We know that hiring your first employee (or employees) was a big deal. From figuring out how to define and advertise the position to finding the right person, buying uniforms and tech for them to use, and investing in their training, it probably involved more time, effort, and expense than you expected.

But it was all worth it. Because you’ve successfully created a team you like, a team that works well together, and a team that’s helping propel your small business towards bigger and better things.

Which is why you’d rather not have to start from scratch again any time soon!

So, how do you ensure your employees are happy to stay with you for the long haul?

You invest in employee engagement.

High employee engagement is the key to employee retention, to happy employees who show up with a smile on their face, to employees who are invested in their work and want your business to succeed.

It really is that important — so here’s how to make it a priority.

Set regular goals and objectives

Most of us don’t turn up to work every day solely for the payslip; we need to find meaning in our work, to feel like we’re learning new skills, pushing ourselves, and fulfilling our potential.

So get to know your employees better. Find out what motivates them in and out of work and what they value. Then use this information to help them set meaningful, achievable goals and objectives.

It might be that they’d like mentoring on a specific aspect of their job. They might want to take concrete steps towards advancement. Or they might be driven by the opportunity to link the business to a new charity or to explore different markets.

Tapping into these desires and helping your employees hit new milestones is a huge part of keeping them happy and engaged.

Create a feedback-friendly culture

You’ve probably worked somewhere — at least once in your life — where things didn’t work all that well. Processes were awkward, there was redundant admin, or you had to use outdated software that made everything harder than it should be.

And when your attempt at providing your boss with constructive feedback about these problems fell on deaf ears, what did you do? Eventually, you started looking around for another job…

Avoid this pitfall in your own business by creating a feedback-friendly culture.

Make it clear to all employees that you value their opinion and give them multiple methods of providing feedback. For example, introduce an open door policy, provide regular questionnaires about current work practices, and take a minute at the end of team meetings to request verbal feedback.

And show your employees that you’re not just paying lip service; commit to taking action on constructive feedback when appropriate or if the feedback is impractical, let staff know why you can’t implement their suggestions but that you’ll work together to find a different solution.

Schedule regular 1:1 employee meetings (and stick to them!)

This is another area where managers and business owners have great intentions but don’t always follow through.

After all, when things go crazy and you don’t know which fire to put out first, scheduled employee 1:1 meetings are often the first thing to be shelved.

However, these regularly scheduled meetings are a vital way to boost employee engagement. It’s an opportunity for you to get to know your staff better so you can set truly meaningful goals for them and it’s an opportunity for them to provide feedback in a more private setting. It’s also a great way for quieter employees who don’t like to speak up during team meetings to share their ideas and for you to offer valuable constructive criticism on their performance.

So it’s a good idea to move these meetings further up the priority list. If this feels tricky,  consider creating a small time buffer around each one so you can keep the appointment even if you’re having one of ‘those’ days.

employee engagement

Provide recognition

While we tend to thrive on having a challenge, on knowing that we’re working towards something, and having a clear path towards professional progress, we also need to know that we’re doing well right now.

When employers highlight the things we’re excelling at and the various contributions we’re making to the overall success of the company, we feel valued. And people who feel valued are far more likely to stick around.

There are various ways to provide your employees with recognition — you just have to consider the most appropriate strategies for your specific team. A gregarious sales team might appreciate a salesperson of the month award. If your team is more introverted they might not want a huge fuss but would be thrilled with an extra day off as a thank you for the times they’ve gone above and beyond. Even just making a conscious effort to regularly acknowledge the work they’re putting in can make your employees feel seen and appreciated.

Reign in the micro-managing

Micro-managing is a common pitfall for small business owners. After all, you’ve created your business from scratch, there’s an awful lot riding on it, and you’re naturally protective.

So yes, you might be inclined to micro-manage, particularly newer members of staff.

But here’s what you need to remember: you hired your people for a reason. Whether it was their experience, their incredible ideas, or their shining personality, you saw something in them that you knew would be a great asset to your business. Now you need to trust that they’re going to bring that special something.

And you need to give them the opportunity to do so without feeling like you’re always peering over their shoulder or denying them the freedom they need to show initiative.

So be mindful of your behaviour and if you feel like you’re crossing the line between checking in and checking up, consciously take a step back. If you’ve created a welcoming atmosphere in the workplace, your employees will soon let you know if they need extra help or advice.

Make employee wellbeing a priority

With stress levels at an all-time high, it pays to keep an eye on your employee’s mental well being so you can help them avoid burnout — one of the key factors that cause people to look for alternative employment.

What can you do to make their lives easier, both in and out of work?

That might look like providing opportunities for flexible or remote working or ensuring that staff are taking their full holiday entitlement.

Or you might need to think about ways of making their workday easier. You might consider taking on an extra staff member to lighten the load of anyone trying to cram enough work for two people into a single day or invest in new tools or software that improves productivity and efficiency. For example, with Clear Books accounting and payroll software, your team could automate tasks like invoicing, payroll, and bookkeeping, drastically cutting the hours and effort required for these tasks.

Not only will this make their job feel simpler, it will also free up the time and the headspace they need to unleash their creativity, innovate, and work on other business-boosting activities.

An engaged workforce is an essential part of any successful, growing business. And if you follow even a little of the advice above, we’re confident you’ll soon have a team of enthusiastic employees who take joy in their day-to-day responsibilities and pride in the part they’re playing to maintain and build your business. That’s a win for everyone!

Clear Books Online Accounting & Payroll Software

Clear Books is an award-winning online accounting & payroll software for small businesses. 

Clear Books makes it easy to calculate pay, produce payslips, track employee absences and report to HMRC. Save time and pay all your staff at once with our click-to-pay feature in Clear Books.

Clear Books was launched in London in 2008 and offers a free 30 day trial with free ongoing support and bank feeds. We’re rated as ‘Excellent’ on Trustpilot.

Get a free 30-day trial of Clear Books Payroll software here.

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