Small business employee experience

In this blog, I would like to focus on the employee experience – especially focussing on small businesses. Last week I met with a small business owner who had been operating for about 47 years. They wanted me to review their processes. All their employment contracts were verbal agreements and were built on old relationships and everyone wore multiple hats. They also wanted me to look into their onboarding. This got me thinking about how small businesses would approach the employee value proposition also called the employee experience. Walking into a small business, you wouldn’t immediately be able to tell who the CEO is because everyone works together to move things forward.

Many candidates think working for a small business will be easier but the reality is very different. Whilst most businesses work on ensuring an amazing customer experience, it is equally important to work on their employee experience. Making sure a candidate knows what the job entails is the beginning of the employee experience. However, leaders can create positive employee experiences at every stage; including when asking employees to do tasks that they may not want to.

So how does a small business create a positive employee experience when things are moving a million miles a minute? It is important that small business owners are deliberate and intentional. It’s not just about the product your employees are helping you sell but also about the employees who are helping you succeed as a business. Without these traits from business owners, the culture breeds negativity, which becomes harder to fix.

Applying best practices to continuously improve and evolve your employees’ experience is crucial to the success of any business. Here are some suggestions that you can adopt to improve your employee experience.

Be Open and Honest in your communication

Most clients I work with say they are open with their communications to their employees. I feel the definition is quite different from an employer versus an employee’s perspective. Poor communication with employees has always proved to lead to confusion, lower employee morale, and loss of business productivity. One way of ensuring it doesn’t come to that is by treating your employees are like internal clients and an important part of your business. By taking some steps like this, your business will always be in an excellent position to provide the best external clients. A business where employees have the opportunity to share ideas and push back if they think something isn’t working fosters open communication and, as a result, a great employee experience. It lets them feel a sense of belonging that guarantees motivation and productivity and, as a result, retention.

The other part of this is, to be honest. Most startups or small businesses will experience some level of financial difficulty. Honest communication in these situations is critical. Given the situation with Covid-19, it is another reason why honest communication will go a long way to ensure employees don’t feel insecure about their tenure with the business. Business owners should share even the not so positive news as employees are likely to be more loyal to a leader who they can trust to be open and honest even in the darker periods. Taking them on the journey builds trust even if it is just your internal stakeholders – your people.

Understand your Employees and what they want

Given the changing circumstances at the moment, many employees will want flexible working arrangements if the job permits, work-life balance, and so on. Understanding what your current employees want or need will also help determine what would attract other candidates to work for you in the future. It will breed motivation, productivity, and make it a great place to work.

Small businesses could use some of the following non-monetary incentives for employees to get started:

  • Provide training plans for staff to upskill and complete accredited courses
  • Recognise employees who consistently excel in your communications and/or meetings. You could also congratulate them with a hand-written note.
  • Provide staff time to participate in volunteer work
  • Offer employees the flexibility of working from different locations if you have multiple offices.

These are just some points to help you get started on building your employee experience and it can continue to evolve over time.

Another point to remember is when you, as a small business owner start to move things off your plate. This means letting someone else do the task you were doing in their own way. Every business owner is passionate about their business and has a vested interest in ensuring things are going as planned. However, this can be perceived as micromanaging, and it is one of the first things that will make a competent employee disengaged.

You can read more about how to manage staff in my previous blog Supervise dont micromanage.

Develop Leadership Skills and Focus on Employees Recognition

Another component that is essential to evolve your employees’ experience is recognition. How can you do it? According to Dr. Ashley Whillans from the Harvard Business School, “what matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.” It is a confirmation that their work has been and is valued. There are numerous ways that a small business owner can implement a recognition program for their employees that won’t cost an arm and a leg.

Another way to guarantee a good employee experience is by making them feel that you are investing in their development. Surveys have found that businesses that invest in developing leadership skills within their business more often perform better when compared to others. Leadership development helps foster a culture of leaders that offer small businesses an advantage. It is a good way to offer an amazing employee experience thus being able to attract, recruit, develop & retain talent. 

So what next…?

Creating positive employee experiences is all about fostering an environment where employees feel valued and feel they can trust the leader. It’s about an environment where open and honest constructive communication can occur without the fear of repercussions. Engagement and accountability play important roles in shaping a positive employee experience. However, small business owners must also ensure that the employee experience aligns with the company values.

If you would like us to look into your current practices and help you develop an effective employee experience that will work for your business, feel free to contact us at VeiraMal Consulting.

VeiraMal Consulting offers a wide range of HR advisory services and packages to both employers and employees. You can view all our services and packages here.

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