November 4, 2021

Five ways to keep employees engaged at your small business

How engaged are your employees? Employee engagement is an important driver of both individual and organizational performance. A Hays Canada survey found employee attitudes have shifted due to the pandemic, with 47% of Canadian office workers seriously considering leaving their current position. Employees are revaluating what matters in their work and are looking toward organizations that value staff during unpredictable times and provide more meaningful work.

Focusing on your people to improve retention effort is key in times of high turnover and a competitive job market. Eighty percent of Canadians are experiencing more burnout and work-life conflict than they were pre-pandemic on the National Work from Home Survey.

An engaged employee can be an asset to your team because are motivated and committed to work, which can lead to better productivity and improve culture. Research by Asana about the psychological conditions of personal engagement at work suggest that to have successful employee engagement requires three characteristics: meaningfulness, safety, and wellbeing.

Asana broke down these engagement characteristics and defined them as such:

  • Meaningfulness: Workers feel valued and useful in their workplace.
  • Safety: Workers are comfortable being themselves at work and with their coworkers.
  • Availability: Workers feel they have the physical and psychological resources to do their job.

Here are a few key actions organizations can take to support employee engagement:

Start engagement at onboarding

Set the standard right from the employee start date. This is part of your first impression and sets the tone for how your people view their relationship with you and subsequently the company. Onboarding is one of most important functions of HR, as much of 20% of turnover occurs within the first 45 days of a new hire’s start date.

Poor onboarding can lead to lower morale, lower levels of engagement, and a lack of trust in the organization. Nearly 90% of new hires decide whether they want to stay at a job in the first six months. Employee engagement right from the start is an important factor in retaining your people in the long run.

Put your employees in the driver seat with a self-service system that allows them to easily upload their personal information. Empower your employees to easily maintain their own data and know where to look to access payslips, tax documents, and everything HR-related.

Keep in mind that this can also be applied to transboarding, which refers to the transfer or promotion of an existing employee. Just because an employee isn’t a new hire doesn’t mean they don’t need the same experience to help them adjust to a new role or new work location. This continues to promote a feel of job stability to your people.

Give employees more autonomy

Employees with higher levels of workplace autonomy report higher levels of job satisfaction and positive effects on their wellbeing, according to research in ScienceDaily. Of 20,000 employees surveyed, employees with greater levels of control over both the pace of their work and working hours enjoyed their work more. Examine opportunities to empower your people whenever possible.

Another area where autonomy is important is scheduling.  Allowing employees to design their work week in a way that fits their lifestyle helps to create a sense of control, accommodate caregiving duties, allow for mental health breaks, and improve work-life balance. Workforce management tools can help create fair schedules that balance employees’ needs with the needs of the business.

Managers and employees alike appreciate more efficiency in their timekeeping systems, such as clocked hours automatically linking to their schedules and payroll. Automated time and attendance software keeps all employee data integrated in one system and helps reduce payroll errors. With mobile time management, employees can punch in and out, edit timecards, and perform work transfers all easily from their phone – saving managers time, which can be spent on coaching and developing their teams.

2021 Pulse of Talent

Hear what today's employees want and need.

Download the report

Encourage collaboration

Employees often feel more loyalty to the people they work with than to the company itself, according to Harvard Business Review. The study found camaraderie at work created mutual respect and admiration to work hard for good outcomes. Driving better engagement and collaboration is one of the top global business strategies because of its impact on both employee and customer satisfaction and stakeholder value.

Creating a collaborative workplace doesn’t happen overnight. Start with identifying leaders who can empower people to reach their full potential in their individual roles. At a small business where talent may have a variety of skillsets, it’s easier to encourage teamwork and help employees learn new skills from each other. A team that enjoys working together is more motivated to get their work done efficiently and encourage further innovation.

Provide personalized support

No one likes feeling like a cog in the machine. Today’s employees now value being treated like a fellow human in the workplace by their managers. Small businesses have an advantage over large corporations as managers have more opportunities to work with their employees and get to know them. Employees can also gain more access to senior leadership and interact with them in both a professional and personal sense, which can be unheard of in larger organizations.

Wellbeing is now an important part of the employee experience and is critical for engagement. Employees that suffer from burnout are more prone to absenteeism and a lack of productivity at work, reports the World Health Organization. Try checking in with your employees during regular one on one meetings to see how their workload is impacting them.

Small businesses may have closer knit teams that don’t have to adhere to traditional workplace structures and can offer more flexibility that large companies cannot. This individualized experience can be an important aspect of the employee value proposition and help small businesses acquire talent they otherwise couldn’t based on salary alone.

Make recognition routine

Your employees are doing a great job and they could do even better with acknowledgement. The main benefits of employee recognition include happier employees, increased productivity, increased employee retention, and it can help cultivate a culture of self-improvement. Remembering to regularly engage with high potential individuals can help them see a career path and growth opportunities at your organization.

Build recognition into regular routines, such as during weekly team meetings or announcing wins in monthly updates. It’s better to acknowledge great work at the time, as opposed to six months down the line. Gratitude can help motivate employees because when they experience stronger feelings of social worth in their workplace, they continue to choose prosocial behaviour.

Other great ways to make rewarding good work routine? Implement incentive programs into daily operations. HeyTaco is a social recognition add-on to Slack that allows teammates to give each other regular shout-outs using tacos as currency. Teammates and managers can cultivate a culture of appreciation on a regular basis, with a gamification leaderboard and achievement levels.

Keeping employees engaged at your small business is a long-term strategy that can drive real value over time. Retain your talent longer, build more productive and innovative teams, and create a workplace where managers coach for success.

Gladys Miranda

Gladys Miranda is a Sr. Marketing Manager at Ceridian

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