Retaining talent requires planning, and careful attention to avoiding complacency. It’s easy for a small business owner to feel as if everything is going fine, especially when the money is rolling in, but too often the reason (great employees) behind why profits are soaring is sorely neglected. And, by the time the talent feels underappreciated, it may be too late. Here are five ways to keep your best people engaged, and coming back every day for new challenges.
In a scramble, small businesses hire with the singular purposes of solving immediate problems--we need someone to keep the books, we need someone to post updates to social media, etc.--but not a lot of thought is put into charting a pathway for that employee’s long-term success, at least not until frustration is expressed or a notice is put in. Think beyond those short term, immediate needs, and consider how your best employees can grow with your small business. There doesn’t need to be anything meticulous in place that might stifle innovation; it can just be a bookmark to keep conversations active with the talent, so the right steps are in place to keep them motivated.
Providing employees with the opportunity to attend conferences, seminars, educational workshops, etc. is a great way to engage and develop them professionally, while adding value to their role, and sense of professional development back at the company. Startups are often cash poor, but small business owners can work around budgetary restrictions by planning internal educational seminars, and even tasking great employees with guiding those workshops to encourage leadership advancement within.
It’s so easy to get lost in the excitement of small business growth and forget to adequately reward the ones who make it a success, especially if they aren’t the types to speak up and ask for raises, etc.. Employees who enjoy working in a small business may have already sacrificed larger salaries for the chance to be a part of a really great startup, but at some point salaries should become commensurate with experience, and the reward system should grow with the company’s success.
Incorporate a Mission
Everyone likes to be well compensated, and eligible for promotions, but more than that people want to feel that their time is well spent on a mission worthwhile. Even for the most mundane businesses, associating a noble mission with short-term and long-term goals is a great way to give your best employees a reason to stay. Even if your small business doesn’t change the world with its products, that doesn’t mean that programs can’t be put into place to get employees charged about doing something awesome for humanity. Back when I was Director of Social Media at FastPivot.com, the CEO, Matthew Ledford, made it a point to give employees credit on the clock for logging hours at a local charity. And, what’s more, as an ecommerce development company usually building world class online stores for Fortune 500 companies, it was still a priority to have the dev / design teams carve out time to build e-stores for charities, pro-bono.
There have been amazing advances in how small businesses are being managed these days, and there are numerous approaches, like for example, The Great Game of Business (https://www.greatgame.com/), on the best way to manage in such a way that keeps everyone fully informed of the company’s position (financial and otherwise), employees are empowered, etc.. The general idea is that when employees know where the company stands, and how what they do actually matters, then what follows is a deeper sense of loyalty, engagement, honesty, and ultimately ownership into the company that everyone helped build.