Want it all? Here’s how to grow your business and keep employees happy

If the thought of expanding your business while keeping employees happy feels as impossible as sleeping and eating at the same time, we have good news.

Business growth and employee satisfaction are not mutually exclusive — It is 100% possible to accomplish (and maintain) both. In this article, we’ll give you some actionable suggestions on how to do just that.

Growing pains for founders

Before we jump to your employees, let’s focus on you a bit first.

The more successful your business becomes, the more your role will likely evolve, too — in ways both subtle and sometimes, frustrating. You may feel spread too thin or disconnected from employees.

While not necessarily welcome, these growing pains can be indications of success. The key is to avoid being sidetracked by them. Awareness can help you adjust and continue thriving.

Here are a few things to consider:

As you shift from being hands-on to guiding the company's broader vision, this transition naturally creates a distance between you and your employees. While uncomfortable, this is ok!

There are steps you can take to maintain the important (and necessary) connection you have with your team. Here are a few:

  • Prioritize creating visibility for all team members, ensuring they feel integral to your success.
  • Communicate clearly, with clear expectations
  • Explore alternate takes on ‘business as usual’

Keep reading, we’ll cover each.

Tip 1: Create windows of visibility

The shortest route to burn out employees? The feeling of being in a “dead-end” job, one where there’s little evidence that advancement is a possibility.

Counteract this by creating opportunities for employees to be visible to people above them (this may include you!), especially ones who might go unnoticed. An example would be to invite an individual contributor to a higher-level meeting they normally wouldn’t attend.

Create balance and growth by empowering the people who report to you: ask them to identify someone from their team to present their best work (or biggest challenges) to your top leaders.

Tip 2: Connect people to purpose

When people feel they have a purpose at their job and can connect it with that of their employer’s, they are more likely to be fulfilled in their job. A McKinsey study found that 70% of employees surveyed said their sense of purpose is largely defined by their work, yet only a fraction feel they are living their purpose in their day-to-day activities.

This presents a powerful opportunity for your business to bridge the gap between the company’s purpose and the individual purpose of your employees. When you take deliberate steps to connect the two, you’ll not only improve employee satisfaction and engagement but also improve the overall performance of your business.

Tip 3: Set clear expectations

Have you heard the phrase, “Clear is kind?” This concept was developed by Brene Brown after a seven-year research project on courage in leadership.

After the study concluded, she set about debunking what many seemed to believe about clarity: that being indirect is kinder. She argues it’s not.

When expectations aren’t communicated, it’s unkind to hold a person accountable when they don’t deliver.

This makes sense. By setting clear expectations among your team and employees, you can avoid:

  • Lack of trust and engagement
  • Potential passive-aggressive behaviors; negative communication — often referred to as “the meeting after the meeting”
  • Decreased performance
  • Absence of shared purpose

Here’s the solution:

Clearly communicate your expectations regarding work hours, deadlines, and outcomes. This helps employees not only manage their time effectively and prevent overwork but also builds a transparent and trustworthy environment.

When everyone is on the same page, the business benefits from a sense of security and satisfaction among your employees. When expectations are clear, you empower your team to confidently contribute to growth while maintaining their well-being.

To make this actionable, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Develop a clear communication strategy. Regularly discuss job roles, responsibilities, and expectations to ensure clarity and alignment.
  • Implement a feedback system. Encourage open dialogue for feedback about expectations. This can help pinpoint misunderstandings or areas for adjustment.
  • Use technology to your advantage. Maximize technology to streamline processes and reduce manual workload. Automation tools can help with repetitive tasks and free up time; project management tools can track progress and deadlines, making expectations clear to everyone involved.
  • Promote (and demonstrate) work-life balance. Clearly define business work hours and respect staff downtime. Doing so will help prevent burnout and ensure that your team remains productive and motivated.

Pro tip: Try to lead by example and demonstrate your own practice of work-life balance. Leaders who respect their own time outside of work inspire their employees to do the same.

Tip 4: Explore flexibility

“Exploring flexibility” isn’t a suggestion to offer free yoga classes (although that’s a cool perk). No, we’re talking about a different kind of stretch (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Remember the pandemic? Did your employees work from home? If so, maybe some of them still do. Or, perhaps you’ve asked everyone to return to the office . For roles that require in-person interaction, that makes sense.

But (and this is the exploring part) what about offering work-from-home flexibility even for employees whose roles require being in the office?

An employee may not be able to conduct their entire job remotely, but there are types of tasks that can be completed remotely. When you allow this, it offers you an opportunity for another one-two punch of balance and growth: keeping your team engaged and happy while maintaining or even increasing their productivity.

Here are some tasks that can be done remotely, from home:

  1. Computer-based, admin work such as data entry, appointment scheduling, managing emails and preparing reports
  2. Online training
  3. Creating content, whether that’s writing blog posts, designing marketing materials or content for websites and to some degree, social media accounts. Creative and focus-heavy work like this makes for great tasks to complete away from the office in a quiet place.
  4. Customer support at home can look the same as it does in the office. With the help of VoIP and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, CSRs can handle calls, live chat and email support from anywhere.
  5. Project management is ideal for tackling at home. Planning, setting timelines and monitoring progress are options for remote work as well. Online tools (like Slack, for example), allow for quick and easy team collaboration no matter where each person is located.
  6. Research and analysis tasks are also doable. As long as there’s remote (and secure) access to the necessary databases and tools, employees can get into a productive zone conducting uninterrupted market research, competitor analysis and other data-gathering efforts.

Tip 5: Redefine the workweek (explore flexibility, part 2)

If you were to ask any of your employees what they wished they had more of, we’d wager that ‘time’ would be a close second to money. 

You might be able to deliver. Here’s how:

How about allotting a few hours each week, month or quarter (you determine the frequency) to give your employees space in their work day to attend to personal matters? This could be something like summer hours — “Friday’s you can leave an hour or more early” — or if your business allows it, seasonal time off, for example, during the winter holidays.

This might be a big ask (or impossible, given your specific business), but when you consider the appreciation, increased loyalty and dedication from your employees, it just might be worth it.

Besides altering where work takes place, there’s when.

In the the largest four-day workweek trial (as of 2023), 2,900 employees across 61 companies in the UK compressed their work week for a six-month period. During that time, the companies tried different configurations of day-off arrangements, including staggered, annualized, and on Friday’s.

The findings? For employees, the four-day workweek showed improved work-life balance, reduced employee stress and increased job satisfaction. Benefits for the companies included improved product quality and customer service and noteworthy reductions in absences and sick days.

How could your small business test an abbreviated work week? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Schedule hourly work more flexibly. Shifts could be shorter and at varying times. Employees can select their working hours, provided they fulfill the total required hours for the day or week.
  2. Implement cross training. Allow your team to train one another, and if successful, they can alternate taking a day off each month by stepping in for one another.
  3. Consider the "permanent substitute" strategy. This consists of tasking a specific employee with rotating through various roles or shifts to substitute for others.
  4. Compress the work week. The most traditional approach of all, this one lets employees work 10-hour days, four days a week.

Given that the average person spends one third of their life working, how your employees feel about the time they dedicate to your business is important.

When you take time to connect purpose with work, set clear expectations, and be willing to explore new ways of doing things, your employees will consistently give you their best which means you get to keep growing.

What keeps your employees engaged?

Have you taken any actions designed specifically to keep your employees happy? Are you able to delegate a bit so you can focus more on leading the business? Share your thoughts with us, we’d like to know

Stephanie has worked in the B2B tech space for more than 20 years for brands such as IBM and Oracle, as well as on the agency side at Uncompany, The Favorite Co., Ogilvy and Mather, Leopard and other agencies. Stephanie believes in putting the reader first and won't rest until she's communicated a motivating, "Why should I care?" message. When she's not writing on behalf of her freelance clients, in her spare time, Stephanie's working on a novel and the occasional poem.

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Comments

  • Good information.