As we look through the 8 Things Growing SMEs Should Do in 2014, we have taken into account productivity, having the right business model and decision making infrastructure as well as looking at ways to outsource and retain focus on expanding the core business.
But none of these elements are possible without one vital resource: your employees. From the junior accounts officer to your most trusted executive board member, your employees can be the single point of success, or failure, when trying to grow your business.
Culture; are you proud of yours?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your company will have a culture all of its own and unless its managed and nurtured in a positive way, it could become a big downfall in your organisation’s future.
Your company’s culture is its personality; it defines what it’s like to work there, how clients are treated, how staff are treated, what happens when things go wrong and how successes are celebrated (or not). Your culture can also be based around your company’s mission, values, ethics, goals and work environment.
Culture isn’t just about having your company values printed on the office mugs; it goes much deeper than that, and ignoring it or believing it to be unimportant in the overall success of your organisation can de detrimental.
Your culture will always be there, so a good leader needs to manage it effectively, which can often prove to be one of the most daunting tasks in leadership.
Communicate.Tell employees what’s happening within your organisation, the good and the bad. Bringing them into the success and failure of a company creates transparency amongst employees and trust for the senior management’s leadership. Of course, this is not meant to panic staff so the way in which you communicate negative news needs to be carefully thought out.
Listen.Create safe forums and channels for staff to tell your managers when things aren’t going well within their teams or on specific tasks. This could be regular 1:1 informal catch up sessions or asking for staff input on important decisions affecting their department.
Empower.Give your employees responsibility and trust them. Invite their input to suggest new ways of doing things and ask them to come up with solutions to problems they are facing on important work.
Be patient.A culture cannot just be made, or changed, overnight. It can take months, even years to foster a cohesive company culture, so be persistent and remain positive. Much of the work comes from the top down so setting the right example is vital.
Talent; do you attract the right kind?
Having the right people in place across all functions is a constant challenge faced by many SMEs. The best talent are not just people who complete their tasks effectively, they also need to contribute to the company’s overall culture and success in positive ways. But, are you in a position to attract the right kind of person?
Knowing what you need.This is a key first step to ensuring the right people are in the right positions within your team. Aside from the technical capabilities and expertise, what else do you expect someone to do? Are you looking for a future leader? Do want the person to follow the current processes or bring innovation and change? Ensure everyone involved in hiring is clear on what you need before starting the recruitment process.
How do you sell yourself?That’s right, companies today need to be able to demonstrate what they can offer the right candidate, beyond a good salary. People are looking to work for companies where their voice can be heard and where they will have the opportunity to bring in their own ideas. A survey amongst jobseekers determined that, over everything else, 87% of employees want a company ‘that truly cares about the well-being of its employees.’ By contrast, only 66% rated a high base salary as very important.
What’s your employee value proposition?As part of your talent acquisition process, you and your leadership team need to think about why the high performers in your industry would want to work for you over your competitor and what you might need to do to ensure they are attracted to your vision and culture.
Employee evangelists; do you know how to create them?
Brand advocates, ambassadors, evangelists; whichever term you prefer, these are your biggest asset amongst your employees. Social media can play a vital role here and, while some companies might be uncomfortable with the idea of their employees talking about their brand online, it’s becoming impossible to prevent; so managing it is key.
Think differently.Instead of seeing social media as something your employees should access outside of work, ask them to think of ways they can interact with each other, with customers and with vendors to add value. For example, your warehouse manager could send tweets to your followers to explain fulfillment times, your accounts payable team could post on your Facebook page the top 3 things customers can do to help invoices get paid quicker. Social is all about creating a community so think about who your online community is and how you can interact with them.
Encourage conversation.This could be different for each company but invite your employees to take part in LinkedIn industry groups or contribute to Facebook pages about particular topics relating to your brand. The aim is never to sell, but to create buzz around your company, and to add value to your community. A company blog is also a great way to generate content to initiate online discussions. Your employees could also contribute their own posts based on their area of expertise.
Set boundaries.Developing employee guidelines around the proper usage of social media platforms allows your teams to know where they stand, as well as the consequences of misuse.
Empowered employees can become your greatest asset; not only will they be brand advocates, they will also drive your company forward on a whole new social level; a key factor for organisations today. And, according to the National Business Research Institute, empowered employees can also positively impact your bottom line!
The team at Blue Ocean Systems works with growing SMEs to help make their future success a reality. Talk to us today about how we can support your growth journey.
Note: This story has also been adapted for publication in Steemit.