Every new business owner faces numerous challenges. It is easy for them to focus on the most urgent problems and overlook those that don’t stand out to them.
Problems with employees are often the easiest to miss, because many business owners discourage open communication or employees may be too shy or embarrassed to bring things to their attention. This can lead to serious problems down the road.
You need to maintain an open channel of communication with your employees if you want to avoid these problems. Here are some common mistakes employers make and tips to avoid them.
1. Follow Through with Promises to the Best of Your Ability
First-year entrepreneurs have bold visions for their company. Their financial projections are often overly optimistic, which may lead them to make unrealistic promises of future raises, bonuses and promotions. Those promises often have to be broken after the bills come due and they discover that generating revenue is harder than they anticipated.
Michael Feuer, co-founder of OfficeMax, has stated that breaking promises is the biggest employee engagement mistake businesses make. More recent research has provided a more nuanced and less frightening outlook on the issue.
A study from the University of Toronto in Canada found that customers typically forgive their employers for failing to fully live up to their promises. However, they need to provide reasonable rewards to them.
“Workers don’t care so much about whether their employers deliver on specific promises, according to the latest research in organizational psychology. What matters most are the rewards and opportunities they end up getting, even if they were initially promised more… More than 550 students clearly understood the scenarios described, yet their perceptions of the situations were influenced more by the number of inducements given than by whether any specific promises had been made.”
The moral of the story is that you should make promises in good faith. Employees may understand that unforeseeable problems kept you from providing everything they were initially promised, especially if you are running a new company. However, Samantha Montes, co-author of the study, warned that employers can’t make brazen promises that you never intended to follow through with. Employees can tell the difference.
2. Expecting Employees to Understand the New Culture
Your business is less than a year old. You have spent countless hours building the framework. However, most of your new employees didn’t have any role in launching the company. They are still sailing unchartered territory while trying to navigate the company culture.
You need to communicate the company vision and culture to build employee engagement. Keep in mind that it will evolve over time. Companies tend to take on their own culture, but you should at least make your initial expectations clear.
3. Neglecting to Communicate the Bigger Purpose
Every employee has a unique and very important role in the company. You wouldn’t be hiring them on a startup budget if you didn’t need their services.
Unfortunately, many employees aren’t very engaged, because they don’t see the impact of their contributions. A study from HRZone found employees tend to be much more enthusiastic if you communicate the bigger picture.
“What we found in our research for Engage! is that purpose-driven companies give meaning to the employees that makes them proud of their company and ambassadors to the market. Being emotionally connected to the bigger purpose creates loyalty and motivation, which in turn helps the employees feel more committed and engaged.
In fact, it is becoming essential that companies find their bigger purpose in order to thrive and have that competitive advantage in the market.”
Employees often join startups because they want to be part of an exciting new venture that can make a profound difference. You need to nurture that feeling rather than making them feel like a cog in a corporate machine.
Make Employee Engagement a Top Priority from Day One
Launching a new company isn’t easy. You need the support of your employees to do it. One of the advantages startups have over larger companies is that the entrepreneur usually has a closer relationship with employees. If you engage with them well, you will earn the loyalty and support needed to propel your startup to new heights.