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Businesses operate through a network of teams completing departmentalized and often intertwined operations. Naturally, business leaders want to establish effective team practices in order to improve team performance. In an attempt to help small business owners raise their team’s productivity, we have listed seven effective, yet distinct methodologies that can take a small business to the next level.
It starts with leadership
A team’s leadership is reflected in the company's culture. Leadership has a unique opportunity to lead by example and showcase the type of actions their employees to replicate. When leaders are transparent and successful at communicating their company’s potential, employees are more likely to feel part of the bigger picture. Thereby working harder and impacting the overall productivity of the business.
Before you think of sharing the company vision as unnecessary or perhaps too revealing, I am inviting you to consider the following perspective instead. Sharing your company’s five-year-plan with your employees, especially your most promising ones, can be a strategic move. Not only are you inviting your employees to join your vision of change but you are also indirectly - maybe even unintentionally - inspiring ambitious employees to think about where they fit in the future of the company. The end goal is to have employees think of a future with your company, not a future without it.
Just as you continuously strategize the future of your business, employees strategize the future of their careers as well. When you consider the employee perspective, you can think of sharing the company vision and transparency as an effective strategy for motivating employees and having them share your vision with new employees as the company grows.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
It is ultimately the role of a good boss to help employees understand what the bigger picture is. When employees understand their roles, they can hold each other accountable for team performance. This encourages participation because employees see the purpose behind the daily tasks they perform, and how those individual efforts play out in the big picture.
Give credit where credit is due
It is often overlooked how far a touch of appreciation can go. For managers, this can take the form of a “We have noticed your hard work and are grateful for your contribution” Email, or a shoutout in the staff meeting to an employee or team who is doing exceptionally well. Studies have shown that around 72% of employees believe that getting appraised will motivate them to perform better at work. People respond well to positive reinforcement and are more likely to keep up the good work if they feel that their efforts are being recognized and appreciated.
It is worth noting that performance appraisal is not the same as sugar-coating how well the team is really doing. If you want to perform an effective performance appraisal, you should also take the time to discuss potential areas of improvement with your employees. Naturally, each individual and team falls short in certain areas. Discussing those areas will make the employees feel more comfortable to share their concerns and identify ways they can minimize the impact of those shortcomings.
Businesses operate in very intricate environments and thus must rely on teams to complete tasks. Team performance appraisals are appropriate when the business wants to emphasize the role of the team in achieving organizational goals and motivate employees to link individual performance with team productivity.
In a fast-paced environment, businesses must constantly innovate to stay in the game.
To keep up with all the changes and stay ahead of the competition, business leaders must not fear innovation, rather they must think of outside-of-the-box methodologies to promote innovation within their team. Innovation in the workplace does not have to look like a slide that connects the conference room with the lunchroom. Innovation may be as simple as allowing employees to choose their own work hours and environment. There is a whole set of work schedules that have proven to be successful in the past and that small businesses can leverage to their advantage, starting from the 9/80 work schedule, the 4-day workweek, or even the open vacation schedule.
However, keep in mind that managing such schedules requires dedication. You will want to start by implementing a scheduling system that will allow you to determine the success of the initiative. One of such systems is time and location tracking, as it measures productivity to the smallest detail.
People are more likely to be innovative in spaces that feel natural to them, be that their home, a cafe or even quiet libraries. Flexibility in work hours improves team performance by allowing employees to jump into work whenever their creative self awakens. Flexible hours also allow employees to achieve better work-life balance, making happier and more productive employees.
Many industries, such as manufacturing, might have a more difficult time applying flexible hours due to the on-site nature of the job. However, that is no reason to completely give up on the idea. There are still some simple solutions you can try to give employees more say in their schedule.
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Globe Manufacturing Co. LLC in New Hampshire gives morning-shift workers the freedom to start work anytime between 6 am and 8 am, then leave once they have completed the shift. Reportedly, 80% of workers chose to go in at 6 am anyway, but they felt happier that they were given the chance to choose. This method also reduces daily stress in the employees’ lives, especially the employees who have children and may need that morning time for an early doctor’s appointment or dropping the kids off at school.
This way of thinking about innovation gives employees a sense of autonomy in the workplace that sustains a work environment where initiative is welcomed and encouraged.
Onboarding to drive retention
For the most part, a company’s most valuable asset is its culture - which is oftentimes completely neglected by small businesses.
If you are a small business owner, how often have you thought about the fit of a new potential employee against already-existing members? How would that individual fit the team and what impact will they have on the team's performance?
If you have thought about these questions, then you fall within a small group of small business owners who practice what they preach. In most cases, bias towards skill tends to cloud certain aspects of the hiring process that tend to be even more important than just skill. The questions mentioned above have already introduced the concept of cultural fit, but that is only one of many other aspects like:
Potential: Where do I see this potential employee 5,10,15 years from now?
Soft skills: Will the new employee adjust with the others, and if yes, how fast?
The main point being if it is important to hire people that fit well with the company culture and vision. Interviewers may want to consider this factor when preparing interview questions. Looking at all the available characteristics will allow yourself or your employees to weed out the mismatches, and identify candidates that will complement and strengthen their potential teammates’ skills, boosting team performance in the long run.
Invest in your talent
Employers can promote continuous improvement by investing in the talent they have in the company. Each employee brings unique strengths and weaknesses to the company and has the ability to work on both. If an employee demonstrates enthusiasm and curiosity for an aspect of the job they were not previously involved in, perhaps it is rewarding to offer a training program as part of a personal development plan.
Some employees may want to attend conferences to expand their horizons of knowledge and network with other like-minded professionals. These advancement opportunities allow team members to absorb new knowledge and gain insight into leading industry practices, boosting overall employee morale and team performance.
Team building activities
Team building activities can be great facilitators of team bonding, especially during times when productivity is low. It is natural for team members to feel under the weather or overwhelmed at times, and leadership can tackle this inevitable truth through light team building activities.
Most companies nowadays incorporate team building activities into the company culture due to its positive effects on team performance and bonding. Team building activities do not have to be costly; they can be as simple as having a board game night to bring out a little friendly competitiveness, or a karaoke night for everyone to break out of their shells.
Team building activities improve communication because the barriers present in a work setting become irrelevant in an informal setting. The team members can also flaunt their strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses in a problem-solving board game. The flow of unrestricted creativity and communication will help team members get to know each other at a more personal level, whereas they can use the new insights about each other to communicate ideas and problems more effectively in the workplace.
Reward, Reward, Reward…
Last but not least, the oldest trick in the book to boost team performance – rewards. One of the most effective ways of improving team performance is rewarding teams performing well. Rewards may be bonuses, extra vacation days, staff retreats, or added benefits to working contracts.
Whatever the reward, it is important to establish a culture of rewarding good work in the first place. It is also necessary to know the people working for you and know what their intrinsic motivations are. Two employees might place different values on the same reward. For instance, for a working mother, extra vacation days are translated to free time that she can spend with her children. While a young enthusiastic employee might be more appreciative of a monetary reward or travel benefits. Additionally, a very physically active employee would be shocked if the company provided an annual subscription at the local gym. Personalizing rewards makes employees feel recognized and rewarded, increasing the perceived value of the reward higher than its objective value.