Productivity | November 25, 2019

Top 5 Areas that Employees can Work on Improving in a Small Business

As an employer, you should be actively thinking about two things: 

  • How do I create a work environment that attracts talent from outside the business?
  • How do I create talent from within the business?

In today’s marketplace, it is smarter to develop employees internally than to hire talent externally, says the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Employee development has become a strategic differentiator for many small and medium businesses. If you have a great team, you can conquer the world. 

A great team is made up of great people, who in the presence of great leadership can accomplish great results. To achieve greatness, however, employers will have to invest across development programs that are designed to build capacities, increase productivity, retain competitiveness, reduce skill shortage, minimize turnover, create a culture based on consensus and more. All of the aforementioned factors play a pivotal role in the development process of a business.

But, what are the main areas that employees should work on improving through this development programs?

Let us introduce 5 areas that we believe employees should take into consideration moving forward, and you - the business owner can develop programs accordingly.

Organizational Culture

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“I think as a company, if you can get those two things right — having a clear direction on what you are trying to do and bringing in great people who can execute on the stuff — then you can do pretty well.” - Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook

Culture is gradually becoming the most important competitive advantage for businesses of all sizes. Today, employees or candidates have more power than ever to decide the workplace they want to spend their days in. As such, businesses are continuously fighting to build an environment where those good candidates thrive. 

However, what constitutes a culture at the end of the day? We see culture as an equation consisting of multiple factors:

Culture = Behaviours + Perceptions + Values 

In simpler terms, organizational culture - among others - incorporates the activities, beliefs, and relationships that a group of people share within a business. Therefore, if those people decide to alter any of the components of the equation, they will ultimately have an impact on culture, right?

Yes, one area that employees can work on improving is the business culture. When tackling culture, it is important to understand that certain factors take longer to change than others. For instance, behaviors and perceptions are variable factors that can be influenced by various training programs and team-building activities. While values are less susceptible to change because they are deeply integrated into the business culture.

Focus and Engagement

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“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” - Steve Jobs

In the age of the internet, it is really easy to get drawn to a news article, a social media post, or a YouTube video that is completely unrelated to work. 

The average time people spent on social media in 2018 was approximately 144 minutes, add that to the time spent browsing articles and you get roughly 2 hours per day. At first, this may not seem negative but as an employer, you should be cautious of that time.

We estimated that up to 50% of the total time spent on the internet is used during work hours. If in a business, employees are spending an hour on social media than the business is incurring an unnecessary loss, not just in cash but also productivity. Furthermore, cultures such as the one we just depicted tend to expand quickly, thus encouraging other staff members to do the same. 

After all, if you saw a co-worker spending a decent amount of time on social media, wouldn’t you want to do the same?

In terms of financial loss, one hour spent on social media is one hour wasted towards work-related activities. And for a small business that’s a minimum loss of  $20+ every day, or $620 a month - assuming the hourly wage is $20.

However, none of this would happen if employees recognized the downfalls of time wasters. Accordingly, an area of focus that employees can improve on is maintaining focus to boost engagement and productivity in the business.

Time Management

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“He who every morning plans the transactions of that day and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through the labyrinth of the most busy life.”  - Victor Hugo

Imagine you start work at 08:30 AM, upon arrival you know what you hate to do in the next 30, 60, 120, 240 minutes because you planned your day one night ahead. Does that resemblance you, or not? 

In the majority of cases, the answer would be NO. There is limited research that identifies people with poor management skills in the United States; however, there are studies that point to the positive relationship between job performance and time management. Additionally, we have devoted an entire article to "The Art of Time Mastery" where you can learn how to identify flaws that are prohibiting the growth of your business.

Therefore, one could argue that if time management skills improve, so will job performance, productivity, employee compensation, as well as company profitability. The most common ways of becoming better at time management skills are: 

  • Education: raising awareness on the importance of time management skills

  • Delegation: the idea that employees will improve their skills by being tested

  • Prioritization / Distribution: allocating time towards activities of higher value

  • Planning: developing a habit of scheduling the activities of the preceding day

  • Disagreeing: saying NO to more work is a virtue.

These are only a few reasons why time management is an area that employees can work on improving. 

Education and Training

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“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” - Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO

When we say professional development, we are referring to the positive impact of formal processes such as conferences, seminars, or workshops. Historically, small businesses have not perceived the development of their employees to be of significance. 

Though in recent years, this trend seems to be changing. Access to “on-demand” education and training has reduced financial barriers, and eliminated time constrains (i.e. commuting to work). On the one hand, e-learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning (previously, Lynda.com), and Udemy.com are utilizing a user-driven methodology to produce endless amounts of content on virtually any existing topic. While on the other, conferences, trade shows, seminars are all offering digital outlets for people unable to attend the physical events.

Therefore, in an age where information is provided readily to consumers, why shouldn’t one take advantage of it?

Fun Fact: By studying for one hour a day for the entire year (365 hours), one can acquire the same amount of knowledge as a full-time student. In 3-5 years, the average person would be considered an expert on the field of their choice.

Consistency and Repetitiveness

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” - Will Durant

Consistency builds momentum and increases willpower, while repetitiveness amplifies skill and hones productivity. The two concepts are interdependent on one another. If you are mowing the lawn consistently for 20 minutes every week, then you are repeating a weekly behavior and building a habit of mowing your lawn.

Similarly, writers, construction workers, even software developers, and even students engage in a consistent, yet repetitive activity that they ultimately call work, or in some cases education. The importance of consistency is often overlooked. Not only is it an attribute under the control of the individual but its also a skill that promotes the untapped potential of that individual. In other words, if measured, the time spent on a work task will greatly improve with consistency.

For example, as a construction worker, if you are laying bricks for 2 hours every day than you would expect an incremental increase in productivity over the next week - which would be compounded over the following periods, leading to higher levels of productivity. In such circumstances, the employer is benefiting from the added productivity, while the employee is enjoying a new skill accompanied by rewards and benefits.

The areas that employees can work on improving are endless. The organizational culture, time management, education, training, and consistency are among our top choices regarding the areas that employees should work on improving. 

Where should you focus?

Over the years, we have witnessed how small businesses are struggling to manage time and determine specific weaknesses that are withholding their potential. Furthermore, due to financing and operating limitations, we often see a management team of at most 3 people playing multiple roles within the business.

Accordingly, to help alleviate time from management, we designed ATTO which is a simple time and location tracking app dedicated to small business. Our accurate and easy-to-use time tracking software carries the potential to automate various mundane tasks that management has to go through on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Not having to worry about timesheets, scheduling, or attendance allows management to dedicate more time towards activities that really matter, such as employee development.


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Atto is the simplest timesheet app for small and medium-sized businesses. It’s intuitive interface and carefully designed features, including time tracking, location tracking, team insights and automated timesheets help employees and managers focus on real work.

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