Have you ever overheard an exchange between an employee and customer and cringed? You might have asked yourself, why on earth did they say that? You knew that they could have suggested a solution that would have been much more profitable for your business. Why didn’t they?
The answer could be that you’re not giving your employees the information they need to help you make your small business more successful. There are lots of reasons to keep your employees in the know about your financials.
Informed employees make better decisions. What should you share? At minimum, employees need to understand key indicators for your particular business – where your business is now and where you’d like to be in the future. Are you carefully watching sales/day, average dollars/sale, inventory turns, leakage, or number of units produced/day? How might things be different if all your employees knew about and were trying to improve on those same success indicators?
Let’s say you want to increase average dollars per sale and tell employees that now your average sale is $25 and in two months time you are striving to reach $30? Specificity and actual numbers gives everyone something to go on. Each time an employee makes a sale over $25, they know they are moving the business closer to the goal. It’s motivating to know where you are and when you’re making progress. Be sure to give periodic progress updates. In this example, weekly would be appropriate. It’s a long enough period to see trends and short enough to make mid-course corrections.
Another benefit of sharing information is that it’s easier to keep employees engaged. Routinely sharing confidential financial information – and you should be sure to stress that this is not for discussion outside your business – demonstrates your trust. It helps build team spirit and a sense of involvement. Sharing confidential data shows employees that they are valued and appreciated. It’s one thing to say that you appreciate them and quite another to communicate it through your actions.
What if one or more key indicators slip? The last thing you want to do is withhold information if things aren’t going well, especially in organizations that have been open about financials in better times. When there is no information, often employees will make up scenarios that are much more dire than what’s actually happening.
The CEO of a local mail order company shared with employees that they were losing money, breaking down where every dollar of a $100 sale went – so much to inventory, staff, overhead, etc. Working together, each member of every department learned what they could do to turn things around. By knowing and concentrating on those key indicators, the company turned a significant loss one year to a healthy profit the next. Employees felt much more engaged and everyone felt a stronger sense of company loyalty because of the experience they shared.
When employees feel that they’re kept in the dark, suspicion and resentment often build. They may feel unimportant – that their actions have no impact on results. Last week when buying a few items in a store, I noticed an item in the bag that wasn’t tallied. When I brought that to the salesperson’s attention, she actually said to me that this was a big store and it made no difference. If the company made or lost $5 on a sale, what was the big deal? Imagine the bottom line impact if all their staff felt that way.
What information should you share with employees in your small business? Everything they need to know to make informed decisions and feel they are included and contributing to success.
Since 1991, Laurie Breitner has assisted organizations with operational improvement, organizational development and strategic planning. Learn more at http://www.breitnerandassociates.com.