Running a small business is, more often than not, an eternal balancing act. At the start you’re just trying to keep your ship afloat, and afterward you need to be able to know where to allocate your money, time, and energy. It’s not easy. And too many of us might fall into the pitfall of asking too much of our employees without paying attention to their needs. And this is a major problem because the best employees are usually the ones that can find a new job more easily if they were to quit.
If you’re worried about this balance, we have you covered. You may think you need to drive employees hard to get the best work, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s all about the approach and the working environment you create. Read onward, and you might find that with these strategies you can get rid of a few problems with one decision.
1) Reconsider the Use of Technology and Additional Help
A lot of the things your employees are spending time on might not even need to be done by an employee. If you hired them right, they should be either engaging with the customers or coming up with creative ideas to help improve the business, or performing the main task for which they are hired. An employee whose time is constantly divided is probably not a happy employee, and you likely aren’t getting the most out of someone who performs menial tasks all day.
If you haven’t checked in a while, consider investing in software or equipment that lets employees get their job done more easily and more effectively. The cost will usually make itself up quickly with the wages better spent elsewhere and your employees will be more satisfied with not wasting their time. Alternatively, considering hiring freelancers or specialists when needed instead of relying on non-expert employees who probably will become frustrated with tasks they have no experience or interest in.
2) Actively Engage Your Employees and Check in on Them
No matter your industry, you can always check in on employees to see if all their needs are being met and if they have any suggestions to make their working experience better. You don’t need to approve every suggestion you hear, just the ones that make sense for all parties involved.
Also, not every way of making your employees more engaged and satisfied with their work must be an expense item. Instead, you can consider trying to do other things and build a better general workplace community. There will always be some employees you can never please, and in time they can be replaced if need be. Don’t let them poison the batch of employees you can develop a better working relationship with.
3) Emphasize Work-Life Balance
As much as you might want to give your best workers a lot of overtime and keep that as the status quo, such an effort is ultimately unsustainable for both your business and your employees. It’s now well known that consistently working over a certain number of hours (it varies a bit from person to person) will ultimately result in negative productivity. Similarly, a consistent or self-defined schedule is a necessity for many employee’s lives, especially those with other responsibilities such as children.
This might mean you need to rearrange some schedules or get some more help, but it’s a necessary step in the long run. A bit of flex time can go a long way as well, so don’t think reducing or extending working hours is your only option.
4) Don’t Punish Creativity, and Reward Results
The best situation you can have is a workforce that actively tries to improve the business you build and constantly seeks to better either the product, customer service, or otherwise cut unnecessary costs. But too often do business owners respond to these thoughts with measures that only serve to dissuade future work, piling more work onto the most immediately productive employees and cramming in additional busywork when someone manages to save fifteen minutes on a shift. Focus on the total work done and not on how busy everyone looks.
Instead, reward creative thinking with paid time-off (even just telling someone who’s done early they can have the rest of the afternoon), bonuses, or other things that your business can afford that you know your employees would be interested in. Yes, you might cut into short term profits by rewarding these types of ideas, but in the long term you will be creating a better, results-oriented, workplace that will seek to become more efficient on its own.
The nature of running a business is naturally going to change over time, but human relationships and human needs will stay consistent over the lifetime of your small business. Stick to the above principles, and you’ll find that you will have a better workplace and happier employees.
Do you have any additional ideas on how to balance your employee’s needs with the requirements of running an effective business? How do you handle things? We would love to hear your thoughts on this complicated subject, so please leave a comment below.
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