How to retain top talent in a small business

In an era where business models and products can be easily replicated, retaining top talent remains a sure-fire way to stay competitive—and an important challenge for your business. A recent survey noted that more than half of employers around the world are convinced other companies are looking to hire their top people.

Suspect that someone is trying to poach your talent? What can you do?

Particularly for small and medium sized businesses, it can be challenging to know what your most valued employees really want beyond a competitive salary.

Here are some ideas and incentives that can help your company retain its top talent:

Spot the warning signs

First and foremost, keep an eye out for the red flags that signal an unsatisfied employee.  Keep the lines of communication open about how they find their work, the office environment, and how they feel about their workload. It’s easier to remedy a minor irritation than it is a major problem, so don’t assume that no news is good news. Take an interest in an employee’s satisfaction more than once a year.

Offer flexible schedules

More and more these days, a flexible schedule is the single most important factor in keeping employees happy. People with a long commute may like to shift their working hours earlier of later. People with kids have different needs for summer months.  Being able to offer flexibility for employees  continually ranks as a key factor in job satisfaction.

Let them work from home

Are you able to offer the option of working from home sometimes? This has become a viable option for a lot of industries, and the ability to work from home is a huge factor in talent retention. There are tricks to making the arrangement work well, and it is usually a worthwhile investment for small businesses.

Putting value in work done and goals achieved, rather than in actually time spent at a desk in the office, tells employees that you trust them. And work/life balance continually strikes a chord with in-demand people.

Figure out what motivates them

The ultimate key to keeping employees happy is to figure out what motivates them, and that varies by person and by industry. For some, it is commission or bonuses, so consider a profit sharing arrangement rather than a traditional bonus. Sometimes it is the notoriety of working with top-tier clients. Others are motivated differently.

Creative professionals tend to place a high value on their work being appreciated and actually acknowledged by an organization.  People in service-based positions like Nursing or Customer Service take a lot from praise outside of the company, so communicating external feedback is important.

Evaluate what motivates your employee most, and tailor your approach for that person.

It’s all about the package

Top talent is looking for a total package: health and dental insurance, disability, and all that comes with it. That may be more difficult for a small business to organize, but it’s usually worth looking at options. Benefits, however, play less of a role in retention than many of the smaller things like flexible working hours—good news for those with limited resources.

Another idea that small businesses are embracing is smaller incentives for things like travel costs, or a health and fitness allowance. These generally won’t cost you as much as traditional benefits, but add additional value to your organization as an employer.

Use career development options

Maybe you can’t offer tuition reimbursement as a larger organization can, but what about a different creative way of encouraging professional development? Can you offer company access to online learning sessions, or coordinate some kind of cross training where they learn and develop other skills. Think creatively about what would work for your particular industry.

Focus on work culture

Small businesses can offer something that large corporations sometimes can’t—a tightknit, collaborative team. Making work fun (as arbitrary as that may sound) makes a difference to people, and can help the day-to-day become much more enjoyable.

Retaining top talent doesn’t have to be reliant completely on finding those extra dollars. Creative incentives count for a lot in the working world, so be aware of what motivators could serve your business well.

See also:
Why people quit (and how to prevent it)
10 things that make a job awesome


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