Every business desperately needs superstar employees. That's especially true with small businesses and startups. The fewer employees you have, the more each person matters.
The good news: Many great people care just as much about finding meaning and purpose in their work as they do about salaries, benefits and perks. They love the idea of being part of a small team. They love the idea of seeing a direct connection between their efforts and their company's results. They love the idea of helping build a business from the ground up.
Engaged, excited and invested employees turn a good business into a great business.
How can you foster that kind of enthusiasm and commitment?
1. Don't just allow them to take initiative and action. Encourage it.
You have plans in place. You have strategies in place. You have guidelines and rules and processes in place-- as you should, since best practices are best for a reason.
But startup plans quickly change due to realities of the market, technology, available resources, etc.
Want your employees to be more engaged and invested? Allow them to be a part of making those changes happen. Better yet, encourage them to make changes without being directed to do so. Give them the freedom to adapt and revise. Give them the freedom to not only do what is right but to decide what is right.
Good employees are willing to be told what to do. So are great employees. But great employees often prefer to help decide what to do.
After all, people care a little more about the outcome when they helped make the decision.
2. Put away the job descriptions.
Want your employees to feel invested in your company's results?
Allow them to do whatever it takes to achieve those results. Maybe that means pitching in on sales calls when customer interest spikes. Maybe that means pitching in to solve customer issues when a glitch occurs. Maybe that means making suggestions to improve functional areas outside their job description's scope.
The more you allow employees to adapt to changing priorities, to jump in without being asked and to volunteer, the more they'll feel like part of the team. And they'll feel like part of your company's mission.
They'll feel that your company's goals are their goals, too.
4. Communicate, communicate and communicate some more.
It's vital that all of your employees understand the broader aspects of your business. Understanding how their jobs affect customer satisfaction and financial results matters.
But so does your vision. Your goals. Your company's culture. What your company stands for. Where you're going. And how, as a team, you'll get there.
The more your employees know about your business, your customers and your competition, the more they can find meaning in their daily work.
For example, understanding the difference your products or services make in customer's lives can provide greater meaning and purpose to their own lives, both professionally and personally.
Ultimately, that's your goal: Pay is important, but at least to some extent meaning and purpose transcends pay and benefits. Because while we all want to be paid fairly, we also want to feel like we're a part of something bigger than ourselves.