By Daphne Grech Cumbo & Ian Gourley, Up Your Level 

SMEs are often described as the “beating heart” of the economy. That is not surprising when 99.8% of businesses with the European economic area are SMEs. In Malta there are over 33,000 registered SMEs, the vast majority being micro-sized businesses employing 0-9 persons. 

The game-changers, economy-spinners and innovation injectors, flourish within SMEs, which are very appropriately recognised and celebrated during SME week. 

As part of the activities during this week, we were invited to sit on a panel of the RETAINING EMPLOYEES – BOOSTING PRODUCTIVITY workshop at the Malta Chamber of SMEs conference. We brought forward the latest report highlights from the Vistage Malta Confidence Index survey we ran in September 2022: 

Major Observations: 

1.    Economic situation – The majority of respondents felt that this will worsen, in line with international forecasts that we are heading for a global recession in 2023 

2.    Sales revenue and profitability – respondents forsee an increase in both these areas

3.    Employee retention – the majority responded that this will remain the same with increase in hiring

4.    There was a collective understanding that the Hybrid model is here to stay – respondents expressed the need to ensure that the right policies are in place to make it work – mutually beneficial to both employee and company

5.    3 top decisions and investments for 2023 – not surprisingly, the top 2 were:  hiring & sourcing talent; retaining & engaging employees

Stay or Stray? 

On the last two points of retaining and sourcing employees, we asked employers what their people value in the workplace. Over and above the competitive remuneration package offered, our survey respondents answered that employees are looking for:

–       Greater flexibility – cultivate the hybrid working environment. This ensures greater productivity and greater employee satisfaction. 

–       Wellness – COVID has taught us that we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, so focus on the here and now. Employees are no longer accepting increased stress and burnout as part of the package. They are looking for companies where they feel they are cared for, where corporate wellness is prioritised. 

Maintaining the beating heart 

It is clear that in the world of 2022, we need to put people at the heart of the business strategy – if not – they will go somewhere that does. 

Our key competitive advantage is our ability to attract and retain the right people.

What does this mean in practice?

Simple: Engage with your employees; talk and actively listen to what matters most to them

In 3 easy steps:

1.    Align your people with business growth

–       What matters most to them

–       Create incentives to meet their needs – flexible working, wellbeing, employee development – it’s no longer just about money

–       Build commitment and investing in their role within the company

2.    Align business vision with your people

–       Clearly communicate vision: talk about it – discuss – get feedback and buy in

–       Be clear, concise and honest about the journey ahead

–       Build alignment so everyone is singing off the same songsheet

3.    Create a people culture

–       Build a people-centred business 

–       Work together on building that shared vision – get employees excited and empower them in creating the shared vision of the future

The People-Centric Workplace

Conclusions that can be drawn from these findings affirm that, post-pandemic, we are now in a people-centred workplace. Our people are no longer “assets” but investors – investing their time, energy and talent into our business. 

People-oriented workplaces result in an engaged workforce which produce meaningful work, are committed to the company’s goals, aligned with the strategy and vision and are usually prepared to go that extra mile, knowing deep down that this company appreciates them. 

Therefore, aligning the company’s strategy with its people, is the formula for growth and success.

Our team is passionate on implementing a culture, centred around people and aligned with the company’s purpose. If you believe this approach can help your business, we’d welcome an exploratory meeting. You can reach us on [email protected]