It’s 2017 and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.
With this new year, small businesses will face some challenges old and new. Only one resolution, however, is needed. It’s not the competition; it’s not positive cash flow. It’s building a business of engaged employees. This involves understanding employees to the point of knowing how they think about the business and listening to their ideas on growth for the business and themselves. Let’s break it down into useful practices.
This challenge is important and timely since, according to a Gallop Tracking Poll of 2015, there are twice as many disengaged employees in the U.S. than there are engaged employees who like their jobs and look forward to each workday. The poll indicates that 66 percent of workers are not engaged. Many business owners surely see tell-tale signs.
They include often coming to work late, not completing work on time, distracted by personal affairs, spreading rumors and lying, and passive-aggressive behavior, such as saying they will do something and not doing it. Rather than deal with each incident, which will not completely solve the problem, it’s better to step back and look at a bigger picture for all your employees. How would you meet this challenge?
It can be met by involving employees as partners for success. It means understanding your employees’ vision for the business (which may not be yours); their ideas for new products and services; their ideas about the culture; and thoughts about opportunities for growth for themselves as well as the business. Many business owners are moving in this direction but it’s a slow process. It requires the courage to ask the right questions. Here are some practices that are emerging to meet the challenge. Those employees who respond positively will likely have enough dedication to encourage constructive changes in those who don’t.
Employee meetings that share not just progress and the monthly performance numbers of the company but expand to include what they would do differently. How do they rate your performance as the business owner and why? Do you have a culture of possibilities? What new products or services would they recommend? What would they stop doing? How would they provide improved customer service? What performance feedback do they prefer and how is it delivered? How would they strengthen customer relationships?
These are a few of the courageous questions and conversations you can have with your employee partners. You can expect improvement in company performance from your engaged people.
In what direction is this movement going? Sparked by the talent retention movement, total employee engagement has gained wide acceptance. Owners are trying new practices that include the willingness to make themselves vulnerable to their stakeholders. Vulnerability is a positive force for change that creates a special bond between owners and employees. People volunteer to help when situations are not the best. So, expect a dialogue that begins with “where can I help,” and “here’s an idea I’d like to try,” and “have we considered this possibility?”
The best outcome is greater retention of your best employees, specifically those who want to make a positive difference in its success.
This idea is catching on and supports the research that indicates employees in general have three important needs: To have interesting work, to be recognized for making a positive contribution, and being involved in all aspects of business information, from planning to outcome.
The key is how do you reward business partners? Recognition, adopting some of their ideas, and appropriate rewards based on a direct or indirect financial impact of their participation are a few ways.
Since much of an owner’s money is tied up in the business, the risks and viability of the business is an owner’s responsibility. But the effective owner will involve his or her people in the day-to-day plans and operations. Anne Mulcahy the former CEO and chair of Xerox Corp., offers this thought: “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”
All I can add is a thought for the beginning of each new work week: Thank God it’s Monday!