Four ways to make employees your greatest asset

Your employees have the potential to be the greatest asset to your business. Developing loyal, skilled employees with a passion for the business doesn’t happen on its own and requires a concerted effort. Here are four ways you can start investing in what could be your business’ greatest asset:
1. Create champions. Identify areas of the business that employees are passionate about, like marketing or customer service, and let employees “champion” that part of the business. Have them take responsibility for developing ways to improve their respective areas, and empower champions by providing opportunities to work together across teams. Make sure champions set quantifiable goals – that way you can track success.

2.  Get flexible. If the nature of your business allows it, consider allowing employees to work remotely. Research shows that when workers have more flexibility, they’re happier, better able to perform and more likely to stay at a job for longer periods. Job satisfaction is also improved by eliminating the anxiety caused by traffic and daily commutes. This could be a regular occurrence, such as “Work from Home Fridays,” or something that’s permitted on an as-needed basis. Leverage a tool like Office 365 so employees can maintain productivity and collaboration from anywhere.

3. Spend time. Make sure it’s not just your managers who feel like you’re invested in them. Devote regular one-on-one time with all of your employees on a regular basis, even if it’s just for a 15-minute coffee break once or twice a year. A small time investment will help them feel valued, and it will give you greater insight into your employee culture and what you can be doing to improve employee retention.

4. Encourage education. Even if you can’t afford to financially support employees who desire formal education, there still are ways to promote learning. Let employees know about free seminars or trade groups that align to their skills sets. Recommend books you think would benefit particular employees in their areas of expertise. Finally, support formal education if you are able, even if that means letting employees work flexible hours.
Any ideas you would add to this list? What’s worked for you when it comes to nurturing your employee base?
Cindy Bates is vice president of U.S. small and medium business at Microsoft, leading the company’s efforts to help SMBs realize their full potential through the use of technology. For more SMB stories, technology insights, and business strategies for SMBs, visit