Proven Strategies to Help You Keep Your Best Employees

The labor crunch in the U.S. has been particularly hard on small businesses struggling to find workers for open positions. That's why it's even more important to keep the employees you have.

Experienced business leaders and entrepreneurs often talk about getting the right people on board when starting a business, but keeping them in place is vital.

"Having the right team in place, ensuring they are productive and retaining them is, and has always been, a key driver of commercial success," writes Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, in a post for StartupDaily.

Check out these tips and other information to help your small business retain its employees. 

Watch for those who may need support or encouragementHanding out encouragement staff-wide should be a norm at your business, but it's also important to direct some special attention to your struggling and disengaged employees. 

Being hyper-observant about what's going on with employees and encouraging someone who's struggling could avert a potential employee resignation, says Nunzio Ross, owner and head director of New Jersey-based Majesty Coffee, in a post by Julie Bawden-Davis of Garden Guides Press in an American Express blog.

"I approach disengaged employees when they're feeling at ease to see what the problem is," Ross says.

"For instance, after a casual virtual hangout, I asked for a moment with an employee and discovered that the person felt sidelined. After I made arrangements to deal with the situation, the employee became more participative and motivated and the team remained productive."

The power of training. One way to help retain employees is to develop them into motivated and qualified team members. 

So be open as to the ways to get them there. That may mean developing training tailored to new employees from varied experiences and education levels, backgrounds, and age groups.

Meeting your new employees "where they are" to give them what they need will be crucial to their success and elevates your chances of keeping them on staff.

"Expect and embrace that you'll have to train, upskill and reskill your staff," advises the StartupDaily article.

Owen writes that there may be considerable skill gaps around areas such as digital expertise, problem-solving, and creativity. Part of a leader's job is figuring out what employees need to succeed in their role at your business.

"Set up your workplaces to allow the time and headspace for both formal and informal learning." 

"This is an investment in time, money and energy, however the return will be enormous if you have a team who feel their capability and skills are being developed."

Dole out some appreciation. It comes in many different forms - from monetary and verbal expressions to extra time off and recognition. But showing appreciation for your employee could keep them leaving for a company that will appreciate them more.

Some data, including from Gallup, point to a lack of appreciation as a key reason people quit their jobs.  

One way to show appreciation is through employee recognition, points out Eric Taussig, founder and CEO of Prialto, a fully managed virtual assistant service.

"It doesn't have to cost you a thing — save the time to give your teams much deserved praise," he writes in a post for Employee Benefits News. 

Shawn Achor, who researches happiness at work, found that giving an employee praise once a day increased their productivity by 30 percent, according to the article. 

Further, the EBN post says, according to research conducted by Great Places to Work, recognition had the most influence on employee dedication – 30 percent more than a raise.

Also, you might want to show some extra appreciation on Employee Appreciation Day, set aside every year on the first Friday of March.

Mind your work culture. Behind much of the "Great Resignation" has been the desire - and new opportunities - to seek more pay, better (safer) working conditions, and increased benefits, but some say it was the work culture that drove them to quit their job.

In a story for CNBC, reporter Jennifer Liu cites an analysis published by the MIT Sloan Management Review that found that a toxic work culture was the most significant factor pushing employees out the door.

According to the MIT Sloan study, a company's work culture was 10 times more important than compensation when it came to reasons to leave their jobs.

The analysis looked at turnover from April to September 2021, Glassdoor reviews from the last few years, including before the pandemic, and 172 culture metrics at roughly 600 companies, the CNBC story said.

"Researchers found toxic work culture to be the biggest factor that led people to quit, and 10 times more important than pay in predicting turnover," Liu writes.

Based on the reviews in the analysis, the most common ways employees described a toxic culture included "failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.

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