Last year, we had the pleasure of winning the Customer Service category in the Venus Business Awards for Southampton. Our Service Desk team leader, Melissa Lane-Gilhespy, known to many of you as Mel, was also recognised for her customer service skill.Following our exposure to the Venus Business Awards, and the benefits that we got from being involved, HTEC decided to sponsor the Employer of the Year for Hampshire 2017 - to recognise all the unsung small business employers in our local community.
We thought we would share our ideas and offer hints and tips for becoming a better small business employer.
According to a recent YouGov survey, the majority of UK adults believe that working environment and pay are the best tests of a good employer. Smaller businesses can struggle to match the pay and benefits package provided by some larger companies, so what else can they do? And how can you improve the environment, if that’s equally important?
The overall feel of a workplace, from the layout to break facilities (comfy seating, kettle, microwave and dish washer) can make an impact. For retailers, maximising floor space is key and so, it’s easy for staff facilities to get squashed. But it’s important for team performance and happiness that they do get somewhere to relax away from customers – even if it’s just for a short break. And ideally, not stuck between boxes of stock waiting to go on the shop floor.
The physical environment is one factor that can affect employee productivity, but the way staff members interact and how they are treated also play a role in the overall work climate. In a customer service environment, it’s important that staff are treated with the same respect and manners that customers would expect.
As an award, which specifically recognises the contribution of women in the workplace, much like the retail sector, it’s not surprising that many of the Venus Award entries provided flexibility and the offer of a good work-life balance as standard. As an industry, retail generally provides flexibility with working hours; around 70% of retail staff work less than 30 hours a week according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ASC).
As an employer at HTEC, we don't just value flexibility, we also encourage development and career progression across our teams. Many of the businesses entering the Venus Award were small employers – with less than 10 employees, but offered a range of development opportunities.
Good employers aimed these at the individual rather than at all staff and recognized that what might be seen as a development opportunity for one, might not be considered quite so inspiring by another. Training and development opportunities also featured high up on the wish-list amongst the YouGov respondents and so good employers should always be looking at how they can develop their staff.
The final top influencing factor is workplace culture and finding ways to encourage staff to have fun whilst getting the job done. There are lots of ways of doing this, but what’s fun for one team might not work for the next and so, as a good employer, you need to take time to understand what motivates and inspires your people and then you can find simple, inexpensive ways to introduce more of the motivation and fun!
We have announced our five semi-finalists for the Venus Award Hampshire and look forward to understanding more about those businesses in order to select a final winner, but the message is clear – there are some really good employers out there. Are you one of them?