A Company’s Greatest Assets…Employees

August 23, 2016

Employees are a company's greatest assets, yet so often their importance is underestimated and, as a group, overlooked. Employees are the bridge between customers and a business. The knowledge, skills, and attitudes employees collectively bring to a business will be a deciding factor in the level of customer satisfaction. Whether a customer repeats the buying experience will largely depend on employee performances. A company’s ability to thrive, succeed, and create its own competitive edge rests with the people it hires, as well as, the quality and uniqueness of its products and services.

Importance of Employees

While the importance of employees and human capital should always rate high on the list of a company’s valuable resources, these crucial assets are often neglected during good and bad economic cycles. When slowdowns occur, frequently one of the first areas to suffer is human resources – employees, salaries, benefits, and individual concerns. It is precisely during these slumps when businesses should capitalize on the potential of each employee to increase productivity and efficiency. Conversely, when the economy is booming and times are good for a business, employee concerns may take a back seat to generating sales, marketing, and increasing profits.

Employees and Small Business

Relationships between owners/mangers and employees in small businesses are usually less formal and more flexible than found in larger companies. At times, this can have a positive effect on the business since a less structured environment encourages more direct interaction between upper management and employees, which makes decision-making and communication more streamlined and efficient. On the other hand, this informality can lead to practices that can have a negative effect on productivity and motivation. Small business owners must be cognizant of this scenario and build a positive company culture with initiatives such as: 

1. Establish Expectations

Setting expectations provides a starting point for the small business owner and employee. It is an opportunity for the owner to discuss and explain the business goals, procedures, and rules in addtion to the employee’s specific duties and responsibilities. For the employee, it is an opportunity to clearly understand the details and expectations of the job. This two-way communication avoids misunderstandings and enhances the employer-employee relationship. The common understanding of expectations allows both parties to gain insights from the other. It is a proactive measure to avoid confusion and builds mutual trust and understanding from the beginning of employment. This can be the first step in establishing a long-term relationship between the parties. 

2. Adhere to Company Policies

It is important to be firm, fair, and consistent when implementing company policies making sure that all employees are treated the same. Due to the informality in small businesses and familiarity many times between owners and employees, problems can arise if rules and procedures are not applied consistently and enforced equally. When employees observe an owner treating some employees with partiality, it causes confusion and dissension that creates a demotivatng envirnoment within the business. 

3. Provide Feedback

Feedback is vital for employees to learn and grow professionally regardless of their position. Constructive feedback allows employees to build upon strengths and improve on weaknesses; thus, improving overall operational efficiency for the business. Ideally, an owner can use both informal and formal feedback in evaluating an employee’s performance and motivating the employee to achieve higher job performance. Objectivity and fairness are critical if feedback is to work as intended. 

4. Create Opportunities for Growth

Even in a small business, it is essential to create, as much as possible, an opportuntiy for professional growth and advancement. Obviously, this depends on the size and type of the business, but  through training, mentoring, and other methods of improving skills, employees can become more productive, motivated, and satisfied with their jobs.

5. Encourage Continuous Improvement

Every employee has a different type of creativity and, when tapped, can improve systems and processes when given an opportunity. Some of the best, innovative ideas come from employees actually doing the work. Small business owners should keep an open mind and solicit employees’ suggestions and recommendations. Rewarding “out-of-the-box” thinking can often add a much-needed competitive advantage for a small business.

Impact the Future

A business' future growth and success depends on the quality of its employees. When employees are utilized to their full potential, businesses can experience geometric leaps  in productivity and profits.