Employee Engagement Ideas that Work for Small Business 

Employee engagement is rooted in trust, communication and commitment. An engaged employee is one who is both absorbed and enthusiastic about their day-to-day work and the direction of the organisation as a whole. They are invested in the company’s reputation and feel valued in return. This inevitably results in a measurable increase in both individual and organisational performance.

Engaged employees have 51% higher productivity when compared to disengaged employees, and they outperform them by 20-28%. They are less likely to be absent from work and generate 2.5 times more revenue. On top of these benefits, it is clear that disengaged employees are far more likely to abandon their posts at the first opportunity.

Small businesses may feel at a disadvantage when it comes to promoting employee engagement, as they have less to offer in terms of large bonuses and extravagant perks. Despite this, there are certain advantages smaller businesses have over their larger counterparts. Due to their size, small businesses can feel like a tightly knit team where everyone knows everyone else in the company and you’re all working towards the same goals. According to a Dale Carnegie study, those who work in small companies are much happier than those who work for large organisations.

There are a great many ways in which small businesses can effectively encourage employee engagement, including the following:

Introduce an open-door policy

Some small businesses don’t even allocate separate offices to management. They sit on a desk in the same room as their staff. This promotes regular, open communication and fosters an atmosphere of unity. If employees can see their supervisors and interact with them habitually, this breaks down barriers and improves morale.

Reward and recognise accomplishments

One of the key abilities of an excellent leader is that they make employees feel appreciated for their good work. A simple acknowledgement of a job well done can make all the difference to an employee’s happiness. People rarely work for money alone; it is important to feel a sense of accomplishment too.

Promote a flexible atmosphere

Employees who feel they have a degree of flexibility in the way they work and the manner with which they obtain results tend to be more productive and engaged. Depending on the business in question, this can come in the form of telecommuting on occasion, allowing time off for family issues or flexitime. This makes for more accountable and committed employees, and as flexibility works both ways, they may feel more inclined to work longer hours at more pressing times of the year.

Regular check-ins

These check-ins can be very informal, but continuous communication regarding progress and performance can make a world of difference to employee engagement. Check-ins give management the opportunity to demonstrate that they are noticing their employees’ efforts, and to discuss options for development and growth.  

These regular discussions encourage more connected employees, who are infinitely more likely to care about the company and the company’s goals. Each employee being familiar with their individual role within the company, and how it works toward the company’s objectives, promotes a sense of purpose that is hard to achieve with a pay rise.

Listen and communicate

Ensure that the lines of communication are open, both upward, downward and laterally, so employees can express opinions, concerns and ideas. This way everyone can feel involved in the management and direction of the company going forward. This kind of atmosphere is much easier to foster in a smaller organisation, as employees can often feel anonymous and replaceable in a larger company.

Add a personal touch

Some CEOs of small businesses go to the trouble of sending Christmas and Birthday cards to their employees. These small touches go a long way toward promoting and maintaining company morale. Special occasions such as these also afford an opportunity to express appreciation for a job well done.


This article was contributed by HR specialists Marc Bishop and Sharon Crooks, authors of HR for Small Business for Dummies.

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