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7 Ways to Lead and Empower Your Team – Because Satisfied Employees Make for Happy Customers

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Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 - 18:59
Created: Thursday, September 8, 2011 - 08:53

Don’t you just hate it when you walk into a store or business and the first person you come across is unwelcoming, disengaged, or neutral at best? It immediately sends the message that the employee is not happy, that this might not be a great place to work, and, by extension, is it really the kind of business you want to give your patronage to?

Studies have long shown the links between employee morale and business success, but new findings published in the Journal of Service Research,* demonstrate direct links between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Other studies* go a step further and point to a link between the satisfaction levels of employees in a back office and customer satisfaction, even though there is no direct contact between them.

So there’s little doubt that employees are an essential part of your brand – they are often the face of your business, they reflect its culture and values, and let’s face it: they can be an underlying factor in your success.

What is a Satisfied Employee?

More than just happy (a very subjective word at best). Science Daily* identifies satisfied employees as those with a sense of well-being. This includes the presence of positive emotions such as joy and interest, and the absence of negative emotions such as apathy and sadness. And, just as positiveemotions can enhance employee perceptions of finding meaning in their work, they can also be a factor in performance, achievement and employee growth.

7 Ways to Lead and Empower Satisfied Employees

While it’s hard to hire only employees with an innate sense of well-being, here are seven ways you can foster a positive work environment and empower your employees, without breaking the bank.

1. Be a Good Leader – You might be a good manager, but are you a good leader? Do you always have one eye on inspiring your team to excel and succeed? Assess your leadership skills and find out how you can use them to nurture employee potential in: 4 Tips for Effective and Inspiring Business Leadership in Uncertain Times.

2. Give your Employees “Boss Time” – Everyone wants to spend time around inspirational leaders, and it’s important for you to listen and show you care about your employees’ work, their concerns, and their aspirations so that they stay engaged and productive.  This can take many forms. From mentor/protégé programs to giving your employees more face time (try skipping email for once and have a quick one-on-one meeting in your office).  In hierarchical businesses, it’s also important to recognize your management team: it’s likely they already get workplace face time with you, but consider giving them “social” face-time too. Whether it’s a game of golf once a quarter with your entire management team, or one-on-one lunches with individual managers once a month.

3. Empower Your Employees –Employees with a strong sense of well-being tend to be more eager to take on new challenges and play a wider role in the success of your business. Likewise, high-quality performance is greatest when the demands of the job are highest! Here are a couple of ways to empower your employees:

  • Let them make decisions independently of you. Very often your employees are closer to the action than you are and often know the right decision to make. But first, be sure to put some parameters around the decision-making process. When employees make decisions, they’ll need to consider the impact on three things -- customers, the team, and your business profitability.   
  • Encourage creative thinking. There are always problems to be solved and better ways to do things, so why not challenge your employees to come up with creative ways to deal with common business issues.Whether it’s tasking individuals to seek out a low-cost software solution for streamlining your invoicing system or suggesting a process improvement for managing inventory – put the challenge in the hands of your employees. If there is no time to do this during normal business hours, make it a lunchtime challenge that takes place over five days, with teams regrouping each day to report progress.

4. Have Educational “Lunch and Learns” – Give your employees the opportunity to learn more about your business as well as the market with informal brown bag lunch and learn sessions. Come up with a topic calendar and each month set aside time for the team to meet and learn and participate in these interactive sessions. Topics might include:

  • Business performance and team goals – Keep everyone engaged and aware of the impact they have on your business by presenting your quarterly business highlights, areas that need to be improved and plans for the future. Remember to set aside time for Q&A so that your employees can participate and stay engaged.
  • “Show and Tell” – Has an employee, partner, or team achieved success by doing things differently? Is there a new technology or market force changing the way you do business? Give those involved an opportunity to showcase what they did or what they are observing so that others can learn from it and apply those skills and insights to their areas of responsibility.
  • Bring in a Guest Speaker – Whether it’s a business partner, an industry thought leader or a community leader, bringing in an inspirational speaker from outside the company can help give perspective and broaden everyone’s horizons to new ways of doing things.

5. Go on, Let Them Telework –Telework is a huge incentive for employees and when handled and managed correctly can be a win-win for both of you. Here are some considerations, how-to’s, and tax incentives to bear in mind as you go about setting up a telework program: How to Make Telework Work for Your Small Business.

6. Be Unexpected in your “Thank You’s” – We all appreciate being thanked, but why not go the extra mile and make a point of using gift cards, hand-written thank you notes, and other gestures to recognize achievement. To avoid any sense of favoritism this is best done in the case of significant team achievements. You could also write hand-written thank you notes to employees on their anniversary dates.

7. Set Up a Formal Performance Review Process – Everyone deserves to know how they are doing against both your business goals and their own performance goals. This quick article (Recognizing Performance in a Tough Economy) has some useful tips on how to assess employee performance. It also outlines options for rewarding employees with wage hikes and bonuses, and demystifies the facts of employment law as it relates to wage-related benefits.

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government website.

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Caron Beesley has over 15 years of experience working in marketing, with a particular focus on the government sector. Caron is also a small business owner and works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Type: Community Blog