4 Ways to Improve Retention and Keep Your Employees Happy

As small business owners continue to find and hire new employees for still-open positions amid a labor crunch, many are also working harder to keep the staff they have.

Retaining staff has become uber-important amid a labor shortage indicated by U.S. Labor Bureau data and NFIB surveys of small businesses.

"Small firms remain eager to hire and just can’t seem to find the workers," writes James Freeman in a Wall Street Journal story about the NFIB August survey.

So keeping your employees happy is even more critical right now. Here are four ideas for how your small business can do so.

Think Beyond Money. John Green, president and CEO of Lux Bond & Green jewelers, says he's learned to think differently about employees and what they need at work. 

"It's not just about the money, it's also about the enjoyment of the waking hours when people are at work," he told an economic conference of Connecticut business owners and leaders, according to a blog by the business group CBIA.

Green added that it has been crucial for his company to establish a culture before providing their employees with a positive experience while working. 

He said it's a pivot from the past, treating and listening to their staff in a different way.

One-on-One Time. Meeting individually with employees can help make them feel valued and supported, which makes for a happier worker. 

One-on-one meetings are essential to keeping the lines of communication open and are particularly critical when employee stress levels are high, writes Bruna Martinuzzi in an American Express Business Trends and Insights post

"They can make employees feel supported and cared for. Face time can help you better understand your employees' concerns and take preventative measures to nurture and retain your talent."

Raise Pay. The labor shortage has pushed some companies to raise wages to attract new workers, particularly businesses in the hard-hit retail and hospitality sectors.   

The U.S. Bureau of Labor reported that the lowest-paying industries, such as hospitality, where average hourly wages are up 8.6% from a year ago, have experienced the largest wage gains. That's compared to a 5.2 percent increase for all workers, says Abha Bhattarai in a story in The Washington Post.

Offering higher pay isn't just a hiring tactic; your current employees will be happier to make more.

Inadequate salary or hourly rate — and feeling overworked and unsupported — are among the most common reasons employees cite for quitting.

Making your employees feel as though their labor is valued should be your top priority, followed by paying them a wage that is proportionate with their effort and commitment, writes Chauncy Crail in a post for Forbes.

The importance of proper compensation outweighs that of every other item on this list, Crail adds, as you cannot effectively keep your staff unless you're able to pay them appropriately for their time.

Avoid Overworking. Some businesses that are short-staffed are often left with pushing the labor gap burden on current employees. But overworked employees are not happier ones.

Employees who are overburdened are more likely to experience burnout, stress, and dissatisfaction at work, explains Chuck E. Shelton, CEO and founder of Greatheart Consulting, in a post for Entrepreneur.

Avoid assigning so many extra hours or placing excessive pressure on your employees, forcing them to meet unreasonable deadline, he writes.

Instead, consider each employee's needs when it comes to additional hours, if possible. Start with identifying employees who would like to work more, including overtime or more responsibilities, and employees who prefer more flexibility for non-work commitments. 

Create a positive environment. A happy employee tends to be more positive, creative, and productive. Often, employees' attitudes are contagious. 

"Happiness spreads and affects the energy of the entire team," points out Simone Johnson in a post for Business News Daily

"When you create a pleasant company culture, it maximizes the positive impact throughout your business. This boosts overall employee engagement and strengthens comradery among your staff."

Look for ways to make your business a positive work environment, from encouraging and engaging in respectful communications to creating comfortable workspaces and break rooms.

"Creating a positive work environment begins with the leader," says a blog posted by Startup Info. "Leaders must be committed to creating and maintaining a positive workplace and setting the tone."  

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