How to connect your people as a small business

In the first of a series about how small businesses are innovating in the way they work, we look at the value of focusing on your people and their working practices.

Whether you are a micro business just starting out, or an established small business with a track record of success, your nimble size can give you a great advantage. With the right team and processes, you can act faster and move your business forward.

In this article series, we will highlight the ways small businesses are innovating in the way they work. With SMEs accounting for three fifths of employment in the UK private sector, our first article will look at the value of focusing on your people.

Leading the way

Managing teams can be one of the most challenging aspects of developing and growing a business. Developing a positive, productive and cooperative team goes hand-in-hand with attracting the very best talent and satisfying customers. Given the pressure of managing and developing a business, having mechanisms in place which support the productivity and well-being of staff can only help leaders.

Businesses which examine their operations from the view of, and with, their employees on a regular basis can identify where smarter processes can be introduced and where technology can help create a better workplace for staff. We look at the gains which can be made by examining the ways you support your people:

Adapt more easily to new pressures and opportunities

The changing pace of business is forcing many companies to rethink the structure and culture of their organisations. Keeping traditional processes in place, which are not designed for today’s new economies, can put stress on even the most successful business.

Those operating in sectors where there was an early influx of online disruption were the first to feel this. However, with digital business now a mainstream reality, most organisations must now consider where they need to adopt technology to remain competitive.

With any challenge there lies an opportunity. Smart businesses are using the transformation happening within their markets to change the way they work. Re-examining their day-to-day business through the eyes of staff – looking at what works well and what could be improved and where there are new pressure points or the potential to achieve better results – is a great starting point to gain new insights into where improvements can be made to better support the business’ strategies.

Improve staff productivity and wellbeing

With any team, one size does not fit all. There may be various types of jobs, working styles and expectations within your business – that’s okay. By introducing flexible working, businesses can help recognise employees’ diverse needs and performance drivers – transforming how people work. Successful programmes are those which blend technology into the business in a way which is enabling and intuitive: introducing the use of instant messaging and video, as part of a remote working solution, can allow collaboration across teams more easily; whilst providing digital tools which bring sales pitches to life can help move the customer through the buying cycle more effectively. By innovating new processes through flexible working, employers can enable staff to satisfy both their work needs and manage their life requirements, in a way which helps them to do their jobs better and expands their capacity to support new tasks if needed.

Encourage cross-team collaboration

Digitisation is changing the way many businesses operate – increasing the need for greater speed and agility and creating flatter decision-making structures. As we lose hierarchies, new employee-employer/manager relationships are now built less on ‘owes and dues’ and more on collaboration. An effective and engaged workforce is one which collaborates well.

One way to get more from the collective power of your people is to encourage employees to hot-desk and work in large meeting spaces, rather than remain in restrictive set seating. Businesses will quickly see the benefits of adopting a more flexible way of working. Our recent research found that over three quarters of UK businesses saw an increase in productivity due to their employees being able to work how and when they wanted to, often interacting with teams they would not normally work with.

For micro businesses just starting out, silos are much less likely to exist. However, connecting employees from day one is essential to spark a collaborative spirit, especially if you find your team growing quickly.

Get more from your facilities

When businesses redesign the way they work to support their workforce, additional gains can be made elsewhere too. Office spaces no longer have to be fixed. Advances in remote technology allow for the ability for an inbound customer contact to be routed to available staff members wherever they are, in the office or on the move. This solution is especially valuable if businesses are considering hot-desking, helping to reduce the size of the workspace needed and freeing up space for communal or open plan collaboration areas.

Create an even more responsive customer service

Being confidently connected when working remotely will enable employees to be more attentive and responsive to customers. It’s now possible to connect landline and mobile numbers so that calls can follow you – wherever you are. Phone systems can also now route calls to an available member of the team so you never miss a customer call. Recent research on business readiness found that 50 per cent of organisations fail to respond to customer enquiries within a day, and 18 per cent take over a week. In today’s hyper-connected society, in which, customers want quick responses, connecting employees through mobile, cloud computing and video conferencing can only improve customer and employee satisfaction and ultimately the business’s bottom line.

Evolve, change and grow

By creating an environment which cultivates engaged, happy and talented employees, customers will be more satisfied with your service. Satisfied customers reflect well on a business, strengthening the brand and employee pride, which can lead to your organisation being viewed as a better to work with, driving better sales, and a more attractive place to work, encouraging good people wanting to join you.

It is an important time for small business leaders to assess how ready they are for the complex business landscape ahead of them. Taking advantage of your size and agility to provide a collaborative and flexible culture will not only help current employees, but will also attracts the best future talent.

Phil Mottram is head of enterprise at Vodafone UK

Further reading on managing people

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