How to Keep Small Business Employees On Board
Small businesses often have to do additional work to keep their employees from being lured away by larger firms. Here are four ways to retain them.
Smaller companies don’t always have the chance to give employees the fresh and exciting projects that bigger companies thrive on, but they often have the ability to allow their employees some freedom and flexibility regarding schedules. Giving workers the chance to alter their schedules when necessary is a major perk, as they will be less stressed on and off the job and may complete more work during their shift due to added focus. Establishing reasonable, universal limits to flextime will keep the business properly staffed. Hosting parties and social events can also go a long way towards employee satisfaction, as creating a fun and positive environment will give employees another reason to want to come into work.
Employees want to feel like they are valued and cared about, and much of that stems from being treated like individuals instead of just workers. A lot of this lies in having the opportunity to discuss their ideas and concerns with management. An open-communication, open door policy demonstrates that employees’ needs matter to the company and will be addressed accordingly. Sitting down with employees to check in with them on a regular basis will make them feel valued and keep them on track. Recognizing exceptional work and showing appreciation for employees boosts both confidence and morale. And on the most basic level, simply being kind makes a world of difference. No one wants to go into the office to greet a gruff, unpleasant, or cold manager everyday.
Today’s employees are increasingly focused on upward mobility and don’t want to feel trapped in a dead-end job. Providing training and further education allows workers to grow in their field and achieve their personal and professional long-term goals. Job duties can be adjusted according to employees’ strengths, many of which will develop due to extended learning. Employees may sharpen their skills to the point where they actually outgrow their jobs, which may require new positions to be created. But promoting from within can be cost effective, as new employees can be brought in at lower levels.
Incentive plans are a good way to keep employees on track to achieve their goals and those of the company. Proper plans should allow them to track their progress regularly. Sometimes, individual incentive plans are better than group plans, as the plan can be tailored to reward specific skills. Bonuses and buy-ins are good options for incentivizing staff, but many workers need more than just money to keep them in their current jobs. Providing good benefits and wellness plans establish that the company is concerned with employee health and cares about the well being of its people. Additionally, company membership programs such as discount dining cards or reduced-price event tickets make the staff feel rewarded for their efforts at work and encourage them to enjoy their leisure time.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.