Discontent is contagious and when it seeps into your small business via unhappy staff it can cost you time, energy and ultimately money.

While the big corporations boast leadership programs and entire departments dedicated to human resourcing and employee morale, in small business it falls on you, the captain of a small ship, under sail in a big sea.  

So here are 10 tips for maintaining morale aboard your small enterprise.

Hire well – Seems obvious, we know, however in small business you’re not only looking for job skills but also the right fit for your business ethos. That may mean forgoing a couple of credentials in the knowledge you can train the right person to do a job, but it’s a lot harder to instil the right attitude. Part of what you are looking for is how well a person will meld into your tightly knit team.

Job clarity – From the advertised job description to the policies and procedures you implement, be clear about what you expect from your staff in their roles. Note their responsibilities, outline the chain of command and give them the documented expectations for how they are to do their job.

Be accessible – It’s widely accepted that an open door policy increases staff morale, providing employees with the ability to come to you directly with concerns. If you’re aware of displeasure or disenchantment, you have the opportunity to nip issues in the bud, long before they become whispers around the water cooler.

Communicate – Communication is a two-way street, meaning not only should staff be able to talk to you, but you to them; providing praise, constructive criticism, and encouragement.  This extends to feedback through a review at the end of their trial period and annually, while also updating your staff on changes to policies, procedures and goals.

Share your goals – If your mission is to take your small business to a national level, share that with your team, letting them in on the big picture and what their future could hold. In formal terms this is indicated through your mission and vision statement, but happens daily through the way you talk about the future.

Note their goals – Every individual within your team will have professional goals, and part of a harmonious workplace is recognising them and assisting where appropriate. This can be facilitated through workplace training, mentoring or guidance to foster talent through the ranks of your enterprise. It’s also nice to note personal goals and milestones, acknowledging birthdays, anniversaries or time served at your business.

Share the wins – If your business has a win, share the moment with your staff. Most small businesses won’t have the cash to splash out on a harbour cruise, but an early knock-off with some celebratory drinks at 4pm on Friday is a great way to acknowledge their vital involvement in your business success. Or if they’ve put in a massive effort to get a project across the line, a little extra in their pay packet goes a long way.

Reward – If a staff member does a good job, reward them. Small business isn’t Wall Street so we’re not talking massive bonuses here. Rewarding can be anything from a gift voucher to public praise, a small bonus, treat, promotion or pay rise. It says we value your effort, commitment and achievement.

Be flexible – Employment conditions are becoming increasingly flexible, which may mean offering this to your valued employees. This could include allowing them to work from home, leave early one afternoon a week to pick up their child from school, job share or go part-time. It tells an employee their trusted, valued and you’re prepared to meet them in the middle.

Have fun – Much of our lifetime is spent at work, so encourage a workplace that is pleasant to attend. It should be professional, yet fun and warm, so lead by example creating an environment you love to be in while showing respect and humour to your staff.

The final word

The best workplaces are defined by appreciation, mutual respect and shared goals. They’re about recognition, reward and ultimately achievement. Nail these things and you’ll create an environment your staff love to be a part of. This inevitably increases your chances of business success, but importantly reduces the cost of staff turnover, and the toxic effect of negativity in the workplace.

For further assistance leading a team or honing your policies, procedures and goals, contact Clive Enever – The Business mentor.