If you’re the leader of a small or medium-sized business, it can sometimes feel like you’re swimming against the current.  Economic insecurity, rising business costs, inflation, and hiring challenges are issues that are faced by businesses of every size, however, for SMEs, these can be crippling problems.

Keeping your employees engaged and boosting their morale within such a challenging economic landscape is just one of the many problems facing the SME business community.

Luckily, showing employees they matter isn’t all about high salaries and fancy reward packages. Here are some tips for boosting the engagement of your team no matter your size.

Tips to boost employee morale and engagement.

First things first.

Benchmark salary.

It’s not always easy to compete with your competitors – especially as an SME employer, but where possible you need to make sure you are paying your employees appropriately and this means benchmarking salary. To get a good idea of what salary is fair and reasonable you should look to see what your competitors are paying for the same role using the same skills in the same region as you.

If you find you aren’t meeting the salary expectations of the role and can’t afford to do so, you do have options. You’ll just need to get more creative with the perks and benefits.

This list may help….

Offer flexible working.

‘Flexible working’ goes way beyond just remote or hybrid working models. Of course, these are component parts of a strong flexible working offering, but true ‘Flexible Working’ is so much more.

Compressed working weeks, job shares, flexitime, and staggered hours are just a few other examples of how you can better accommodate the needs of your employees.

To better engage your team, you may consider how you can structure their working week and offer improved work-life balance.

Perks and recognition.

Perks are little things that help boost employee morale and show recognition. They don’t have to be super extravagant to be effective. Monthly subscription services, subsidised gym memberships, or monthly team lunch deliveries are economic investments that show your employees you care and that they are valued.

An internal recognition platform is another way you show appreciation for a job well done. Singling out individual or team efforts is a free way to spotlight contributions. This small gesture will mean a lot to your team. Acknowledging the contribution of your team and linking it back to your overall business mission is a first-class way to boost morale, motivation, and engagement.

Focus on training and development.

Training and development are important to your team…especially the millennial generation. Feeling stuck on the career journey or that it has stalled altogether will considerably affect the engagement and productivity of your team.

You should make sure you are having regular conversations with your team about their career goals and development needs.  Your solutions need not be costly ones.

You may like to consider ideas such as –

  • Cross-departmental training – training your team in different areas of your business is a smart move. In SMEs, the need to be multi-skilled is larger due to the necessity for “wearing many hats”. You may also discover hidden talents in your workforce that will benefit your business while casting a new eye over a particular department will encourage innovation, creativity, and enthusiasm.
  • Mentorship – use the skills and experience of your senior team to enhance the learnings of your juniors. This is free and will benefit all involved.
  • Give time – Offer your team a percentage of their working week back to up-skill. This doesn’t need to always be professional development. Studies have shown that creative pursuits are great for wellbeing, so to encourage this shows your team you care about their health and happiness.

Leadership matters.

As the leader of an SME business, your role is critical in ensuring the engagement of your team. Workplace culture is set from the top, so your contribution to the values of the business is essential for the overall feel and morale of the organisation.

Your actions should demonstrate support, inclusivity, and empathy. By giving your team autonomy over their work you will foster a sense of empowerment. When workers can make their own decisions, or with minimal direction, they will naturally feel more invested in their work.

Small is beautiful.

Embrace your size.

There are a lot of positives to being smaller. Your employees aren’t just a cog in the wheel. They aren’t just a payroll number or a face in a crowd. Their contribution is tangible and means something.   Business leaders can embrace their smallness by building a culture of ‘family’ and ‘intimacy’.

This may include options such as regular meetups or social engagements that allow everyone to get to know each other. This family feeling will keep everyone connected to the business, its goals, and its work.

Employees are typically more loyal to small businesses. If you can foster a collaborative and welcoming environment that recognises everyone, you’ll really help to keep your employees energised and engaged.

After the pandemic, employee buy-in isn’t just dependent upon salary. Of course, salary matters, but it doesn’t hold the weight it once did. In 2023, you can boost employee morale and engagement by showing your employees how much they’re valued.

As an SME business leader, you can do this by honouring training and development, committing to their well-being, and offering working models that more broadly encompass “flexible working”.

Are you a leader of an SME business? Would you like help filling out your tech, digital and data team this year?

Reach out to Ignite Digital. We can help.

About the author: I manage the recruitment for a range of digital roles for my clients on both a retained and contingency basis. I specialise in senior and confidential appointments, always giving a first class representation of a client’s employer brand.

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