Employees are the heart of any enterprise, large or small. They are the lifeblood of a business, and, these days, ignoring employee experience comes at a steep cost. While the idea that happy employees equals business success is a well-known core tenet of business, it can be incredibly challenging to implement, particularly for small businesses. Losing one employee because they are unhappy can submarine a small business in no time.
Employee experience or EX doesn't have to be time-consuming, expensive, or intimidating. According to a 2019 Forrester study, the magic formula for employee happiness is actually quite simple, and it's built on three key elements: empowerment, enablement, and inspiration. By recognizing these elements and leveraging them with employees, small businesses can ensure that their company flourishes as employees are engaged, enthusiastic, and empowered to move toward collective success.
Empowerment is a term that is regularly bandied about in business circles. What does it actually mean in a small business sense, though?
Empowerment, employee happiness, and business success go hand-in-hand. Giving employees the power to make decisions and entrusting them with those decisions is crucial in the EX equation. It means embracing autonomy over blind obedience and encouraging employees to freely plan work processes and choose how to complete the task at hand. In a world where customers hold more power than ever in the palms of their hands (thanks in large part to social media), business success often hinges on employees' ability to be nimble and respond to customer needs on the spot.
According to the Forrester study, small businesses are in the perfect position to offer this kind of empowerment for their employees. In fact, 74 percent of the more than 800 small business employees surveyed felt that they had the freedom to decide on the best way to do their job. Yet, that freedom largely hinges on their ability to feel (and be) productive. To be productive, employees need the right tools, including technology.
Unfortunately, Forrester's research also shows that small businesses currently fall short in the technology arena. The right technology to enable productivity should be inclusive, mobile, and flexible. It needs to be fast, responsive, energy-efficient, and affordable. Otherwise, it serves no one.
"This is absolutely a time of transformation in the workplace, and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are at the forefront of that transformation," say Marshae Mansfield, Lenovo's VP and chief customer officer. "Our research shows that most SMB employees think they are not in an environment that helps them be productive. The best and most innovative teams and individuals need technology that fosters, not hinders, creativity."
By choosing the right technology, small business owners can empower their employees to make better, faster, and more efficient decisions that will help a business flourish.
Enablement and empowerment are intimately related in business. Empowerment deals with the immediate here and now, while enablement allows employees to take a forward-looking approach and initiate changes to make future opportunities come to fruition.
In order for employees to look to the future, small business owners must remove the bottlenecks that block growth on the personal, professional, and technological fronts. The Forrester study states that companies must work to understand employees' current and future needs and demands. It shows that most small business employees use desktops as their primary device but would prefer a laptop, and many don't have the flexibility to choose the technologies that would better suit their tasks.
By giving employees the tools they need to get the job done, employers empower them to make decisions that are better for the future of the business.
Inspiration is the apex of the core EX elements, and while it can be challenging to implement in a small business setting, it is not impossible.
Inspiration allows employees to find meaning in their work and the company's mission. It can come about in a multitude of ways, but the Forrester study shows that when employees believe in and have a voice in a business's core mission, they are more likely to have much higher job satisfaction. When employees feel both enabled and empowered, they can find inspiration in their work.
While creating an inspiring workplace may sound like an intimidating goal, it can be as simple as integrating better technology to cut down on distractions for employees. According to Forrester, more than one-third of the surveyed workers reported that they don't work in an environment that can help them be productive, and 60 percent of those people believe that the noises, personal activities, and technology issues around them and on their business devices were huge distractions. While it may sound simple, investing in the right technology can help employees focus on important tasks and think more deeply about the broader business goals and find meaning in their work.
The Bottom Line
A business is only as good as its employees, and keeping employees happy can seem like a daunting and often expensive task. Yet by focusing on the three core tenets of the employee experience or EX, and leveraging the right technology, businesses - both large and small - can ensure success.
"At Lenovo, we feel passionately that technology is a key contributor to that employee experience, Mansfield says. "People don't just use technology today--they have a relationship with it, it has become a central part of their work experience."