Are your staff advocates for your company? Are they involved in helping shape or refine your products and services? Do they know where you are as a business and what you’re trying to achieve? If so, then you’re already making great use of what can often be an underused asset.
If not, then it’s time to change your thinking and to start deploying them to maximum advantage.
Your employees know things that can help you improve
Everyone who works for you is involved in some way in delivering your products and services. Each of them will see some part of the process, whether it’s directly liaising with clients, making products, delivering services, handling the finances, preparing promotional materials, posting to your on-line profile, operating IT or production systems, developing and managing your people.
They are individuals with thoughts and ideas, so make sure you involve them when you need to make changes, which is always. If you’re standing still then you will lose market over time.
You can find lots of articles on the value of a continuous improvement culture so I’m not going into that here, but a passionate and committed workforce is your biggest asset in driving forward.
Make sure they’re on-board with you, that you involve them and encourage them to keep thinking about how you can do things better. Even small improvements can make the difference between success and failure.
STEPS TO TAKE:
- Set up one or more ways for employees to put forward ideas
- Make it part of everyone’s responsibility
- Encourage ideas by setting aside time for individuals or teams to focus on generating them
- Reward the people who come up with ideas which are implemented
- Plan to focus on different aspects of the business over a set timeframe, starting with the ones which you’ve identified as being the most important for you.
- You could also ask your team which issues they think are the most pressing and include those areas in your plan
- Ensure the people from across the business get involved in discussions about how to move forward, to bring in different viewpoints
Your employees talk to people
Word of Mouth is the most trusted source of information. When people tell us about their experiences then we tend to believe what they say and place more credibility on it than on things that companies say about themselves.
Everyone who works for you has a network of people that they interact with on a regular basis – friends, families, team mates, social media connections, and so on. With work being such a large part of daily life, it inevitably forms part of conversations. What your employees say will impact other people’s perceptions of your company. It could
- Generate interest in your products and services or place you in the ‘must avoid’ box
- Encourage people to buy from you or put them off completely
- Mark you out as a potential employer, or a workplace to avoid
- Reinforce or undermine your company brand
Do you know what they are saying about you when asked about their work? Are they positively impacting opinions or having the opposite effect?
You want your employees to be strong advocates for you and to talk positively about what you are and what you do. Whilst it’s not always possible to get everyone believing in your products and services and advocating you as an employer of choice, particularly in bigger organisations, in SMEs this should be an achievable goal.
STEPS TO TAKE:
- Find out what your employees really think about your business, their role within it, the products and services you sell. This could be done formally in a structured way or informally when opportunities present themselves; it could be done in-house or using someone independent who can feed back anonymously.
- Where you get negative feedback, look in to why that is. Is it justifiable? Is there something you need to change?
- Make sure employees have information you want them to share: about new products or services; about your engagement with the local community or charity work; business awards or successes; anything which presents you and your products or services in the way you want to be seen.
I’ve posted a separate article on internal communications for anyone wanting some tips and ideas.
Learn from them and about them
It’s an obvious thing to say, but people are individuals: they have histories and a life outside of work; they may have useful talents you don’t know about; they may be your customers as well as your employees.
Try not to pigeonhole your people, but think about them as individuals and you may well find ways in which they can do more to help you achieve business success. Adopting this approach will lead to a happier, more motivated workforce with people more likely to be stronger advocates for you, your products and services.
STEPS TO TAKE
- Understand the talents, interests and ambitions of your staff
- Encourage feedback from them on what you do
- If appropriate, use your staff as product testers during the NPD process
- Offer them product discounts or free trials and think about whether this could be expanded to friends and family