We’ve come a long way in our understanding of employee motivation over the past few decades. Whereas employees were once characterised as caring little about their work, being unwilling to take responsibility and having to be actively managed by bosses through authoritative measures (‘Theory X’), the opposite now holds true. For any business to be successful today it is recognised that employees need to be invested in it, given responsibility and the opportunity to flourish. Indeed, recent research has suggested highly engaged business units deliver a 17% increase in productivity, 41% reduction in absenteeism and 24% reduction in staff turnover.
You may be thinking “Well that’s all well and good. It’s fine for global corporations which have huge budgets to invest in this area but how can I, as an SME owner, do it”? Well, actually, it’s not as difficult as you might think. In actual fact, small businesses are at a distinct advantage. And it comes down to one thing: the smaller you are, the easier it is to make changes in the workplace and ensure they stick.
So how do you create a sense of investment amongst employees on a limited budget? Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on the path to employee engagement – that much-heralded nirvana where employees perform to their maximum capacity, go above and beyond the call of duty, and where business productivity skyrockets.
1. Give employees a sense of meaning and purpose
It’s vital for employees to “buy-in” to your company and be genuinely aligned it. When staff understand how their work fits into the bigger picture, they naturally become more engaged. So, if you haven’t done so already, you can start by formalising what your company does in a mission statement:
a) Ask yourself what is the company aspiring to achieve? Remember. it’s fine to be audacious. As the saying goes “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars”.
b) Once you’ve figured this out, outline the purpose of the organisation – why does it exist and what are the goals?
c) Note the unique values which are important to the company (this will be important later).
d) Share it widely with employees (across multiple channels)! Communication is key so ensure workers know why they’re here and how they’re contributing to the wider purpose. The good news is this can be done easily within a small organisation.
2. Trust your employees and allow them the freedom to deliver
The second sure-fire way to build engagement at work is by trusting and empowering your employees to deliver for the organisation. Having responsibility creates a sense of pride and acts as a fantastic motivator. As Steve Jobs said “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
But how can you step back whilst ensuring success? It can be a challenge but start by working with your staff to create SMART objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Let them update you in regular meetings and offer them guidance, coaching, mentoring, and support to troubleshoot any obstacles that may arise. Soon you’ll wonder why didn’t start doing this before.
3. Start recognising your employees (even the small things matter)
Once you have drawn up your list of core values & behaviours that are important to the company and agreed realistic targets for your staff, be sure to start recognising your employees for demonstrating these values and behaviours. Recognition can be given informally. Simple things such as saying thank you, or buying a cup of coffee for someone who has gone beyond the call of duty, can go a long way in building goodwill within the team.
You can also devise a formal employee recognition scheme working with partners. Online platforms such as Staff Treats encourage social recognition amongst workers by making it easy to celebrate achievements and share your appreciation through online badges, messages, e-cards, awards, winners’ walls. Perfect for building a culture of recognition within the workplace. Remember, in order for the culture to develop organically, make it personalised, spontaneous, and fair. Also don’t forget to monitor results through things like employee engagement surveys to ensure your company is heading in the right direction.
4. Provide professional development opportunities
What better way to show your appreciation to staff than by providing rewards and linking them to something which will benefit your company? This could include things like an online training course or time-off to pursue work-related qualifications. Providing professional development opportunities demonstrates you are serious about recognising and developing your staff in line with their responsibilities. Moreover, in the medium term it pays for itself as employees upskill and are able to do more – more quickly. Win-win.
5. Create cohesion through team-building activities
The average staff member spends a third of their day at work. That’s a huge amount of time so it’s worth investing in events and activities which bring employees together. By getting to know one another and breaking down barriers it becomes far easier to work together. Team-building events need not be expensive. It could be simply the act of taking the team out for lunch or organising a company social. Activities such as escape rooms, which parallel the need to work collaboratively, can also be a fun way to build teams by bringing people together. Or, if you’re really on a budget, you could play some fun, team-building office games. Remember to personalise activities based on people’s interests. By making the event something that people would want to attend you’re half way there already.
6. Encourage work-life balance
There’s no two ways about it. A healthy work-life balance is crucial to employee loyalty and retention. In a recent study 39% of employees responded that work-life balance was the number one factor keeping them loyal to their organisation. And it’s easy to see why. Burnout is becoming an increasingly common issue in today’s society. Technology advances have blurred the lines of traditional concepts of work-life balance. In the era of smartphones, and the “always-on culture”, it can be hard to juggle work and personal commitments. Be cognisant when employees are working on projects which require them to work late – and make sure you recognise them. Time off in lieu following project delivery is one way in which you can ensure the batteries remain charged.
7. Don’t forget wellness and wellbeing
Staff wellness goes hand-in-hand with employee engagement. Simply put, the better employees feel the better they will perform. Wellness comes in many forms. It can be physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, social, environmental, occupational, and even religious / spiritual. That’s a lot to look out for! So, ensure you take the time to develop a policy around supporting health and wellbeing in the workplace. It’s worth doing so. After all, the latest research suggests that 70 million work days are lost every year due to mental health problems in the UK, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion per year.
But where do you start? As part of your support package you could consider an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – a 24-hour helpline for employees manned by trained professionals who are there to support your staff with any concerns they have.
When it comes to financial wellbeing, it can be tough to balance financial security for employees with what the business can afford. Consider linking bonus schemes with company targets to remunerate employees fairly when there is growth. Research suggests that financial rewards are the number one factor in staff loyalty so if you want to ensure talented people stay, make sure you reward them monetarily for their achievements.
In addition, an Employee Discount Platform can be a great way to help employees save money and ensure salaries go further. With Staff Treats, workers can save hundreds of pounds per year through discounts and cashback on everyday items. It’s even possible to get money off health checks, gym memberships, spas! All from only £4 / person per month.
So there you have it. Some clear ways you can start building a positive working environment and take employee engagement to the next level. Some of these things may take a bit of time to embed within the company but stick with it and you’ll be surprised by the benefits.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Staff Treats Discount and Recognition platform, book a 15-minute walkthrough with one of our employee engagement specialists.