It's been a tough year for many small businesses, so cash and how to get more of it flowing is a hot topic. What business owners might not think of immediately is asking their own staffs for help.
Andrew Reid, founder of Big Fish Interactive, a Toronto-based corporate training firm focused on leadership, business coaching and team building, says employees can help increase productivity and drive revenue.
One of the best and most practical tactics that management can take is to invite the full participation of each staff member, Mr. Reid says. Once employees see their contributions to efficiencies and the bottom line, they can better understand the difference they can make to themselves and the company.
"The key word is to invite," Mr. Reid says. "Ask employees: 'How can you see your own strengths contributing to the task at hand? What choices can you make that feel purposeful and connected?' "
Managers should make such requests in a way that is engaging, he says.
"You don't need to show everything, but you need to show them enough of the company's bottom-line results connected to their personal contribution, especially in things like cash flow, performance and profitability," Mr. Reid says. "It's important for managers to empower employees with a sense of ownership so they feel that they can change results."
If employees don't know exactly how a business works they could be spinning their wheels working extra hours for nothing.
"We've seen employees be surprised about not getting their bonuses when they've really been cranking the hours and feel burned out by the end of the week," Mr. Reid says. "What they didn't have was an awareness of cash flow or how profitable the company was."
If employees have been doing a lot of what Mr. Reid calls "firefighting" – dealing with immediate workplace crises – it creates the illusion of effectiveness because everyone is busy. "Firefighting creates nothing new and burns profits," Mr. Reid says.
"One of my favourite catchphrases is, 'The way I set it up is how it ends up,' " Mr. Reid says. "Set up the intentions and expectations clearly at the beginning of a project. If I set myself up to be bottom-line [oriented]and profitability-focused and understand my role, even if it's a small one, and how I can contribute to that, then you've got me as a committed employee."
He recommends a systematic approach that includes individual coaching. A manager could ask employees questions such as: What would be the same and what would be different if you were better engaged in how you do what you do? How could you be better focused and more effective in meeting the needs of the customer?
Employee recognition and rewards are also key. People want to be recognized for their increased effort or change of focus, Mr. Reid says. That doesn't necessarily have to be a cash bonus – what's important is for managers to notice what people do and thank them for the effort.
Another benefit of increasing employee engagement is retention. It's expensive for companies to lose their superstars.
"I've never met a fully engaged employee who leaves," Mr. Reid says. "People don't leave relationships that are working, whether it's romantic or business. It's the same thing. We only look elsewhere when we feel unfulfilled."