This article was updated on July 25, 2018.
As organizations grow and expand, it's normal to lose sight of the personal connection in business, both with customers and employees. According to Entrepreneur, 72 percent of small businesses rely on referrals for customer acquisition. It makes sense, then, that their customers are "people [they] care about and often know by name."
Monster also reports that 47 percent of millennials are employed at small organizations, preferring "meaningful work" and relationships to the potential for a higher salary.
Whether your organization now has 1,000 employees or 10,000, you were once a small organization. As HR leaders review their human capital management (HCM) strategies and consider ways to improve internal and external engagement, it can be wise to look toward small organizations for inspiration.
HR teams at large organizations can strengthen employee and customer engagement using lessons from small business and smart HCM technologies.
Why the Small Business Approach Matters
Customers prefer a personal approach to building connections. In fact, some 96 percent of consumers believe that small businesses are better because of increased customization of "goods and services to meet clients' needs," according to Intuit. While personalization can scale, genuine relationships are easier to lose as your business grows.
It's important to note that an engaged customer is a loyal one. Internet Retailing reports that 82 percent of engaged consumers would always buy that brand's products when making purchasing decisions.
Those trends are also apparent with employees of all ages. Harvard Business Review reports that modern workers want to engage with an employer they can trust and "one that lives up to its promises and delivers value to them individually." A sense of connection is also a priority for many employees, because "working in a culture that mirrors [the employees'] values has always strengthened employee engagement."
1. Prioritize Every Interaction
Organizations of all sizes could benefit from embracing the motto, "no interaction left behind," according to American Express OpenForum. Although this is an important credo for customer service, it also applies directly to HR. Employees should always feel that their feedback and efforts are valued. Installing technologies for collaboration, such as enterprise social networks (ESNs), can facilitate that mission and allow you to receive and prioritize employee feedback continually.
2. Be Generous
Small businesses often win customers' lasting loyalty by going above and beyond to express gratitude. That can include handwritten thank-you notes or other small gifts, which go a long way toward building a deep, personal connection in business.
Nontraditional employee benefits can be a similar way for large organizations to express gratitude to their employees, specifically millennials. Those benefits can include
- Unlimited — or extended — vacation policies
- Flexible workplace arrangements
- On-site wellness and fitness opportunities
- Sponsored social events
3. Put the Employee First
Small businesses are known for a customer-first attitude, which can scale successfully through periods of intense growth. For example, Wells Fargo's customer-first attitude is built on a systemic approach that always considers the customer's perspective.
That same principle can be applied to internal HR decisions and how they will affect employees. With the right technologies for HCM, HR leaders can be prepared to filter discussions about business growth and strategy through the lens of insights from internal benchmarks, such as determining employee happiness or assessing reasons for turnover.
Personal connection in business is more than just knowing an employees' name. Small businesses win customer and employee loyalty by prioritizing their stakeholders' feedback, showing gratitude and putting others first. Regardless of the size of your organization, the same principles can help guide and inspire your evolving and expanding enterprise successfully.