Shelley SmithBlog, Leadership Development, Workplace Culture

Regardless of the size of a company, what really matters is obvious: the Bottom Line.

Having said that, people are what support a company, drive its progress, and achieve its success. People create culture, and culture defines an organization. Big corporations like Apple, Amazon, and Nike share their culture with pride, showcasing their fabulous headquarters, dreamy locales, and droolworthy benefits packages.

As a small business, you may be wondering how on earth to compete with Google’s nap pods, Facebook’s arcade games, or even Netflix’s paid year off for new parents. The answer is, quite simply, you can’t. But that’s not the end of this blog post.

Large companies create extravagant perk packages for employees not to show off or brag, but for the employees. By making such attractive offers, these moguls are sure to attract top talent, and they’re more likely to keep it, too.

These companies recognize the value of their people, and they invest in it.

So, even without a massive budget, how can your small business make an offer that desirable candidates won’t refuse? With culture—and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

  1. Talk to your teams.

While this may sound absurdly simplistic, isn’t it more absurd not to? These are the people you’ve entrusted with the success of your company, and their boots-on-the-ground opinions are your most valuable insights into the health of your organization.

Ask your employees …

  1. What will make the company great?
    b. What will make the culture great?
  2. What will make the team happy?
  3. What keeps customers happy & the phones ringing?

Remember, you don’t have to promise anything or answer for anyone. Simply listen, note the feedback you receive, and be appreciative to your employee(s) for being candid—it’s not easy to do with the boss. Once you’ve got a list, look for common answers. Investigate the real-world details (time, costs, potential gains in retention, engagement, sales, hiring/reputation) and determine the ROI.

Sometimes, a simple question and a simple answer make a huge difference—if your employees overwhelmingly want to be able to wear jeans to work, what’s the harm? They’ll be happier, more comfortable, and it doesn’t cost you a dime.

  1. Encourage Growth.

When growth is not promoted or enabled, life is stunted. Don’t devalue your employees; increase their value, with ongoing professional & personal development. Training is a great start—give them the tools they need to do their job, then take it a step further. A mentor (formal/paid, informal/internal, or reverse mentorship) can work wonders for all parties, including retention, engagement, and strengthening culture.

Foster a culture of coaching. If you instill the value of critical & strategic thinking; if you encourage curiosity & creativity, and you promote empowerment, inclusivity, and respect, then your employees will operate under these guiding principles. If you don’t, then you can hardly blame the team for falling short.

  1. Trust.

I’m not saying you should put your life in the hands of your workers, but at the very least trust them to do their jobs—you’d be surprised to hear what a common employee complaint this is. Many leaders may not even realize the image they are projecting during their day-to-day interactions is one of deep mistrust. Another simple answer, the fix is free but you may find it challenging to implement.

Far from standing above the workers and pointing out flaws, jump into the trenches and help when needed—after all, this is your company, and if you don’t care about its success, why should your team? Caring too much can be just as damaging. When the boss takes business a bit too personally every conversation becomes a minefield for employees, who will soon grow weary and leave.

Business is business, and it works best when a team is focused on the same goal.

Make a point to offer assistance, support, feedback, resources, etc. to employees when they bring up roadblocks or concerns. Truly listen to their explanations and think constructively, not critically. Approach from a place of non judgemental understanding, and work together to solve the problem.

  1. Gratitude is HUGE.

We thank strangers for blessing our sneezes, so why wouldn’t you express your appreciation to your employees for a job well done—or even just for powering through a busy week? If you’ve ever been snubbed when a ‘thank you’ was due, you know how offensive it can feel.

We’re left with our brows down & palms up, saying “… um, you’re welcome?”

Don’t ignore the kind soul holding open the door. Don’t ignore the hard-working employees carrying out your edicts. A simple (and free!) acknowledgement of their perseverance is sometimes all it takes. Remember: each employee is a Real Person, with a brain, heart, and desire to do well.

Set goals for your teams, and hype it when they’re met. Shout-outs belong in every internal e-blast, announcement, and meeting. If you’re not sure how to reach your employees, the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, interpreted by Shelley Smith, can help.

It doesn’t take a big budget to have a big impact. Talk, trust, growth, and gratitude are all priceless.