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Your Small Business Is Your Baby

Author: Kristen Lund Date: June 23, 2014

How to get your employees to feel the same way.

At BlueGrace Logistics in Riverview, Fla., President and CEO Bobby Harris has created a culture that earned the company honors in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Best Places to Work for the last four years. In addition, all of the leadership team members who signed on when the company was founded in 2009 still work there today.

That commitment shows that Harris’ employees care about BlueGrace as much as he does. After all, 54 percent of workers say they “feel very loyal” to their employer, according to MetLife’s 2014 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. For a small business owner who’s invested time, energy and passion into starting and growing a company, is that number good enough?

Harris shares his advice for inspiring employees to love your business as much as you do.

Hire smart. 

Harris believes that if he doesn’t hire the right people, no amount of perks or rewards will make them love their job. “You have to spend a lot of time on the front end,” he says. “It’s who you let into your family that’s most important.”

During the hiring process, BlueGrace uses psychological and cognitive ability testing in addition to interviews with recruiters, managers and work teams. This process not only reveals an individual’s professional skills, but “what kind of attitude they bring,” Harris says.

Open your doors. 

After an employee’s six-month anniversary with BlueGrace, he or she is assigned to an executive and a small group of four to six peers. Every couple of weeks, teams gather to discuss professional and personal topics. “It allows access and communication back and forth,” says Harris, who keeps his office blinds and door open so he’s easily accessible to employees.

Ask for feedback—and use it. 

At the suggestion of a business coach, Harris launched a weekly survey of his employees through TINYPulse, an electronic feedback tool. The survey, delivered via email every Wednesday, asks one question each week, such as “How happy are you at work?” or “What’s one thing the company could improve?” Responses are anonymous and compiled into an online report, which Harris reviews personally. “It allows me to get a pulse on what’s going really well and where we have opportunities,” Harris says.

The survey isn’t just a formality. Employee suggestions have led to major changes at BlueGrace: After Harris learned that employees often tapped into vacation time for unexpected situations such as children’s medical issues, he gave every employee a week of personal time off in addition to existing vacation time.

Have fun. 

With activities such as Free Beer Fridays (a keg is tapped every Friday at 3 p.m.), BlueGrace leaders know how to have fun and allow employees to do the same. Every Friday before the keg tapping, managers also present the weekly peer-to-peer bonuses—a program that lets employees award a $50 bonus to colleagues who go above and beyond. “It’s not that expensive for a company, and it means a lot,” Harris says. “People understand it’s a professional courtesy and are good stewards.”

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