Running a small business certainly demands a lot of the owner – but with such lean teams nowadays, that’s also the case for the staff. Keeping employees motivated and performing at their best is crucial to getting that extra edge in a competitive world. How do you increase team productivity? We asked eight owners of small businesses for their top tips.
clear the air
“We do a daily ‘team clearing’, where everyone has an opportunity to get negativity off their chests,” says Tim Rundle-Wood, founder of natural scents company Twoodle Co. “It’s an idea I adapted from the book Sacred Commerce by Matthew and Terces Engelhart, and my team loves it. It helps us to reframe negative things going on in our lives, and gets the day off to a positive start – like a detox for our minds.
“Working in pairs, it takes our team of six 10 minutes to go through a script of questions such as: ‘Name something positive manifesting in your life,’ or, ‘What’s one thing you can do to help the team have a better day ?’ It quite often opens up a longer, open conversation and sometimes on to a form of team coaching where we share our own experiences and solutions to issues going on in people’s lives. I’ve found it promotes a culture of openness, and the freedom to share and express emotions in a healthy way.”
Practice open book management
“I’ve long thought the key to business success was through inspiring your team,” says Adrienne Eiser Treeby, managing director of Crown & Queue Meats. “Reading Setting the Table by Danny Myer, and working with Zingerman’s open book management style, set my ultimate approach.”
“Every month, our team of six meets to discuss what the goals of the company are, from more sales to new customer service techniques, and while I guide them, I let my team decide what those goals are. Then, we agree as a team what reward we’d like to earn should we meet those metrics, such as veg or cheese boxes from local small businesses.
“Helping your team transparently see how they contribute to a firm’s success, and how their work directly connects to better pay and better conditions, has really boosted our business.”
Support team development
“I launched Words + Pixels almost two years ago, and in that time, we’ve grown to hire 15 people,” says the PR agency’s founder Nick Braund. “Recruitment has been important to our success, but retention has been essential, so we give everyone personalized, six-weekly objectives.
“We provide each team member with tailored, specific advice on what they’re doing well and need to improve, including short- and long-term priorities. Enforcing this has meant everyone knows how they’re performing, and feels their development is being managed and supported at all times.
“As a result of these measures, we’ve definitely seen retention improve, and today we have a team that can see the opportunities we have for them to grow personally alongside the agency.”
Explore their working style
“My two employees and I work remotely, and we use personality trait tools to better work together, to help replace those ‘watercooler’ exchanges you enjoy in an office,” says Sophia Waterfield, editor of paranting magazine.
“When onboarding a new recruit, I ask them to fill in the Manual of Mewhich asks questions that communicate working preferences, such as: ‘The best way to give me feedback is …’ and ‘My best working patterns look like …’ I also ask them to complete the 16 personalities test, which is based on Myers Briggs.
“These tests look at how people like to work, how they like to be managed, and how they work as part of a team – and because of them, my management style is better tailored to each individual. For example, one employee likes to be left alone to get on with their work from her, so I’ve placed that trust in them, and they’ve come through.
“It’s also really helped me to help them to deal with challenges outside work, and given me an insight into what my team likes and how I can reward them.”
Offer mental health support
“As a small business, it’s important that we keep productivity levels as high as possible, so we’ve recently invested in mental health support,” says Philip Bacon, director of BaconMarketing. “Our five employees now have online access to therapists whenever they need it. It means when times are harder, staff have somebody external to turn to.
“It’s been a big morale booster – during the research phase, I consulted the team and the feedback was very positive when it came to the idea alone. Although it’s early days yet, I see this as a long-term investment. I strongly believe the scheme will pay dividends in terms of productivity.”
“To help fellow mums like ourselves hold down a job, we’re as flexible and childcare-friendly as possible,” says Anna Cargan, co-founder of children’s clothing website Build a Bundle.
“Between me, my business partner Nathalie and our six employees, we have nine children, and as our team grew, we quickly realized our staff wouldn’t be able to manage their jobs without flexibility. We never wanted our staff to feel torn between work and kids, like we’d so often felt in our past careers, so our staff know they’ll never be refused time off work if their child is unwell, or if school closes. They can also swap their working days, or even bring their child to work if needed.
“Far from this approach hurting productivity, we have a loyal, hard-working team of staff, who are happier, too – our orders have more than tripled since March 2020, while staffing hours have only doubled.”
Make your staff feel valued
“Bumble & Goose was formed out of a feelgood hobby, so we do what we can to ensure our team is happy and enjoys work,” says Lynsey Bleakley, director of the bespoke bakehouse.
“We found that little changes make a huge difference in productivity, and give everyone a sense of purpose. We use simple things such as gifting our six staff at birthdays and Christmas, giving out bonuses when we complete a large order, and organizing fun team-building days.”
Allow for downtime during the day
“Wellbeing is at the heart of everything we do, and I believe it’s really important for work not to be all about seeing clients,” says Kristy Lomas of The Ki Retreat.
“Employees are encouraged to meditate when they start work, to get them into the right mindset, which includes a ritual where they light candles and burn incense. We also hold journaling sessions.
“I make sure staff have plenty of time between clients, rather than booking them back-to-back. That way they’re able to unwind and recharge before their next client – they’ve been known to grab a yoga mat to stretch out, or relax with a drink and a book from our library.”
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism