobs.
What workers really want is to feel connected to the company they work for. It’s not surprising, considering that we derive much of our self-worth from the jobs we do. That’s why engagement is about offering intrinsic value to your employees, a reason to come to work beyond the pay and the perks. This is what will keep your employees coming to work excited about what they do and inspired to push themselves and your company forward.
[infobox type=”note”] What has your experience been with employee engagement? Join the discussion below. [/infobox]
“Alina Vrabie is a content creator at Sandglaz, where she writes about productivity, collaboration and work culture for small business and startup founders. She is always on the search for tips that can simplify business owners’ lives. Favourite motto: “If it can be dreamed, it can be done.”
Sandglaz is helping high-performance teams worldwide to collaborate and manage tasks more efficiently. To find out more about how you and your team can create flexible task plans that adapt to your priorities, visit Sandglaz.”