by Maria Shields | May 15, 2018
It's official: the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are facing a productivity crisis. According to recent data, 93 percent of London SMEs now admit that productivity is a major issue for their business. In many ways this comes as no surprise. We speak to small businesses on a daily basis that are struggling to motivate and engage their staff. Many are concerned that they don't have the budget or human resources to dedicate to comprehensive employee engagement strategies and believe that they can never compete with bigger businesses. But the truth is, it's easier than ever for small businesses to engage and motivate their workers, and often a smaller size can be an advantage. Here are five examples:

Quick Off the Mark

Launching any employee engagement initiative in a large company -- be it a reward and recognition program, work anniversary initiative, or otherwise -- can be a complex and timely process. From making your case to the finance team, to getting managers on board during the launch phase, things generally become a bit more difficult when there are lots of people, offices, and even countries involved (not to mention investors). Small businesses, on the other hand, tend to be nimble, flexible organizations without the same level of bureaucracy. If they want to launch an employee incentive program, it can be done in a matter of hours, especially given that there are now turnkey, online platforms that do all of the hard work for you. 

Taking Advantage of Team Moments
Team moments are a crucial part of employee recognition and arguably still the most effective form of social recognition. Whether awarding someone "employee of the month" at your weekly team meeting, encouraging team members to thank and recognize their colleague's hard work in person, or offering "lunch with the CEO" to your junior stars, these face-to-face moments can have a powerful impact on company culture. This can be a real challenge for an organization with a large mobile or flexible workforce, yet for many small businesses, often all working out of the same room, this is an easily achievable goal.  

Bespoke Benefits 

The best employee benefits are those that are tailored to the individual needs and wants of an organization's team. It shows that employers know and care about them and want to go above and beyond salary to reward staff for their hard work. Many small business owners have the luxury of knowing each member of their team and use it to their advantage to make them feel valued. We have worked with SMEs whose employee perks have included an extra hour in bed (for those employees they know aren't morning people), training opportunities tailored to an individual team member's personal hobby (e.g. a coding course) and even a coveted parking space. 

Saying 'Thank You'

There is so much to be said about the impact of simply saying "thank you" to staff. We have feedback all the time from clients that this is one of the most powerful gestures when it comes to recognize ing the hard work of team members and, best of all, it doesn't cost a penny. For many bigger businesses this is simply not possible (or at least is something that needs to be delegated to someone else) but we know a number of startups where the founders make a point of personally thanking high-performing staff on a regular basis. 

Instilling a Culture that Supports Wellbeing 

The physical and mental health of an organization's employees can make a huge difference to their motivation and happiness in the workplace. Indeed, it was recently reported that just one hour of exercise a week could help stave off depression. Small business owners can therefore have a major impact on their company's workplace culture by encouraging their team to stay fit and healthy. We see this quite often with startups running everything form team yoga sessions, to mindfulness talks and even seminars on healthy eating.

Maria Shields is head of SME sales at Staff Treats, an online platform that helps small businesses attract, retain, and engage their staff.