10 Employee Engagement Strategies for Small Businesses

 10 Employee Engagement Strategies for Small Businesses

Employee Engagement Employee Experience SMBs

When it comes to engaging employees, being small offers distinct advantages

At Great Place To Work®, we often hear small and medium-sized companies (those with fewer than 1,000 employees) bemoan their size as an impediment to building a great company culture.

Smaller budgets, the rationale goes, leave less room for flashy perks, lavish bonuses and endless supplies of La Croix.

What smaller businesses don't realize is that perks are never the most important part of company culture.  Employee engagement is built through close, trusting relationships with leadership and colleagues

Being small gives distinct advantages on those fronts:

  • Managers have more opportunities to connect with employees one-to-one and know their employees as people.

  • Employees have access to senior leadership, including the CEO. They are often on a first-name basis with those executives who employees at larger companies only see at town hall meetings or annual visits.

The proof is in the data. The highest employee experience benchmark in our entire Best Workplaces™ data library is always the Best Small & Medium Workplaces™ list.  The best small companies in the U.S. continually outscore the large companies on our Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® 100 Best Companies to Work For® list on our employee survey, the Trust Index™.

If you are a small business looking to build a great workplace and increase employee engagement, here are a few tips for how you can leverage your size to your advantage:

1. Have an unequivocal open-door policy

All the way open, all the time. Some companies even have senior executives sit in cubicles alongside employees, forcing day-to-day interactions. Remote managers can keep an "open door" by creating space in calls for checking in on a personal level.

2. Provide the benefits that matter

A swanky onsite fitness center may be out of reach, but a subsidy for a local gym membership or building an outdoor basketball court may have an even more significant impact. Supporting wellness, building camaraderie, and providing a unique benefit on an accessible scale. 

3. Host a roadshow

Employees in the home office should not be the only ones who get to interact with leadership. For remote teams, have executives join the occasional smaller team call. 

4. Listen

Provide multiple, open-access channels for employees to express their ideas, opinions, and concerns with leadership, and then respond to every inquiry or comment. Something that large companies don't have to luxury of doing. 

5. Send a letter to employees at home

Several CEOs have made a tradition of sending an annual Thanksgiving letter to employees' homes, expressing appreciation for everything employees have helped the company achieve over the year.

6. Provide non-work opportunities for employees to interact with each other

You don't need to rent out Oracle Park or hire *NSYNC to provide employees with opportunities to get to know each other as people. Teams often have the most fun and experience the most engagement when working together on volunteer projects.

7. Have the CEO take new employees for lunch

Even if its a virtual coffee date, get to know employees from the onset. Initiating relationships and opening channels of communication early on, sets the stage for sustained open interaction. 

8. Form a culture committee

To keep the entire team aligned with your company values, appoint a committee or ERG to be your cultural ambassadors. They can welcome new employees, help direct celebrations for company accomplishments and milestones, and bring your company values to life every day.

9. Celebrate accomplishments

Do you take the time to congratulate individuals and teams on a job well done? Do not underestimate the value a simple thank you or public acknowledgment can have on employee engagement.

10. Connect employees to the greater good

When employees feel connected to the company mission or like their work contributes to a goal that is greater than profits, they feel like their work has purpose. A sense of meaning is priceless and costs nothing for an employer to cultivate.

Do these tips sound like practices you're already implementing at your company? Then you should apply to be named on Best Small & Medium Workplaces™ or any other one of our company culture awards lists. 


Claire Hastwell