How small businesses can manage the employee journey in the digital age

The ongoing global skills shortage means small businesses are struggling to attract and retain top talent. According to a recent survey by Manpower, 40 per cent of employers globally are having difficulty filling positions. All kinds of businesses from start-up to corporation, are seeing the highest talent shortage since 2007.

For small businesses, keeping up a positive everyday employee experience by increasing pay and benefits can make it tricky to find a balance between profitability and keeping people happy. Setting a fair compensation package is key to starting the employer/employee relationship on the right track – but this is not the be all and end all. Based on recent research employees rate feeling valued and recognised over quirky benefits and in-office gimmicks.

Managing these challenges has never been easy but it is certainly more difficult than ever today. How do small businesses deliver great workplace experiences to engage their employees in an age of the empowered employee?

Emphasis on employee experience – everyone makes a big deal of the customer experience and how much they are trying to find out how best to serve their customers but that principle isn’t always the case with employees. In fact, almost half (47 per cent) of respondents in a survey said they’d never been asked by their employer how they can improve their working experiences. Only 12 per cent were asked on a regular basis.

For small-business owners, who often wear the “HR Hat”, try using HR’s most trusted tool for gleaning employee opinion – the annual survey. To keep today’s workforce engaged, small businesses must be proactive about engaging employees. It’s more than buying pizzas on Thursdays (as excellent as this is) It is about listening to employees’ concerns and acting on them to effect positive change.

Using HR as an everyday tool – Whether it is managing finances, taking on the role of a social media manager or playing the “HR police”, a small-business owner is often forced to take on many different roles. More often than not, small-business owners forget to stretch their HR muscle.

Software such as Sage Business Cloud People, gives small-business owners access to information on performance, recruitment and payroll, for example, and puts HR in a unique position to deliver real and tangible benefits to the business and employees.

Encourage employee ownership – In large corporations, a longstanding HR practice that’s becoming increasingly redundant is the position that employee information is locked away from them in HR’s vaults. For smaller businesses, a huge advantage to employee engagement is that this exclusivity between ‘employee’ and ‘employee information’ does not exist.

With the prevalence of mobile and digital technologies, small businesses can and should empower employees to own their work experience. Employees can access performance information, work schedules and incentives at their own convenience, without interrupting anyone else’s workflow. This not only frees up space from small-business owners but creates a much more open relationship between employee and employer.

People are the most important asset to any business, big or small. Combining inspired employees with effective processes, small businesses can position themselves to ensure employee satisfaction. Keeping employees happy will not only be beneficial for them. At a time when over a third of employees admit to being productive for less than 30 hours per week, it could lead to outstanding business growth. Especially as according to 78 per cent (92 per cent for the younger generations), a positive work experience has a huge impact on productivity. Everybody wins.

Alex Haloulos, Director – Sage People, ANZ

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