Small businesses depend on people, and an entrepreneur will need to find the right ones to lift a new endeavor off the ground. As the business grows, it’s just as important to keep those good employees around.
Methods for retaining employees range from emotional to financial. Here are a few ways to keep the best ones from jumping ship.
Be competitive with benefits and retirement.
Ideally, a small business owner would install a solid benefits package from the beginning. For those that can’t, developing a strong program will be key to keeping the good folks around, as The Wall Street Journal recommends: “Providing health insurance, life insurance and a retirement-savings plan is essential in retaining employees. But other perks, such as flextime and the option of telecommuting, go a long way to show employees you are willing to accommodate their outside lives.”
Praise good work.
It’s such a simple little gesture, but one that can mean a lot. A sincere “thank you” may be all employees need to know they are doing a good job, and that the boss knows it. Don’t overdo it, and make sure that the praise is warranted, but be open to being appreciative.Anita Campbell writes about this for smallbiztrends.com, and uses a MetLife whitepaper to illustrate her points: “Employees want to be appreciated. Atta-boys and plain old thank yous for going above and beyond are important. Recognition programs such as employee of the month help, too. Don’t let all or even a majority of your feedback be negative or ‘constructive’ — show appreciation for a job well done.”
Connect with them.
Sure, many employees put the actual work (or actual pay) at the top of their priority list. But others may place an equally high value on the workplace environment, the spirit of collaboration and day-to-day banter. Though an overly chummy boss can lead to awkward, Michael Scott-esque moments, it can help to get to know those people working for you a little better. Campbell includes this among the MetLife tips in her smallbiztrends.com story: “Relationships matter. Take the time to develop relationships with employees such as by mingling during lunch breaks and holding internal celebrations. One thing I learned a long time ago is that employees like to work in a place where they like their boss and their coworkers.”
Think of boosts, both big and small.
The little things can mean a lot to an employee, and the big things can mean that much more. As advised by The Wall Street Journal, you can try little quirky perks (“free bagels on Fridays and dry-cleaning pickup and delivery”) and large-scale ones too, as in financial boosts: “Consider offering stock options or other financial awards for employees who meet performance goals and stay for a predetermined time period, say, three or five years. Also, provide meaningful annual raises. Nothing dashes employee enthusiasm more than a paltry raise. If you can afford it, give more to your top performers. Or, if you don’t want to be stuck with large permanent increases, create a bonus structure where employees can earn an annual bonus if they meet pre-specified performance goals.”
Make sure there’s room to grow.
Employees may have more energy and passion if they know their job can lead to bigger and better things. Otherwise, there may not be a carrot for them to chase, and therefore their motivation may be limited. Lisa Mooney writes about this for Demand Media. “Employees should never believe they can’t rise within your business,” she says. “Provide opportunities for promotion to various standings within your operation. Create new positions and challenges when an employee demonstrates her ability to provide the business with new services. Let her prove herself in a newly formed effective role that increases profits.”