Make your business a great place to work with these expert tips

Good public engagement, flexible working and a culture of trust were the top take-aways from our recent webchat

During our live Q&A on building a business that everyone wants to work for, an expert panel was quizzed on everything from deciding brand values to managing a team of remote workers. Here are some of their top takeaways: Show off your strengths When it comes to recruitment, the first step is to attract the right applicants. Presenting a welcoming and trusted brand to future employees is vital – and there are a number of ways to do this.

User-generated content, what people are saying about your business online, can influence potential recruits. This can include reviews, blog posts and social media comments – essentially any digital interaction or mention of your brand. Holly Potter, head of operations and talent management at creative digital agency BozBoz, added: “It [UGC] is authentic and people trust the opinions of people more than [that] of a company.” In other words, the public’s social media comments or reviews about your company hold more weight than sales spiel on a company website. You can encourage good, and authentic, user-generated content by engaging effectively with people who comment on your brand (answering them quickly, helpfully and politely, and replying gratefully to praise for your brand). Set out your values Deciding on business values can also help to develop a good working culture and give your enterprise a clear identity. A reader on Twitter asked: “Is a distinct internal brand as important for the smaller business? Should brand-building begin from the inside out?” Rachel Clacher, co-founder of telephone answering service Moneypenny, said: “In a smaller business you have to ‘be’ the brand in everything that you do. The smallest actions and deeds have big implications [for both staff and customers], especially in those early days.” Sarah Clarke, head of talent and engagement at online business insurance supplier Simply Business, said that once you’ve decided on company values they should run through all internal and external communications, “how you talk to each other, your customers, how you treat each other, how you hire, recognise, develop people – everything”. Work-life balance Every worker with more than 26 weeks of service now has the right to request flexible working. With a good work-life balance becoming a priority for many workers, small businesses can attract recruits by supporting flexible working. However, it can require a little adapting to ensure business standards are maintained. One reader asked: “What steps do I need to take to implement remote working effectively? My staff are keen on it, but I worry that it could impact on productivity.” Panel members agreed that trust was key. Helena Mann, operations manager at Crunch Accounting, said: “A culture of distrust will breed disengagement and demotivation. Look to set targets of what you’d expect to see achieved when remote working, or just keep it quietly on review.” She suggested that if you see a drop in productivity, you should discuss it with the relevant members of your team. According to the latest Employee Outlook survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the majority of employees (55%) would prefer to work in an organisation with a strong family feel. This may be easier to cultivate in a small business with fewer staff , but, the panel was asked, how can that dynamic be held onto as a business grows? Louisa Baczor, a research associate at CIPD said the open, supportive culture of a family firm can be maintained through good management. “Line managers are pivotal in shaping people’s experience of work, so it’s important to build managers’ interpersonal skills” she added. Supporting staff’s needs, in and outside of work, is also vital for keeping them engaged. The panel looked at this in more detail when asked by reader Barry Derron: “How do I keep talent engaged and committed beyond improving salary and benefits?” Jonathan Swan, policy and research manager at Working Families, said: “If you can offer employment that goes with the grain of people’s lives then you will generally get increased levels of commitment, discretionary effort and loyalty. Taking a lifecycles approach is key – so as people’s circumstances change, work is able to adapt.” SOURCE