Today’s small businesses are increasingly focused on culture as one of their competitive differentiators. That’s because research points to the many ways developing a great culture can engage and attract great employees, eventually resulting in a healthier bottom line. Recognition and appreciation are two simple ways of building employee loyalty, but alone they’re not sufficient.
If you want employees who aren’t just engaged in their work, but fiercely loyal, it’s a good idea to start out by understanding how strong employee engagement or “morale” is associated with excellence in innovation.
Better Employee Engagement Generates Better Innovation
Continuous improvement, ongoing innovation, and customer satisfaction all rest on excellent employee engagement and loyalty. In fact, many companies have come to the conclusion that checking employee engagement and motivation frequently can have a preventative effect on unpredictable events that tend to knock employee morale off its feet.
An engaged workforce is a workforce that isn’t afraid to innovate, even if it involves a certain amount of risk-taking. Not all those risks will pay off, of course, but employees who don’t feel hamstrung by restrictive policies or by a “That’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality are more likely to move businesses forward with innovative products, services, and customer relationships.
Faster Time-to-Market Demands More Frequent Loyalty Assessment
Faster time-to-market can be a strong differentiator for a small business. The agility with which a smaller business operates can be advantageous in today’s dynamic marketplace compared with huge organizations that simply can’t turn around on a dime. Leading HR experts have discovered that when employee motivation is tracked alongside traditional metrics like development speed of new products, employee engagement problems generally don’t have time to manifest in terms of innovation problems before being addressed. Poor employee engagement is believed by some to be a leading indicator rather than a lagging indicator of problems like missed deadlines, unexpected resignations, or product problems.
Investment in Employee Appreciation Is Wise
Employee appreciation is an investment that pays off, literally and figuratively. A 2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey found that the most effective employee appreciation and recognition programs were ones that spent more than 1% of payroll on employee recognition rewards. Previous studies have reported that companies that do this show better results overall. Researchers theorize that it is due to the fact that employees need to have tangible proof of their value to the organization along with communication of messages of appreciation. Spending more than 1% of payroll on such recognition can improve workforce cohesiveness and loyalty.
How Can You Boost Employee Engagement in Your Small Business
Employee loyalty programs don’t have to be, and aren’t expected to be, on the level of rewards in a huge organization like Facebook which provide employees’ free meals and snacks plus four weeks of vacation per year. Here are a few small business ideas for improving employee engagement:
- Host an offsite staff retreat – If you have a virtual team or not, get everyone together in person for a weekend to kick off the year and get a plan together and set goals.
- Focusing on career development – Invest in training because employees are more satisfied if they know the company is invested in their career goals in terms of opportunity for advancement.
- Celebrating important achievements – Public praise pays dividends. Do it for individual and team achievements. It’s important for the business owner to celebrate business successes with the team.
- Organize non-work social activities – such as a celebration dinner at holiday time. Or encourage volunteering by creating “giving back” programs that allow employees to donate a certain number of their work hours per year to supporting a charity.
“Employee engagement” may feel like just another of this year’s business buzzwords, but it is actually much more than that. Whether you call it employee engagement, morale, or motivation, businesses of every size have learned that poor employee engagement, where work is 100% business and 0% personal, has become an epidemic that has negatively affected business performance.
Teamwork and cohesion requires mutual trust and great communication, including public recognition when someone accomplishes something noteworthy. Ideally, you want your small business to go from employee engagement to something more like employee “matrimony” where you can envision your team working happily ever after.
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