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Updated Oct 30, 2023

How Employees Make or Break Business Success (and How You Can Lead the Way)

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership

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A business is only as successful as its employees, and that goes for any industry. Whether you’re running an office, a retail store or an online business, the rules of leadership apply. But it takes nurturing to develop a workforce that optimizes your operations. After all, even the most genuine, talented and loyal employees need direction and encouragement to succeed. 

When you guide and motivate employees properly, you engender a positive workplace atmosphere that boosts productivity and promotes employee retention, which are crucial elements of business success. To promote a positive workplace where employees go above and beyond to achieve organizational goals, you must lead by example, utilize everyone’s strengths and value their contributions.

How employees contribute to an organization’s success

graphic of people standing ona latdder and watering plants growing out of stacks of coins

Although motivated entrepreneurs and talented leadership teams are essential, your business’s employees are the lifeblood of your organization’s success. The right employees will carry out your mission, influence customers and propel business growth. 

Here are some ways your employees benefit business success:  

  • Employees carry out your mission. You may have written the perfect mission statement, but it means very little unless someone is fulfilling that mission. Employees are vital to an organization’s success because they’re directly responsible for carrying out your business’s mission, purpose and tenets. For example, if part of your mission is to provide excellent customer service, your belief in that mission isn’t enough. Your employees must be the ones to aspire to a customer-delight level of service.
  • Employees are the lifeblood of your company. Your employees do more than carry out your vision; they’re truly the lifeblood of your organization, running every aspect of the business. Their expertise drives your processes, products and productivity. When you value your employees and their contributions, they’ll reward you with loyalty and excellent work.
  • Employees drive revenue. Employees are directly responsible for driving revenue and keeping the operation afloat. In particular, talented sales teams and marketing departments significantly benefit your bottom line. Keeping your team motivated means maintaining cash flow and improving your revenue.
  • Employees influence your customers. Employees are your closest link to your customers. Customer-facing employees come to understand your customers’ and prospects’ needs and problems, so their insights can guide product quality, service solutions and much more. When your employees believe in your organization, those positive feelings translate to your customers. Conversely, dissatisfied employees can cast a negative shadow over your business and turn customers off.
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To empower and encourage your staff, communicate your vision to them clearly, get to know them on a personal level, and encourage self-improvement and professional development.

6 ways to guide and motivate employees

Employee quality goes beyond business skills and resumes. When you nurture dedicated teams, you lay the foundation for your business’s success. Consider these six ways to guide and motivate your employees:

1. Leverage your employees’ unique strengths.

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Your employees were likely hired for specific roles based on their skills and experience. However, your employees’ unique strengths will become apparent as they work in your organization. For example, if someone displays top-notch public speaking skills, find ways to utilize them for presentations. If someone’s tech talent is extraordinary, have them evaluate your network and systems to enhance efficiency. 

Playing to each employee’s strengths bolsters the entire workplace. Your team members will feel recognized and will likely enjoy their work more. Happy employees are less stressed and physically and emotionally healthier. When they’re operating at a higher level, they’ll be more productive and will positively engage with co-workers, vendors and customers. 

2. Respectfully hold employees accountable.

Accountability means much more than chastising employees for mistakes; it’s a valuable management tool that fosters respect, high-quality work and independence. 

Holding employees accountable requires a system that focuses on clear expectations and outcomes. Spelling out precise expectations ahead of time helps every team member understand the standards they must uphold. Clear expectations empower employees to work independently while fostering trust between managers and their staff. 

Holding someone accountable for less-than-stellar work ensures that future efforts are better. While you may be concerned about damaging employee-manager relationships, clearly delineated accountability specifications can create trust and foster respect. 

Time clock apps that help account for everyone’s hours accurately can be part of your accountability system (while keeping your business compliant with labor laws). Often, the problem isn’t that employees bill for time they didn’t work; it’s that they underreport hours because they fear negative repercussions and are concerned about job security. Let your employees know that you value their contributions and that they deserve compensation for their excellent work.   

Did You Know?Did you know

The best employee monitoring software can improve operational efficiency by helping you evaluate your processes and the time spent on various projects. You can often gain insight into how your team’s time can be better spent.

3. Establish an open, two-way feedback loop.

An open feedback loop is a significant element of developing a successful team. It involves sharing feedback with employees and accepting their feedback with interest and respect.

For example, if a team member is struggling with their workload, offer informal feedback so they’re aware they’re not meeting expectations. If the situation continues, you may need to implement additional performance management tactics. Conversely, if someone has exceeded your expectations, let them know how well they’re doing and how much their efforts are appreciated.  

Accepting employee feedback is just as important. Be transparent and open when you receive in-person or anonymous employee feedback. Employees should have room to comfortably and respectfully voice their thoughts or concerns about what the company is doing well and where it’s falling short. 

4. Break stretch goals into smaller pieces.

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While success may look different in various businesses and industries, all organizations want to succeed. Your business’s goals affect everyone in the operation and often require specific employee performance goals and targets. 

Setting goals with your employees can fuel their desire to work harder and make a more significant impact. However, goals that are too ambitious for teams and individuals can result in burnout and low morale.

The SMART goals system is an effective way to handle team and company-wide goals. Here’s what “SMART” stands for:

  • Specific: Goal specificity directs your team to achieve a highly detailed goal.
  • Measurable: Ensuring your goals are measurable requires analysis of preset key performance indicators.
  • Achievable: When you make goals achievable, you set your team up for success. 
  • Realistic: Realistic goals go hand-in-hand with achievability; you don’t want to set unrealistic goals that your team can’t attain. 
  • Timeline: A timeline will help your team stay on track and synchronized as goals are reached.
Bottom LineBottom line

Setting SMART goals in your business plan helps your team chart a course, stay focused and enjoy success.

5. Give your teams more autonomy.

Greater team autonomy can benefit specific teams and your overall company culture. When teams are more autonomous, leaders don’t have to spend time micromanaging and can plan for the future and address other company needs. Workplaces that prioritize autonomy encourage employee retention because employees feel respected and can enjoy a more positive work-life balance. 

However, before you increase autonomy, you must give your employees the tools they need. Autonomy means nothing without the training, systems, devices, tools and skills the job requires. 

When increasing employee autonomy, offer frequent opportunities for the employee to practice making decisions independently. Follow up with constructive feedback so everyone understands company expectations and receives appropriate praise. Autonomy done correctly can solidify the bond between employers and employees.

6. Lead by example.

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To promote a positive workplace where employees are happy and thriving, you must lead by example. Actions speak louder than words. If you want a hardworking team that goes above and beyond, company leaders must exhibit these qualities. If you want everyone to treat each other with respect, this culture must start with management. 

Nurturing an employee-centric culture can motivate your team members to perform to the best of their abilities and elevate your business to something everyone can be proud of.

Julie Thompson contributed to this article. 

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.
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