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3 ways Houston small businesses can focus on employee advocacy

Employee advocacy isn't just something for larger companies to worry about, says this Houston expert. Photo via Getty Images

As society continues to be more socially conscious, greater strides have been made to boost initiatives that improve the world from a culture and climate perspective. This heightened sense of moral awareness made a natural progression into the business world as employees, consumers and communities hold companies to higher standards and demand accountability in various areas of business operations.

Fueled by the pandemic and “Great Resignation,” the movement quickly swept across corporate America, taking many companies by storm and laying the foundation for a new era of employee engagement. As a result, one of the most important trends emerging in the post-pandemic workplace is employee advocacy in response to specific societal events or company policies and practices.

While employee advocacy initially impacted larger organizations, it has become a significant factor for smaller companies as they compete for talent and appeal to workers with strong belief systems. Below are three ways small businesses can focus on employee advocacy.

Address mission and core values

Small business owners should develop or refine a mission statement and list of core values that capture their vision for the company, embody their principles and connect the company’s efforts to a greater purpose in the world. A company’s beliefs and value systems are top of mind for younger generations that have expressed a strong desire to align themselves with like-minded companies.

A company’s mission and core values should set the stage for creating an environment that encourages mutual trust between the company and its people, enables a high level of employee engagement and facilitates effective team collaboration that leads to long-term success.

When small companies weave their mission and values into their DNA, impacting all aspects of the business – including recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training – they will grab the attention of potential candidates and build stronger relationships with existing employees.

Exhibit social responsibility

One way for small businesses to make an impact that appeals to employee advocacy is by creating initiatives that bolster corporate social responsibility (CSR). Employees want to associate themselves with companies that make a difference in the community, so it befits leaders to implement or expand CSR programs. While there are a variety of potential areas to focus on regarding CSR, small business owners should first identify the key areas that resonate with their business, employees and clients with endeavors such as volunteer opportunities, corporate donation programs and conservation efforts.

Display core values

It is always important for business owners to demonstrate company values through daily interactions, programs and activities, providing evidence that efforts to support employee advocacy are alive and well. Some examples include conducting ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training in the workplace to raise awareness and institute behavioral change, ensuring a diverse hiring panel and slate of candidates during recruiting efforts, offering paid time to volunteer in the community to make a difference in the lives of others, displaying care and empathy by taking the time to listen to employee needs and concerns, and creating a recognition program that rewards employees who model certain company values. Small businesses can also highlight DEI stances on websites and in recruiting materials to ensure potential hires are aware of their efforts to remain relevant and make a difference for everyone in the workforce.

When small business owners identify ways to focus on employee advocacy, they are not only sending a clear message to the workforce that they care about people’s needs and desires, but they are also boosting their reputation in the community as good neighbors.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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With the consumer price index rising 9.1 percent since last year, many Americans are evaluating new employment opportunities with better pay. However, employees would be wise to consider the risks of accepting a new position in the face of inflation and a possible recession, which could leave employers unable to sustain higher wages and generous benefits.

As a safer option in the longterm, employees may wish to ask for a raise from their current management, yet many do not know how to start the conversation. By understanding best practices for negotiations, employees can improve their chances of obtaining a pay raise without undermining relationships.

Understand the risks of job-hopping

Conventional wisdom suggests that job hopping can result in higher salary increases than an annual raise. During the pandemic, many employees took advantage of labor market shortages to secure new positions for higher pay. However, job hopping presents risks, particularly in an uncertain economic environment. Companies may institute “last in, first out” layoffs, leaving recent hires unemployed.

Even in strong economic conditions, job-hoppers face uncertain outcomes. When employees leave a company, they may leave behind teammates, mentors, client partnerships and friendships years in the making. These relationships can redevelop in a new organization, but employees may find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, facing unrealistic expectations or unexpected challenges that were not clear during the interview process.

Prepare ahead of time

Before approaching management with a request for a raise, employees should understand their own financial needs and how much additional compensation would improve their finances. If inflation has caused financial strain, employees should gather recent data on inflation, including the consumer price index, to share with management. The more information employees can offer about changing economic conditions, the more management will understand and accept their position.

Focus on the positive

Employees should begin a conversation about salary with praise for the organization and a reiteration of their commitment to the team. By beginning on a positive note, employees set the tone for a mutually productive conversation. Although employees may view salary negotiations as adversarial across the table, productive negotiations are a conversation with both employee and employer on the same team.

Likewise, while employees may worry about looking greedy, employees should not let that fear prevent them from opening the conversation. Employers also understand that employees work to meet their financial needs. While employers may face budget constraints or other considerations in salary allocation, strong management also recognizes the importance of nurturing growth among employees, both in compensation and job responsibilities.

Nonetheless, employees should focus the discussion on broader economic conditions like inflation, not on their personal budget items. By acknowledging the economic environment outside of the employer’s control, employees can then respectfully request their salary be adjusted for inflation.

Employees with a record of strong results can also gather data or performance reviews to demonstrate their contributions to the team beyond the expectations of their role. In doing so, employees can frame a salary increase as a celebratory recognition of the mutually successful partnership between employee and employer and an investment in the relationship.

Be flexible if negotiations stall

If employers decline to adjust an employee’s salary for inflation, employees should not give up on negotiating additional compensation or benefits. Rather than a pay raise, employees can ask for reimbursement for gas mileage or additional remote days to cut down on their commutes. If management declines a pay raise based on timing, employees can acknowledge that management may face budgetary constraints, remaining flexible but firm. For instance, a compromise may involve revisiting the discussion in three to six months.

As employees face record-breaking inflation, it remains critical to consider the risks of departing one role for another. By implementing best practices in salary negotiations, employees can secure a salary increase that matches inflation, avoid the uncertainty of job-hopping and invest in the future at their current company.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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