Small business growth doesn’t have to equal burnout

- April 4, 2023 2 MIN READ


Small business workplaces are known for their capacity to pivot quickly in response to changing market conditions and socioeconomic environments. Yet, they face unique challenges when it comes to growth, writes Heather Walker, Senior People Scientist, Culture Amp.

With fewer resources and staff than larger organisations, employees often have to wear many hats and take on work well beyond their slated role. Especially during harder economic times, employees are left to lend a hand wherever it is needed to propel the business toward success.

Where this team-based approach can super-charge a small staff, it can also lead to overwork, stress, and ultimately, burnout.

Our data shows small businesses often employ higher performers more than big corporations. Culture Amp’s global engagement research from 4,000+ companies found that small businesses see the highest scores on leadership, work flexibility and autonomy. Employees report a stronger connection to leaders in small businesses than they do in larger organisations – feeling more motivated by leaders’ vision, and more confidence in leaders’ capacity to steward the company toward success.

When it comes to performance, we know high performers thrive on high levels of constructive feedback, and that they need resources to manage stress and have breaks that give them moments to rejuvenate.

However high scores alone are not enough to drive sustained productivity. The key driver of engagement in small businesses is company confidence. When employees feel that their company is in a position to succeed in the next three years, they are more motivated, engaged, and connected to their leaders. Therefore, it is essential for small businesses to focus on boosting company confidence to improve engagement and drive productivity.

Here are three ways to drive performance

Four young designers laughing and working together

1. Create clarity and alignment

One way to boost performance is to create clarity and alignment in the performance management process, making it match the culture of the company.

Small businesses often have high levels of autonomy, so allowing managers to have greater autonomy over the performance management process may improve employee performance.

2. Foster interdependence

Another suggestion is to foster a culture of interdependence, where the success of one is interrelated to the success of all.

In small businesses, employees often wear multiple hats and are overworked, which can lead to burnout. By encouraging knowledge sharing, upskilling, and mutual growth, employees can help each other perform at higher levels and avoid burnout as a team.

3. Prioritise recognition and feedback

Prioritising recognition and feedback is also crucial for boosting performance and preventing burnout. High performers thrive on constructive feedback and need resources to manage stress and take breaks to rejuvenate. Therefore, small businesses should focus on developing a process for recognition and feedback to support their employees’ growth and success.

Small businesses have unique advantages in terms of agility, flexibility, and autonomy. However, to drive performance and manage burnout, they must prioritise boosting company confidence, fostering a culture of interdependence, and providing recognition and feedback.

By implementing these strategies, small businesses can create a supportive and high-performing work environment that empowers their employees to thrive.

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Now read this:

5 ways to achieve business growth – before you even think about expansion