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The onset of the pandemic brought matters relating to employee health and wellness into stark focus. Employers were greatly impacted when their team members suffered from burnout, experienced high levels of stress and were absent from work due to physical or mental health issues. The ripple effect that these realities had on productivity, and ultimately profitability, highlighted the importance of ensuring that their employees were afforded a workplace that provided them with support, work-life balance and a culture of recognition.

An investment in people is an investment into your small business’ future success

In the recent Business Partners Limited Q4 2022 SME Index, South African small business owners reported feeling only 64 percent confident that they would be able to find staff with the right skills and experience – a six percent decrease from the previous quarter’s survey. This represents a significant challenge for the future prospects of many small businesses whose long-term growth relies heavily on the proficiency of their staff.

Failing to nurture and retain the right kind of talent also has substantial cost implications for small businesses. The cost of acquiring and onboarding a new team member is infinitely greater than the cost of retaining employees. One global study found that every time an employee resigns, the hiring process involved with replacing them is at least half of that employee’s annual salary. Holding onto the right talent and fostering a workplace culture that is conducive to job satisfaction and fulfilment is therefore in the best interests of businesses of all sizes.

As a business owner, investing in the people who are the pillars of your success should be a top priority. Not only is there value in attracting the right people, but the benefits of encouraging staff to reach their full potential can be one of the most effective ways of gaining a competitive advantage. These are three key ways in which you can provide better support for your invaluable team members:

Keep an eye on company culture

In research conducted by Remchannel in 2022, it was found that for 53 percent of employees leaving their jobs, two of the three main reasons for doing so were related to a toxic working environment. In a small business, where business owners have to fulfil several roles, owners are often removed from what is happening on the ground. But making time to engage with employees, hear their concerns, consider their feedback and pay attention to the culture in which they work, could help reduce staff turnover.

Business owners should also be aware of what the signs of a toxic work culture are. Some red flags include micro-management, disregard for the work/life balance of employees, lack of career support and ineffective management, all of which should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Provide opportunities for growth and enrichment

Employees who are encouraged to grow professionally and expand their abilities often feel more fulfilled and become more willing to go the extra mile within their roles. For this reason, investing in training and development opportunities for staff is one way of demonstrating your commitment to helping them reach their career goals. In a small business, where budget for training may be limited, business owners could consider hosting workshops, speaker sessions, knowledge-sharing presentations, opting for free online courses, approaching a Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) for assistance and providing written resources.

Reward employees for their efforts

Incentivising staff for a job well done and finding ways to recognise them for their individual talents and efforts is a great way to build a more engaged workforce. While monetary rewards are undoubtedly the most popular form of recognition, there are also several non-monetary options that are just as effective. Rewards could take the form of time off, public recognition and office perks. However, one of the most valued forms of reward is a simple acknowledgment to let employees know that their efforts are not going unnoticed. Here, the expression that “it’s the thought that counts” could not be more apt.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

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Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.