Small Businesses Go Big On Employee Engagement During Pandemic
What can larger corporations learn from their smaller counterparts?
Small businesses have struggled big-time during the COVID-19 shutdowns—but those who are hanging on are doing something right. A recent Zenefits study of more than 700 small-business employees found significantly high levels of job satisfaction among respondents.
Despite the way that the pandemic disrupted their work, 71% said they felt “very excited” or “somewhat excited” about their job. Twenty-one percent were neutral, and 8% said they weren’t excited at all about their role. Roughly 3 in 4 employees report feeling like their employer cares about them as a person, and more than 4 in 5 believe that their employer values their opinions. Further, more than 4 in 5 feel valued for their contributions at work.
And it gets better.
Employees who take pride in their company perform at a higher level—and small businesses are winning here, too. Fully 92% of respondents say they are proud to work for their company, and 93% feel their work contributes to the success of the organization. A further 90% would recommend their company to friends or family members as a potential employer.
Despite the positives, it’s not all roses for small businesses and their employees. As a result of the pandemic, more than 3 in 4 employees said they feel lonely at work, with physical isolation being the top reason employees feel this way. Younger employees were more prone to loneliness, with more than a quarter of all workers aged 18 to 45 indicating they were lonely (27%), while fewer than 1 in 5 workers aged 46 to 64 felt lonely (17%).
Almost 1 in 5 small business employees do not feel like their supervisor provides enough individual attention and over 1 in 4 employees report that their employer does not track their performance. Though these numbers are relatively low, they still represent a significant trapdoor for some small organizations that may find themselves blindsided by turnover and low performance.
Burnout is an ever-present challenges for small businesses, where one employee may be asked to wear many different hats. This was especially true during the pandemic. “Employee burnout was a big challenge that small businesses faced during the shutdowns,” says Kevin Marasco, Zenefits CMO. One way to reduce the chance of employee burnout is to keep the lines of communication open and proactively seek employee feedback. “We discovered that employers who choose to create a positive working environment are more likely to see less employee turnover or attrition,” says Marasco.
Employee handbooks were another weak spot for small businesses. A majority (67%) of employees find employee handbooks useful and look to them for policy, and almost half (41%) have referred to the handbook in the last six months. Despite this, almost half (48%) have not received an updated handbook since COVID-19 hit. In the wake of the many logistical challenges small businesses have had to overcome in recent months, not having time or bandwidth to update the employee handbook is understandable—but Marasco urges small companies to start prioritizing it. “In light of the pandemic and new work standards, it’s important for companies to update their handbooks as an authoritative resource that employees can depend on.”
Engagement starts with feeling valued
Due to their size and sometimes less-formal structures, small businesses may have an advantage when it comes to keeping employees engaged. But while size and structure can help, they are not, in themselves, reasons for employee engagement.
There’s a lesson here for businesses of all sizes: engagement has a lot to do with employees feeling valued. “Larger corporations might want to consider the success that small businesses are seeing in good employee engagement and how they make their employees feel important,” says Marasco. “In a small business, every employee counts and makes a significant contribution to their collective success.”
Businesses that make their employees feel like an integral and valued part of the company can thrive even in uncertain times—no matter what their size.