What are the Biggest Challenges Faced by SMEs – Part 5: Staffing and Employee Morale

Every business owner sets out with the dream of becoming the largest and most desirable company in the sector. We all dream of having clients and customers seeking us out, and we want everyone to send their CV to us with the drive and determination to work for us.

Despite this, one of the largest challenges faced by SMEs relates to staffing and employee morale in general. When things are going well for the company do you hire more staff to cope with the growing demand for your services or do you bide your time? If you do bite the bullet and post that job ad, you need to be sure that the work is likely to be there in the short, medium and long-term and if it is, will the people you bring in be up to the challenge and happy in their role?

Over the past few weeks we’ve looked at several of the issues faced by SMEs including finances, security and – most recently – communication both internally and externally; and today we’re talking through the hiring process and how to keep your staff at the peak of their powers.

Employee motivation

As we all know from being employed ourselves, it is important to create a positive, healthy atmosphere for staff. It’s the best way to get the most and best out of them! There are all kinds of different techniques and methods that you can try in order to do this but at the end of the day it all comes down to the individuals, your company culture and as always – budget.

Some people respond best to incentives. They could be financial incentives such as commission on sales or pay rises relating to performance. Sometimes they’re even career-related so that they have a clear progression plan in their appraisals helping them to reach the next level of their career in easy steps. It could also be new equipment like a new work laptop or tablet or it might just be something like some drinks in the office or a team lunch.

A lot of SMEs find that staff spend between 18 months and three years at a company before moving on to a new challenge. Sometimes this is down to progression, it may be down to relocation or it may be because of family commitments – some are out of your control, but it’s important to show each and every member of staff that they are valued individually.

Successful SMEs have introduced various health and fitness schemes for their employees enabling them to try their hand at lunchtime yoga or by arranging discounted memberships with a local gym that they can use on their lunch hours or before or after work, whatever works for them.

The key is that the company is giving its employees the kind of things they need to feel good about themselves and it is then up to them if they take them up on it. Offering lunches on Friday’s is a great idea and can get the ‘feel good factor’ going around the workplace on that day, but it’s important to give morale a boost every day to keep the motivation and productivity up.

If you are looking for ways to reward your staff for their hard work and commitment then make sure that you provide them with a list of performance-related targets or KPIs that they can be judged against after a period of time. By giving people something to aim for personally they will also bring the company forward with them by improving what they – and you – can offer, showing that they are fully deserving of the extra responsibility and/or the extra cash.

Give and take!

Whether it’s a football team, a mobile phone, an album from a band or one of the movies in a franchise different people have different preferences – especially when it comes to technology. As the owner of an SME it can be difficult to decide whether to bow to the requests of staff members in terms of certain machines or upgrades, or whether to just invest in a range of desktop PCs that staff are to ‘make do’ with.

In the early days the easiest option is to provide the same machines for everyone – usually based on your own preference as an expert in your field or dictated by the money you have available to spend. As the business grows you can start to consult people a bit more, as different people in different areas of the business may be able to do more on an Apple machine than they might on a Microsoft for example.

You may even make your decision based on the latest operating systems. Windows has been adopted all over the world, but there are still those who are using Windows 7 because they refuse to adopt the “poorer” Windows 10 – it is all down to personal preference.

The other issue you have is that learning to use a new machine or where everything is in your new upgraded operating system can cause downtime in the business. When productivity needs to be high you really need to consider whether rolling out a company-wide upgrade of the systems and machines is essential at that point or whether you could sample it on a few machines before upgrading bit by bit.

Remote and flexible working

Remote and flexible working is one of the most important factors when it comes to taking a job, according to numerous studies undertaken in the UK over the past few years. When arriving for a job interview it is one of the most frequently asked questions and can make a difference as to whether people take the job or not.

A survey of more than 500 European SMEs by a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company found that 66 per cent of the members of senior management within the SMEs believe that mobile working and optimising their business for the cloud is a strategic priority. At the same time, mobile security remains a real issue for businesses – of all sizes – so it is worth investigating and investing in expert support on this front.

The freedom to work not only from home on the odd occasion, but while they are commuting is something that genuinely appeals to a number of workers who feel that they can get work done on the train in the morning or evenings, or while they are travelling to and from meetings which doesn’t just aid overall productivity but reduces downtime, too.

This is where high quality laptops and access to the cloud can prove to be highly beneficial for staff. Depending on your industry the hardware and software required on the machine will vary, but if you’re looking to produce word documents or spreadsheets perhaps even presentations that need to be finalised en route to the client then a laptop from one of the leading manufacturers combined with wireless Internet access (as not all trains have it) so that they can save and edit their work in the cloud may be all that you need.

This will enable your staff to increase productivity so that you’re still meeting targets and enticing new staff members with the latest machines.

Also by giving staff laptops that they can work on anytime and anywhere they have the ability to work on it from their desks in collaboration with their desktop PCs. Docking stations work with the laptops and provide a seamless connection so that browser windows can be displayed on either screen, helping to increase productivity in many cases.

Imagine that you are writing up a monthly report from a client and are flicking between email conversations, Google Analytics, the spreadsheet containing the latest data and the document where you are creating your report… not only does this add time it can also make things very confusing. The docking station will enable you to open your email correspondence and Analytics on the laptop while utilising your larger main screen for the report itself saving time and maximising productivity – and what manager doesn’t like the sound of that?!

For more of the latest advice for SME’s on how to overcome various business challenges, come back to the Business Direct blog soon for part six in our series where we’ll be looking at the future and stepping into the unknown.

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