Why simple employee engagement can make all the difference in a small business

Entrepreneur Jonathan Richards gives some simple and cheap tips to looking after your staff that little bit better.

So much is said about how employees are our best asset, but how much time and effort actually goes into helping our employees become happy? Not a lot in many companies I suspect. The crazy thing is that it doesn’t have to take much time or even effort.

Lets face it, ‘Happy’ isn’t a particularly strong word in the lexicon of business language.  So if you’re not convinced about the value of happiness lets look at the basics.  When I walk into an office I can instantly sense a positive mood and will usually expect it to be a productive environment. The flip side is that disgruntled employees disengage with the company and performance will fall.

Every company is different so there’s no magic bullet to creating a place where employees are happy and productive. However there are some basics that I believe every company should consider but don’t treat this as a shopping list. The most important piece of creating a happy and engaging place to work is to consider the individual and collective needs of your employees. Remember that small changes can make a huge difference.

A good starting point is to look at your work environment. Ask yourself a few simple questions – Is it fit for purpose? Does it reflect the company culture? What can I change to make it just a little bit better?

Any mention of ‘culture’ causes most small business owners roll their eyes and look away. However it is important and doesn’t need to be difficult. Don’t force it – culture needs to create itself. The best way to build a culture is to let your employees do it for you. Your job is to offer support and encouragement.

There is one area that you can and must work on – you are in charge of the relationship with your employees. Think about each employee and experiment with ways to build the relationship. To some their family is everything, so ask how their partner/kids are. To others their car is their joy so take an interest. There’s no need to pretend you love cars, dogs, houses, travel etc etc – that will be obviously fake. What you need to do is show that you understand that it’s important to them.

Don’t think that this is all about you making the changes. A great way to improve engagement is to encourage employees to support each other. A ‘thank you’ from a co-worker is almost as rewarding as one from you. Make that ‘thank you’ public and it’s effect is magnified. We call it Kudos and many of our clients are seeing the difference a bit of thanks can make.

Another area that is in your power to influence is their daily tasks and job resources. How can you help make their lives a little more productive? Do they have what is needed to do the job properly, efficiently and rewarding?

So as I said at the start, there’s no magic bullet – perpetual improvement is key. Make a small improvement to each employee’s work life and you will dramatically improve performance. The knock-on effect is that your life will become easier and a whole lot more pleasant.

See also: How to reinvigorate your workforce and make engagement a priority – Phil Sheridan, senior managing director of Robert Half UK, talks us through making employee engagement a priority at your company.

Jonathan Richards

Jonathan Richards

Jonathan Richards is an experienced non-exec director and CEO at HR software provider Breathe.

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Employee engagement

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