Employees are everything within a business – they are the people who build the product, carry out the service, interact with customers, and maintain the company culture. Since nobody enjoys interacting with an employee who is unhappy, snappy, or overworked, ensuring that the employees are happy is a way a company can make it more likely that their customers are satisfied. One article from Entrepreneur.com found unhappy employees cost the U.S. up to $550 billion a year. According to the self-determination theory of motivation, the three most important factors for if people are happy in their job are autonomy over their work, gaining competence from their work, and feeling connected to those they work with. Understanding these three factors can help to create an environment that maximizes employees’ motivation.
What Do New Hires Want to Know?
Consider the questions that new hires have when they join your company. They probably know a little bit about what the company does, but they probably know a relatively small amount about the “how.” The onboarding process is about getting up to speed with the “how.” This means not only understanding the procedures within the company but also understanding the trade-offs that went into making the decisions when establishing the procedures.
Make Documenting Routine
As an employee stays within the company, they become exponentially more valuable in terms of understanding why specific processes are in place. This is a benefit and a risk; if they stop working for the company abruptly, you might end up with problematic gaps in institutional knowledge. To protect the business from this risk, have a system of creating written knowledge within the company. Practically, whenever someone creates a new process that gets repeated, have them document the steps of the process and make this document available in a clear way.
Manage your New Employee Onboarding Experience
Create documentation to share specifically with new hires. You can think of this as an orientation packet, filled with things that older employees wish they knew when they started. Often the most recently onboarded employees have the best idea of what the transition is like, so they might be best suited to create some of these resources. Additionally, it’s worth having a conversation with every employee after they have been there for a few months and asking them about how their transition into the company was. This is an excellent opportunity to find opportunities for improvement by soliciting direct feedback.
Utilize Version Control for Internal Documents
As the company builds up its knowledge base through a system of documents, consider having a system in place for version controlling these documents. Version control is a way to track the changes that have been made to a document so that any given document has a well-known history and can be changed back to an older version at any time. In practice, it can save some headaches that come from employees saving unwanted changes to critical documents. This is a useful thing for employees to have since it gives them the freedom to add, edit, or delete from the knowledge system without risking the permanent loss of any data. In software engineering, version control is an industry standard practice, but any company that has written information that changes over time can benefit from this practice. One easy way to get started with version control is to set up an account on Github for your organization and store your documents there.
Control the Criticism
To help employees maintain emotional well-being, have outlets for team members to voice suggestions. Asking for feedback from employees consistently is one way to give people a healthy outlet for negative emotions, and can help you get a better understanding of what it’s like to be an employee. These suggestions can be anonymous or non-anonymous, but it’s critical that everyone feels like their ideas are heard. This can be balanced by providing an outlet for employees to complement and publicly appreciate certain things, and will generally result in a more open, communicative culture.
Use Ownership to Develop Autonomy
To help employees create a sense of autonomy, allow them to own a process, or result, on their own. By allowing someone to be single-handedly responsible, one provides an opportunity for an employee to take pride and ownership in their work. Similarly, the faster someone’s competence accelerates, the more they will enjoy working. This is because gaining skill is both intrinsically rewarding in the sense that one is improving at something, and extrinsically rewarding in the sense that the employee becomes more valuable. To help people feel like they are growing their skills, ask them what types of resources could be useful. When companies give employees a budget to spend on books, classes, and learning materials, the return is terrific.
Create a company culture that fosters connection, both in breadth and depth. How often do team members have lunch together? Are there ever have any events to get people from different teams to work together? Having employees feel connected to their work community helps them feel meaning and purpose in the work they do. As a bonus, the more people from different teams get to meet each other, the easier it is for ideas to spread within the company. Getting repeated exposure to colleagues on different teams is an excellent way to help people get to know each other. Affinity groups and topic-centered discussion groups are ways of achieving this goal.
Support Curiosity & Exploration
Give employees a chance to work on projects they care about. Google is famous for its “20% time,” where employees are allowed to dedicate one day a week to any project of their choosing. There has led to some incredible projects, like Gmail and AdSense. However, the most significant advantage of this may be the fact that it gets employees a sense of control over their decisions as well as a sense of ownership. This autonomy will almost certainly result in positive emotions, and the more the employees learn to associate these emotions with their job, the more likely it is that they will bring their full effort and passion to work every day.
Wrapping it Up: Improve Your Employee Experience
Employee experience comes out of the company culture that exists, and transforming company culture rarely happens overnight. Despite this, there are several ways for small business owners to go about reorienting their company culture to deliver a better employee, and ultimately customer, experience.
Want to Learn More?
Read our blog post on Improving Your Employee Training Program with Three Simple Marketing Techniques.
Need a reason to improve your employee’s experience? Check out the cost of unhappy employees in this infographic from Entrepreneur.com