How Small Businesses Can Better Motivate Employees

by:
on October 19, 2017

A Gallup survey found that 55 percent of millennials are not engaged at work: they’re not passionate about their job and begrudgingly put in the required eight hours.

This low level of engagement is a huge problem in the workforce. It leads to dissatisfaction, low productivity, pressure on other employees to pick up the slack, delayed deadlines and a bad reputation for the company.

gif related to employee productivity

Do your employees shrug off work because they’re bored?

And then there’s the issue of not getting a good return on your investment (ROI). This Chicago Tribune editorial makes the case that companies with fewer than 20 employees incur huge losses due to low engagement. And high performers who pick up the slack for disengaged employees are likely to leave for a better work-life balance.

We’ve illustrated how much money can be lost for small businesses, using Gallup’s calculation that only 33% of American employees are actively engaged:

motivation 101s chicago tribune example

A recent Gartner survey of Top Technology Trends for SMBs (small and midsize businesses) in the US found that they are well aware of this problem. SMBs rated “motivating and retaining staff” as one of the top three challenges in achieving their business goals. And they believe that it’ll continue to be one of the top five challenges over the next two years.

This problem requires that HR teams work closely with the company leadership to solve these issues. Gallup estimates that employee dissatisfaction in the US results in a productivity loss of $450-$550 billion each year. This cost is too huge to ignore, and can be addressed by improving employee policies and implementing HR software that helps manage employees better.

Technology can help companies implement employee-focused strategies that improve performance, satisfaction and retention. This article provides five strategies for increasing engagement, and explains how software can help.

Track and Increase Employee Satisfaction

Job satisfaction plays a major role in an employee’s productivity and quality of work. Many factors influence their level of satisfaction: the tools they use to do their jobs, a team’s project management style and a good work-life balance all play a role.

Job satisfaction is not only about how happy employees feel at work. Employees want to feel like they’re contributing meaningfully at their job. Here’s how businesses can use software to track productivity while increasing employee satisfaction:

  • Use a reporting tool: In a previous article, “The Essential HR Features Your Small Business Needs“, we explained that reporting is an essential HR software feature. You can use it to create surveys, analyze employee behavior, track productivity levels and more. A single dashboard can help HR teams identify issues and their causes. Using this data, they can develop strategies to increase productivity and improve employees’ workflows.

Dayforce HCM reporting dashboard

Reporting dashboard in Dayforce HCM

Ask Employees to Give You Feedback

Effective leaders make employees feel valued in the workplace. One way to do that is to ask employees for feedback, and act upon the best ideas. This will facilitate a positive work environment and can improve your company’s reputation among prospective hires.

This feedback can also help managers gain insights and ideas from employees about how to improve the business. Here are a couple of common techniques:

  • Request honest feedback: Most businesses have a formal review process to provide feedback to employees through performance management software. You should also give employees opportunities to provide honest feedback about the management and its decisions.
     
    This exercise gives employees the confidence that their opinion is taken seriously, while telling you which decisions work and which don’t. From this feedback, you can address common issues and increase retention among your best employees.
    • Involve employees in decision making: Engaging employees in decision-making processes increases satisfaction and improves adoption of new policies and technologies. To identify employees that are well-equipped to take part in the decision making process, use the career development planning feature included with performance management software.
       
      The feature will help you select employees who prioritize skills such as problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, creativity and team building. You can also reach out to employees who want to develop these skills and offer them a hands-on learning experience.

    Namely performance dashboard

    Namely’s performance dashboard

    Identify and Retain Top-Performing Employees

    Not every employee stays forever, but businesses should identify top-performing talent that they can nurture into future leaders. These top performers consistently do better, improve productivity and handle challenging projects with confidence. Here’s how you can use software for this step:

    • Segment employees into manageable groups: This helps you understand employees’ work styles and the factors that affect productivity. This is similar to customer segmentation, where companies customize services, promotions and marketing efforts based on common preferences. You can do this in your company using the core HR feature of personnel tracking.
       
      Smaller segments makes it easy to identify a group’s winning traits, areas for improvement, expectations (such as more pay or more experience) and personal preferences (such as working at the office or at home). For example, after 3M used employee segmentation, it more effectively customized benefits, career development and other talent programs.
    • Retain the top performers: Keep an eye to your top performers and your high potential ones. Give top performers leadership opportunities to prove themselves in new situations.
       
      Meanwhile, nurture leadership skills among high-performing employees using the employee life cycle management feature in HR software. The feature will help managers create growth paths based on each individual’s interests, skills, training needs and growth plans.

    Employee life cycle management feature in Cornerstone OnDemand

    Leverage Top Performers’ Experience During Training

    The management sections in bookstores are dominated by books by successful CEOs and entrepreneurs. These books are full of examples on tackling various business challenges. Potential leaders and new managers can learn a lot from them.

    Managers can also gain a lot of on-the-ground wisdom from their own top performers. This is ideal because the knowledge base is specific to your business. This information is also relevant for existing and new employees. Here’s how you can use this knowledge for your organization’s benefit:

    • Document what your top performers have learned: Learning management solutions (LMSs) can help identify and impart successful strategies to employees. Some solutions let you create courses based on your business needs. So, encourage your thought leaders to develop courses based on their winning strategies, which other employees can apply to their tasks.
    • Make mentoring easy to manage: Mentoring is also a great way to pass on leadership skills and tactics. Consider using mentoring software to manage your programs programs. A well-organized mentoring system can motivate both top performers and leaders.

    cornerstone ondemand’s learning portal

    Cornerstone OnDemand’s learning portal

    Give Employees a Single Dashboard For Their Needs

    Sometimes, employees are left dissatisfied by poorly performing software that slows down work and productivity. This dissatisfaction can negatively impact their engagement level. That’s why companies should use tools to speed up work and increase productivity as well as revenue.

    A self-service portal can increase productivity for your HR team and the rest of your staff. A self-service portal’s dashboard provides a comprehensive view of common HR services such as leave management, training and employee feedback.

    Here are the steps HR teams should take:

    • Provide a single platform for all employee needs: A single, integrated HR platform is like a smartphone with many apps. This platform could offer all employee needs such as payroll, benefits administration and compensation management. A single platform benefits employees, HR staff and managers as it creates a central database for all purposes.
    • Integrate your HR software with other solutions: Providing employees with a great HR experience may require you to upgrade existing solutions. For example, when you started the business, you only needed payroll software so you skipped other HR features. But as the business grew, you needed benefits management.
       
      The answer could be integrating payroll with a benefits software that’s from a different vendor. Many vendors offer an open API to make integration easy. Some solutions can automatically import existing payroll data that makes it easy to customize benefits for each employee.

    ADP Vantage platform to manage employee data

    ADP Vantage provides a single platform that manages employee data

    Conclusion and Next Steps

    Forbes recommends that HR teams work closely with leadership to manage employee issues such as work frustration, poor work-life balance, unfair treatment and a lack of transparency in pay and growth opportunities. These issues can lower motivation, leading to low productivity, engagement and retention.

    Business.com quoted a UN study which found that motivated employees will be highly engaged, handle uncertainty with ease, solve problems better and be more innovative. A motivated workforce benefits both the business and employees. Here’s what companies should do to increase motivation:

    • Create metrics to track which employee-focused initiatives work for your team and those that don’t. Ditch the ones that don’t work and focus all your attention on the successful ones.
      • Identify high-performing employees and work on retaining them. These employees can motivate others to perform better.
        • Use an integrated HR solution to provide your HR team, IT team and leadership with various tools for managing employees.

        To help you out further, our buyer’s guide lists all the features you should consider when shopping for HR software, while the pricing guide will give you an idea of the costs. Also, feel free to give us a call at (844) 675-2849 for a free consultation with one of our advisers.


        Information on Gartner’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey
        Gartner conducted this survey in April-May 2017 among 699 US-based SMBs, with more than 10 employees and annual revenue of less than $100 million. The survey excluded not-for-profit organizations. The qualified respondents are decision makers, or have significant influence on the decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization.

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