7 strategies leaders can use to drive employee engagement

Managing your business

According to Truist’s 2023 survey of 518 small business owners (Truist's 2023 Small Business Survey), staffing continues to be a top priority for small business owners, with many increasing salaries and perks to retain their workersDisclosure 1 Beyond retention, fostering employee engagement motivates employees to go the extra mile and to invest in their own growth and the success of your company. So, how can you keep your employees actively engaged?

Fight “quiet quitting.”

Over the past few years, employers have been experiencing the phenomena of “quiet quitting”—workers who have decided they are no longer willing to do more than the bare minimum. The abrupt change and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic activated a reset for many workers, causing them to rethink life priorities and economic stability. Employees saw widespread layoffs, pay cuts, and health risks, and “quiet quitters” decided to devote less energy to their jobs, doing only the bare minimum.

For small businesses, the impact of “quiet quitting” is especially serious. The past few years have demanded flexibility from small businesses and their teams as they adjust their offerings as well as the way they service customers. Small businesses usually have smaller staffs, which means that when a few of them dial back their effort, others must pick up the slack. This can raise stress and tensions in the work environment.

7 ways small business owners can cultivate employee engagement

“Fortunately, small businesses have unique advantages over larger companies when it comes to keeping employees engaged and motivated,” said Scott Stearsman, head of small business for Truist.

These seven steps can help you keep your staff engaged and your business thriving.

  1. Prioritize open communications. Employees sometimes resort to "quiet quitting" because of various pressures they may be facing, both at work and outside the job. Engage in regular conversations with your employees to understand how they feel about their work, address any concerns they may have, and provide support. By creating an environment of sensitivity and care, employees will feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns, ultimately boosting energy levels at work.

    Additionally, use these communications to share the needs of the business and how each employee's role contributes to the bigger picture. As a leader, model open communication with your team to foster a culture of compassion and honesty.

  2. Exhibit work-life balance. “Quiet quitting” is often a response to personal pressures faced by employees. Lead by example and implement practices that allow for flexibility in working hours and support for personal and family obligations.

     Respondents to Truist's 2023 Small Business Survey whose businesses experienced revenue increases between 2021 and 2022 were 82% more likely to offer benefits and remote work options than those whose companies saw no growth or a revenue decrease during that period. In addition, 39% of small business owners who responded to Truist's 2023 Small Business Survey said they were seeking an improved work-life balance for themselves. Consider implementing practices such as scheduling personal time, defining work hours, and establishing work boundaries to create a healthy work culture for all.

  3. Connect employees to the mission and culture of your business. Workers seek meaning in their work lives. Share the “why” of your business and emphasize how it impacts customers and suppliers. Small businesses often have strong ties to their local communities, so encourage employees to get involved in volunteering, engaging in local causes, and supporting nonprofits. This sense of purpose can help contribute to their engagement and satisfaction at work.
  4. Invest in training. Training and other learning and development programs not only help increase the skills of your employees but also show that the company values them and is willing to invest in them.
  5. Recognize excellence. Employee engagement can depend heavily on how appreciated each person feels for their work. Consider implementing peer recognition or “spot awards” to acknowledge employees who consistently go beyond their responsibilities. Recognizing dedication, creativity, and flexibility encourages a positive work environment and can help motivate employees to continue performing at their best.
  6. Create opportunities for advancement. One advantage of working in a small business is the opportunity to wear several hats and gain different experiences. Provide new avenues for employees to take on expanded responsibilities, develop advanced skills, and gain management experience.
  7. Foster teamwork. Consider scheduling in-person events to bring staff—including both remote and non-remote employees—together for problem-solving and team-building activities. This allows them to have more face-to-face interaction and strengthens team cohesion. 

Measuring and monitoring engagement

After you’ve started some employee engagement programs, use surveys, feedback sessions, and performance metrics to assess employee engagement levels. By continuously monitoring progress, you can ensure high levels of engagement and make necessary adjustments as needed.

By capitalizing on the unique culture of your small business, you’re more likely to maintain elevated levels of employee engagement and overall satisfaction. For additional reading on this topic, check out “Do you know the 6 drivers of employee engagement?

Is your team as engaged as you are?

Talk to someone who understands small businesses. Call your Truist small business banker at 877-279-3083, schedule time for an in-person or virtual appointment, or visit Truist Small Business to find out how Truist can help you as your business grows.

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