Employee engagement is about making changes and improvements in the workplace so that employees can be their best.  We know that in any size or type of organisation, it’s good for our employees as individuals and for the business itself if our workforce is engaged.  

It’s often the case though that employee engagement is not talked about within small companies. It might be seen as purely common sense and therefore to focus on specific initiatives, perhaps seen as a distraction or something that is more of an issue for larger corporates.  As a small business owner myself, I certainly think it’s important to remember that no matter how large or small our organisation, if employees feel connected to their job, to their team or to the business, they will go the extra mile and excel at what they do which in turn means that the business will perform better.  Given the impact that the economic downturn had on small businesses, I feel it’s more vital than ever to use whatever initiatives possible to drive growth and competitiveness in the right direction. 

The Government taskforce, Engage for Success has been around for a while now and their activities and research have shown that those companies with engagement scores in the top quartile achieve twice the annual net profit and 18% more productivity than those in the lower quartile.  

Having worked in a corporate environment and now running an SME, I do recognise there are advantages when it comes to engaging staff in a smaller business, not least of which is that working in an environment with less bureaucracy and fewer levels to move through, impact on the business can be achieved in much less time. 

It’s much straighter forward to communicate messages across the team and at the same time, they have access to me on a daily basis.   

In a smaller organisation, it’s easier for leaders to show their support for engagement initiatives and to be involved in driving forward and measuring planned actions. Employee engagement initiatives don’t need the resources of a huge HR department or communications strategy, it is more about the reality of how things are done, how people are managed, and whether they feel listened to and rewarded in a fair way. 

It is also easier in an SME to look at talent across the organisation and identify where opportunities might be given to individuals to match their interests and talent to the needs of the organisation, so that the business benefits from putting skills and knowledge to good use while the individual experiences job satisfaction. 

Job satisfaction stems from employees being interested in their work, motivating them to go the extra mile to get the job done. Larger organisations may find it more difficult to offer flexibility and variety around roles, managing a smaller organisation, I often need team members to be involved in a wider range of tasks which not only expands their skills but also keeps them interested and engaged. 

On the other side of the coin, in smaller businesses it is easier to see when people are becoming disengaged and then to open up communication with them to see how this could be overcome. It might not always be possible to do something about it and there will always be natural attrition, but this in itself allows new ideas and skills into the business. 

Another key aspect of engagement comes from employees being able to see the end product and how their efforts have contributed to helping the business to succeed.  Because in a smaller business they may be involved in a number of aspects of a project, process or service, they often get the satisfaction of seeing a task through to its end, something that binds the individual and the business together. 

Employee engagement is critical to all organisations, whether they are small or large but for smaller businesses there are often greater opportunities for employee engagement initiatives to be successfully implemented and to have an impact so that the business can do what is needed to get the best out of people. 


Julie Gordon heads up the team at cHRysos HR Solutions, an organisation specialising in the delivery of HR and Leadership-related training, professional qualifications, as well as HR and business consultancy services. With over 20 years’ experience in learning and development within the private and public sector, Julie’s key strengths are now in the management of the learning and development process and in work-based learning. As well as working in industry, Julie has held various academic teaching posts and has published journal papers in the field of learning and development.