In the age of the Great Resignation, hybrid work, and significant labor challenges, small businesses face hurdles in recruiting employees and retaining customers. Today’s employee wants flexibility, meaningful work, a healthy culture, and opportunity. How they perceive their environment can also impact customer satisfaction and retention.
So, what makes employees happy and motivated? To understand what’s happening today at SMBs, going right to the source can reveal so much. Intermedia conducted a survey to gain insights into the impact of remote and hybrid work on:
- Business operations
- Employee satisfaction
- Customer retention
The findings include responses from over 300 SMB business owners and senior decision-makers. The findings offer a glimpse into how the changes affect culture. Let’s dive into the results.
How do employees feel about hybrid and remote work and their roles? The survey asked about life satisfaction since the change. Most respondents said it increased significantly or moderately (85 percent). The largest portion of satisfied employees were those at companies with 251 to 500 employees.
In looking at why people are more satisfied, the survey let respondents describe this. Some of the themes were:
- Relief over not having to commute
- Better focus and productivity
- Career advancement
- Increases in sales and communication
As a result of improved employee satisfaction, SMBs are seeing direct benefits, including employee availability, reduced costs, greater ability to impact the business, productivity, job satisfaction, and maintaining focus. All these things have increased by at least 59 percent, per survey-takers’ responses.
Employee satisfaction was higher than all other attributes except productivity. As with life satisfaction, those working at organizations with 251 to 500 employees had the highest scores.
One other dynamic of this set of questions was that male respondents rated their employee’s lack of focus much higher than females.
How has hybrid and remote work impacted workplace culture? Here’s what owners and leaders of SMBs had to say.
The first insight is that the majority (53 percent) said remote/hybrid created a less cohesive culture. They further noted smaller social groups formed without as many in-person interactions with colleagues.
However, one-third (32 percent) of respondents said there had been no changes in culture or social dynamics. A smaller portion (15 percent) relayed that it had become more cohesive.
In terms of the impact by company size, the smallest segment (20 to 50 employees) was less likely to say the culture was less cohesive. They answered that it had mostly stayed the same. Those at organizations with 51 to 250 people were most likely to say the culture was less cohesive.
Regarding the environment people work in and the culture, the respondents scored the importance of cultural attributes. Here is how they ranked:
- Wellness packages and benefits
- Opportunities for growth and mentorship
- Having more say in company ownership
- Travel opportunities to meet in real life
Wellness and benefits were only slightly higher than growth opportunities. These are the areas that SMBs are prioritizing when it comes to attracting talent.
Technology’s Role in Remote/Hybrid Work
Technology, especially unified communications platforms that make it easy to communicate, meet, and collaborate, has provided great support during the disruption of work. A consolidated, all-in-one system has been the most attractive for SMBs and ranked as their most important feature. The adoption of these comprehensive technology hubs has occurred for several reasons.
First, one system means one bill for everything and is the most cost-effective approach. Second, SMBs want to offer employees flexibility and mobility in how they work. As a result, they need technology that’s cloud-based and usable on a computer or mobile device. Third, with one interface, employees aren’t in the swivel chair of going back and forth between applications. Now, they can manage all communication and collaboration tools from one hub. The ease this brings amounts to greater productivity and efficiency.
The second technology feature most wanted is reliability. Any SMB wants to feel confident that its technology is stable and provides near-perfect uptime. It appears this is a strong influencer of what they choose to implement.
Other communication technology functionality included in the survey were efficient IT support, security, ease of use, fast connection speeds when using certain features, multitasking, and affordability. These features would be on a buyer’s list but much further down than all-in-one and reliability.
Customer Satisfaction and Retention
The last part of the survey looks at the impact of hybrid and remote work on customer satisfaction and retention. The change is good for business. Customer retention has risen for 64 percent of respondents. The connection between remote/hybrid work and customer retention is apparent as those who offer this work environment indicated they retained more customers.
The conclusion is that employees who have a choice of where they work have more job satisfaction. Because of this, companies are doing better at customer retention.
SMB Hiring and Retainment
SMBs struggle with hiring and retainment currently. They ranked a lack of qualified candidates (48 percent) as the biggest challenge. Next was higher salary demands.
The survey also examined why employees left a role in the last six to 12 months. The top reason was the need for more flexibility with remote or hybrid. The next four were:
- Communication issues among team members
- Low advancement potential and career progression
- Salary expectations
- Not enough work or too much work
Employers must solve these issues to recruit and keep their staff.
Real World Events Impact Survey
The last question asked respondents if recent world events impacted their business to complete the survey. Most (40 percent) felt some negative impact, while 32 percent felt no change. For those who indicated adverse effects, answers included inflation, politics, environment, and adaptation.
You can view the complete survey by downloading it here: https://go.intermedia.com/hybrid-survey/.
Elizabeth Mye is the Senior Vice President of Global Human Resources at Intermedia, a cloud communications platform based in Sunnyvale, CA. She has more than 20 years experience of HR and management experience in the healthcare/biotechnology, high technology, consulting, manufacturing and consumer products industries.