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With unemployment holding steady and workforce participation rates historically low, retaining employees is top of mind for businesses of all sizes but particularly for small business owners.
Economic confidence ranks among the highest levels recorded in the last five years for small businesses. In fact, according to the Spring 2017 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a majority of entrepreneurs (52 percent) are confident that the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – up a staggering 21 percentage points from just six months ago (31 percent in fall 2016).
This increase in optimism, however, has yet to translate into positive movement on revenue expectations. This may explain why small business owners’ plans to hire have dipped, according to the Small Business Owner Report. Only 18 percent of small business owners plan to hire in the year ahead, down 7 percentage points from the fall 2016 report.
Instead, this spring, more entrepreneurs say they are focused on retaining existing employees (73 percent). So, given this backdrop, how can your business make sure that you are retaining your best employees? Here are some of my best tips:
Having something that the team is working for together, other than just their paycheck, makes employees feel more important and fulfilled. Make sure that you have communicated what your mission is and have gotten buy-in from your employees, so they know the big picture and feel good about doing the work.
In almost every survey about what is important to employees, having their ideas, feedback and perspective heard ranks higher than compensation. When you welcome and act on employee ideas and suggestions, your employees become partners who recognize their value to the company as they work alongside you to realize shared goals.
Make sure to listen to their feedback and acknowledge them as well – the value of these soft incentives is highly underrated and easy for small business owners to embrace.
A job well done deserves praise and your employees never mind being called to your office to receive kudos. But, when employees receive your commendations at a company meeting or in front of a customer who benefited from their hard work, they clearly see their true value. Naturally, public praise helps inspire all employees but it also lets your customers recognize how the depth of your products and services helps them get the attention and consideration they deserve.
These days, flexibility is almost priceless to employees in terms of a benefit, while not costing you dollars out of pocket. Flexibility could range from working remotely – including from home, working non-standard business hours (I have one employee who prefers to start the workday at noon and work into the evening), having a “get work done but not keeping track of hours” schedule and more.
If you can be flexible, you can add a lot of value to employees who won’t be able to find that valuable benefit elsewhere.
While big businesses need to put their employees in specific boxes and keep them there to get their allotted portion of the job done, small business owners have more flexibility to let their team members wear more hats. Employees can feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment if you allow them to be more involved in different stages of a project or the business overall. As their abilities grow from new experiences, their investment in the company’s interests will grow, as well.
Also, make sure to promote from within. When a key position opens up in your company, always look first to the members of the team that work hard for you every day. Granted, some positions may require very specific educational requirements not available in your organization, such as a degree in accounting. But remember your staff already has a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of your company culture and how things work. You can’t teach loyalty and dedication, and these traits grow more when you reward staff with advancement.
While it is important to reward individuals for their own accomplishments, don’t forget to keep them focused on the team and the big picture. If the company does well, allow them to participate in that success. This can be a cash bonus or even an outing to see a local sports team play. Having them incented on an individual and company level creates even more loyalty to your business and its efforts.
As a small business, your team is a critical part of your success, so make sure to implement these tips – along with regularly checking in with your employees to make sure that they are happy so they stay and grow with you.
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.
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