We celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (16 - 22 November) this year at a time replete with challenges for small and medium businesses and their employees.
As entrepreneurs start to think about how they can not only survive the year but aim for higher productivity and growth, a key priority on their agenda is boosting employee engagement.
Although it sounds dry and corporate, employee engagement matters as much for smaller businesses as it does for large organisations. It’s not to be confused with concepts such as ‘employee satisfaction’ or workplace happiness. Your employees can be happy or satisfied without being truly engaged.
Employee engagement goes further – and explores how emotionally invested your colleagues are in the business, its goals, and their role in it. A satisfied employee will come in to work 9 to 5 and do the bare minimum asked in their job description. However, an engaged employee will put their heart and soul into helping the business, their colleagues, and customers to succeed.
So, how do you build engagement as a small business? Here are a few ideas:
1. Prioritise employees’ well-being
Caring is a two-way street. Showing employees that you care not just about their mental and physical well-being, but also about their growth and happiness, will considerably boost their motivation and engagement. Whether it’s offering them access to a psychologist in these difficult times, or hosting company yoga sessions and fun runs, or providing them with paid training (even if it’s via a voucher from Udemy), or simply remembering their birthday - these small gestures can energise your team.
2. Offer appropriate rewards and incentives
If you want your employees to go the extra mile, offering the right rewards and incentives is key. In a tough economy, where many small businesses are hanging by a thread, the incentives can’t always take the form of a big financial reward. However, you can reward employees who do more in a range of other ways:
A thank you note and a chocolate bar
A bonus day of leave
Access to the prime parking space for a month
The opportunity to work on a particularly interesting project
3. Give them a voice
Employees will feel more engaged when they believe their voice is being heard. They will feel more committed when they have a say in the planning and goal setting. Colleagues like to be asked for feedback, whether in a formal process like their performance review or during an informal chat. Of course, you can’t ask your team for their opinions on every decision - but knowing that you’re listening to their ideas, suggestions and concerns drives greater engagement.
4. Provide them with user-friendly tools
The right technology and tools can make a massive difference in the overall employee engagement and experience. If employees have access to easy-to-use software that makes their lives easier, they can focus on making an enriching contribution to their jobs rather than on fighting processes and technology. You can leverage today’s slick and easy-to-use cloud-based tools to keep employees engaged and connected. These tools facilitate digital self-service and enhance seamless employee communications.
Employee engagement is a competitive edge
Gallup has a global database that analyses the engagement and performance of 35 million employees worldwide. The company’s research shows that productivity among highly engaged teams is 14% higher than that of teams with the lowest engagement. The survey also reveals that two-thirds of the global workforce is not engaged at present.
These stunning figures highlight just how much of a competitive advantage you could gain through ensuring exceptional employee engagement. More engaged employees mean better productivity, better customer service, and better business outcomes all round. Undoubtedly, this is an ideal area of focus as you rebuild following a year that has left many people feeling burnt out and anxious.
By Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East