The coronavirus pandemic has undeniably changed the shape of the working world, but so too has it shifted society’s perspective on what is important in the workplace. Some businesses have struggled to survive, and others have flourished, but what will no longer be tolerated is those who operate without resolve, care or compassion for their employees.
As we see even the likes of ‘gig economy’ employers move to give payment rights and employment contracts to their staff, more traditional businesses too must move toward a fairer, more engaging proposition for employees to retain and motivate them.
It’s not uncommon for employers to have given out vouchers to staff at Christmas, throw the odd staff party with drinks tokens or dished out a weighted performance bonus in times of success. But now with employees becoming even more aware of their rights – and their desires – these small gestures may no longer be considered enough. That’s not to say that small businesses must scrimp and save to spend their bottom dollar on staff incentives, by no means. But there are creative and more engaging ways to show your workforce just how appreciated they are… and we investigate some of those right here.
- Host employee ideas forums
The notion that “ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time” rings true – and facilitating an opportunity for all employees of all backgrounds, levels and responsibilities to raise theirs can be hugely beneficial. Whether an ideas forum is set up as a meeting, a drop-in session, a box for post-its or an email inbox, all ideas can be collated, acknowledged and worked from where appropriate. No idea should ever be dismissed, and where an idea is made by an employee that is taken further, thanks should be given and they should be invited onboard the project in place to make it a reality.
It is a common frustrations with employees, particularly in large and more traditional businesses, that they don’t feel that their concerns are listened to or their voices heard. Taking the time out of your day to sit down, have a coffee with and really interact with staff on an equal level allows them to air anything they need to upward or onward, and to feel as though they’re listened to; even if not about anything work-related at all!
- Offer flexibility
Employees are human, and humans have complicated lives. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Realistically, offering a little flexibility to staff needing to leave early for a family reason or switch shifts to make an appointment or work from home because they don’t feel great lends very little disruption to the workplace – but can be really, truly appreciated by those who utilise it.
- Be specific with praise
There’s nothing worse than having a boss who doesn’t know your name, or who just hands out compliments without actually caring or understanding what they’re saying. Being targeted and honest with your compliments, praise and thanks properly conveys that not only do you know what staff are doing, you’re grateful for it and you value their individual contribution. Get specific in thanking for them their particular input. It’s only a few words extra, but can make the world of difference!
- Open opportunities
If employees feel valued and as though they’re able to grow and develop within a firm, they’re more likely to stay there. Opening opportunities to those already working within the business, even if not necessarily linear career development, demonstrates a willingness to help them grow; professionally and personally. Introduce staff to people in roles of interest, encourage them to volunteer and network, and, if possible, promote internally through the ranks.
- Give trust
Of course, a successful employee should be trusted to their job without the intervention of others (unless they ask for it), but don’t be afraid to show them they’re trusted a little further too. Offer extra responsibilities or further development opportunities where possible but tow the line between increasing workload – all should be given the chance to earn trust, but not to be overwhelmed.
- Pay fairly
Is there a gender, racial or age pay gap in your business? All employees deserve to be paid fairly for what they do and equally to their colleagues in the same position. Ensure pay is fair across the board if not transparent and give staff clear visibility on policies and procedures to undergo to ask for a pay rise, if appropriate.
- Have their back
It is, unfortunately, not uncommon to see a customer complaint or supplier niggle escalate to a manager and miraculously, the whole problem is resolved. In practice, there are indeed situations whereby things need to be corrected, but it is always important to have your staff’s back – especially when dealing with someone more senior or someone external to the firm. Even if things must be changed or amended, or a decision reversed, acknowledging employees’ contribution/s and policy adherence should always be vocalised (or typed, in the case of email or written correspondence).
- Surprise and delight
Once in a while, surprise your staff! The ‘surprise and delight’ method is used often by companies as a marketing method for customers but it can build relationships with staff, too. When things are quiet let them leave early, buy breakfast for the office or just make a round of coffees once in a while. These little things can really make all the difference.
- Stay open and honest
Business is rarely always plain sailing and employees get this; particularly when they’re on the front line of it! Maintaining an open, honest, no-blame line of communication and keeping the workforce abreast of company developments provides oversight, encourages employee buy-in and allows for greater employee engagement. All are imperative to cultivating a great employer-employee relationship; and reaping the rewards sown by both parties.
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