It used to be that big companies ruled the world. Most people vied for positions in them. They started sloughing off workers in the 1980s to the 2000s. After 2008, most of the workers of the world either could not secure work with these companies or found a better alternative — small- to medium-sized companies.
While big companies have a hallmark name and style of doing business within and without their company, smaller enterprises may ignore or struggle with breathing that defining persona into their outfit. Yet, it is important to do so for employees to get a sense of their work lives, and, furthermore, how to build company value.
Keys To Survival
Many companies do not make it past the litmus test — the hallowed five-year mark. The ones that do have taken the time to define culture, such as how prominent leadership styles, management, and employee contribution are to the success of the company itself.
At smaller firms, employees may be given a voice, instead of being kept quiet and in the dark, like they were at big corporations. They are empowered to make the company more innovative by being effective problem solvers. They may be the key to the next wave of product and service offerings, after all, so this is a business survival and growth concept that is important.
Yet, regardless of company culture, the day-to-day experience of individual departments or teams matters the most to success. It sounds easy enough to embrace a culture of empowerment where employees are treated to a playful environment that begets better productivity, right?
Not always. Some firm owners are concerned about running a tight ship. After all, a smaller company faces bigger fallout if it makes a bad decision based upon an unmitigated risky action. Or, not. Here’s why.
Hiring well-rounded individuals who are encouraged to continue learning is a key to making sure innovative ideas are based upon solid evidence. They need to understand the underpinnings of the market that the products are made for to thrive. This information makes them better thinkers, who are better able to make real-world solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of the company’s customers.
Management, especially c-level executives, need to be hands off and trust in the teams that are running their company. Empowering employees may have payoffs for the long-term survival and growth of the company while minding pennies can turn off perfectly good employees. Everyone is a free agent these days, and they may take their great ideas elsewhere if upper management is unwilling to trust them.
A playful environment allows creation to occur more organically, and will impact the value of the outcomes — new and improved products. Think about the extremes to understand the value of trust. On the one hand, prying, surveillance, and watching employees for theft or misuse of the Internet creates fear. It is akin to having a stalker, and fearing for one’s life.
Now maybe management believes it is just guarding company information. What it is doing to morale is scaring people and not just demonstrating a lack of trust, but invading boundaries in the process. Sure, proprietary information is important, but so is trust. The other problem is that backbiting behavior, and throwing one another under the bus starts happening. It creates a crew that undermines one another constantly.
Playfulness and the next best innovation is not going to occur in a land where there is no trust. Instead, the opposite — where people are working collaboratively, and trusted, creates better outcomes. Plus, work still gets done, because everyone takes ownership when they are trusted.
Giving people the choice to use their best judgment is empowering. Telling people they must do this, that, and then that and only in that order for a sales person is next to ridiculous. For the operation of machinery, it might be sound advice for the safety of the whole operation, though.
Happy workers who are given authority, autonomy, and trusted will perform better. Customers will feel more comfortable dealing with a healthy company that trusts. An interesting phenomenon occurs where workers are empowered and trusted — the company gains a good image.
It turns out that people have had to find employment on average every five years. Some have worked multiple jobs at the same time. They are veritable experts on good employers and shoddy ones. They talk to their friends and the community. If you are trustworthy, word gets around, and you suddenly have the pick of the best potential employees as well.
If employees are encouraged to work collaboratively, they will enjoy work more, and feel more responsible for the outcomes they make happen. This type of culture and working environment is tied to good results. People take responsibility for their actions this way, naturally — without a camera or boss watching their every action.
Leaders in smaller and medium companies need to encourage their teams. Constant learning, a good environment, and even playfulness work toward creating better outcomes for a company. Consider employing these efforts organically within a company for the best effects.
Use positive reinforcement, not the old “oh, there’s nothing wrong with criticism” is important. Positive reinforcement tells them what they are doing right, which encourages more of that behavior. Meanwhile, a little “harmless criticism” is akin to shooting down people. It shuts down employees telling them their efforts just stink.
Learning comes through sharing information. For instance, if the president of the company learned a new process that might help the company, she or he should share it with employees. Consider a little meeting, video or a lunch and learn to teach the new information. Have teams brainstorm on how they might employ the new learning to improve productivity in the company.
Encourage employees to contribute a solution to them, not just presenting problems. This shows employees a better way to carry themselves while empowering them. It demonstrates the ultimate in trust too.