The recent Business West Survey placed ‘competition’ as the biggest fear for 32% of local businesses.
This is ahead of issues like taxation (19%) and business rates (18%) and shows that although business confidence is increasing, there is a long way to go in this recovery before we can all relax.
Not that relaxing should be an option for any business. Even when the economy is strong and there is plenty for everyone, a lapse of concentration can hurt any organisation. So how do we stay ahead of the competition?
Happy people make happy businesses
One good way is to make sure you have the best staff available and that they are happy. Happy, engaged employees can create a self-fulfilling prophecy: they want to work for you and help your (and their) business grow, thus attracting more talented potential employees, all of which combines to make your business more successful, your staff happier and even more attractive to even more talented potential employees, and so on – you get the idea.
The key to all this happiness and growth is engagement. Your people are your business and they want to be a part of it. They do not want to be just a cog in a machine: they want to be creative, to get and to give more, to be valued, involved and trusted.
A big part of this is flexibility around working practices. In a CISCO report from 2010, 61% of workers globally believe they don’t need to be in an office to be productive. More and more, people are looking for choice about when, where and how they work. Flexible working hours, choice about work location and ‘bring your own device’ policies are just some of the ways that progressive employers are engaging with staff to find ways to work that benefit the people and the business.
Flexible working makes people happy
Let’s look at just one example: flexible working hours. In a 2013 CBI survey, 10% of employers said that flexible working was a driver of employee engagement. A global online survey conducted by Chess Media Group last year stated that 80% of people expect flexible working to improve their work and family life balance and 77% of people expect flexible working to improve their work satisfaction.
Many people want work to be part of their life, not the be-all and end of it. They want it to integrate better with the rest of their life so that they spend more time – and more quality time – with children, partners and their wider circle of family and friends. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the above CBI survey also found that 87% of employers said the most important benefit of employee engagement was improved productivity and performance.
This goes back to that virtuous circle of employee retention and attraction mentioned earlier. Engagement between employer and employee is a great way to stay ahead of the competition in what remains a tricky economic recovery where margins and market share cannot be taken for granted.
For more on this: The Future of Work is already here!