5 ways for SMEs to boost employee engagement
Research has shown that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of growth and innovation in the Asia Pacific region. According to Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), SMEs represents 97% of all enterprises and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies, resulting in its significant contributions to the region’s economic growth.
As their numbers account for majority of the workforce in the region, it is important for SMEs to prioritise employee engagement to keep their employees happy and in doing so, increase productivity. However, this is easier said than done. Compared to their larger counterparts, SMEs often find difficulty in allocating time and investment to nurture employee engagement as they tend to allocate whatever available time and resources that they have to focus more on running the business and driving sales.
In addition, most employees in SMEs would be overwhelmed by work as they are often required to multitask recurrently due to the lesser number of staff. As a result, employees may sometimes find themselves feeling exhausted, worn out or unmotivated. This is where it becomes detrimental towards the business as low employee productivity leads to lower profitability and retention rates.
Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, SMEs do not necessarily need to allocate large budgets, offer flashy perks or lavish bonuses to increase employee engagement. There is no better way to improve productivity and reduce employee turnover than to simply create a great workplace and foster a strong work culture.
1. Open door policy
With a smaller business structure, an open-door policy is easier to be implemented in SMEs. In fact, it would be relatively easier to achieve a close-knit work relationship in SMEs where managers would have better opportunities to connect with employees, show their support and really get to know their team members in person. Regular and timely interaction foster trust, loyalty and strengthen your work relationship with them.
2. Have one-on-one meetings
Make sure that these one-on-one meetings are implemented correctly. These regular meetings should be kept brief and act as a high-level overview of current issues and work progress. Remember that due to the work nature of SMEs, your employees may be overworked, therefore it is good to take some time to listen to them and be supportive, providing both positive and constructive feedback at the same time.
3. Share the bigger picture
With fewer levels of bureaucracy, you can consider sharing business plans and make your employees feel more valued. You might find that they will become more engaged when they understand the company’s vision more and their significant contribution to a certain project. Alternatively, perhaps involve your employees in business decision-making because they might have some invaluable insights that could prove helpful as they are the ones that have the most hands-on experience in the business.
4. Allow flexibility
Flexible work arrangement is becoming a norm in large companies. Consider flexibility in your small business too, with a focus on improving employees’ work-life balance as well as their health and well-being. Or you could allow time-off for employees, especially during emergencies such as picking up a sick child from school, sending an ill pet to the vet or run some urgent errands for the family. These arrangements help to reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and enhance loyalty.
5. Provide benefits that matter
Many owners of SMEs mistakenly believe that employee benefits are something that they cannot afford. Indeed, unlike big corporations, SMEs have no means to offer lavish benefits and must carefully strategize their benefit scheme. Nevertheless, it makes a lot of difference when they provide enough incentive to keep their employees happy to maximise productivity. Benefits should not be seen as costs without payback, rather, as performance drivers that are worth investing in.
Regardless the size of the organisation, employee engagement is critical and these are some of the fundamental steps towards a long-term strategy in winning the minds and hearts of your employees. There are no shortcuts to what makes a successful employee engagement strategy. Creating a great workplace with well-personalised humble gestures and sheer tenacity will definitely go a long way than monetary incentive alone.