As companies grow, so do the wants and needs of employees. And with an improving hiring landscape, your star staff members may be looking around to see what other opportunities are out there. How do you keep your top employees from leaving, especially when a raise is beyond your bottom line? We chatted with small business owners to see how they retain their best-performing team members.
Make sure your business philosophy is more than words
Money can’t buy happiness, nor can it always keep an employee in your ranks. What does make a difference? Believing in what the company stands for. “If an employee believes in the company’s philosophy and really feels that he or she helped customers with their lives, the employee’s job satisfaction rating goes way up,” says Andrew Thompson, CEO and president of PEAK Performance, a business development company based in Chicago, Illinois. “When the opportunity comes, and more money is offered elsewhere, it doesn’t matter. Money is not the issue.” Though it starts when you hire employees who are aligned with your company’s core values, touch base often with your team to highlight how day-to-day operations match up with your philosophy, and acknowledge what they are doing to foster that in their work.
Flexibility equals happiness
With the hectic pace of modern life, the traditional 9-to-5 work day often doesn’t allow for a good quality of life for many employees. Advances in technology allows working from home and other flexible work options and provides an atmosphere that respects the employee’s life beyond the cubicle, a crucial element to keeping top team members. “I offer employees the option to set their own schedule,” says Leanne E. King, President of SeeKing HR, a human resources consulting firm. “We have an employee who recently changed her work schedule so that she could teach a yoga class at a local gym every morning. She comes in every day energized and ready to go. Such a small shift in hours made an enormous impact in her work-life balance.”
J.P. Medved, editor-in-chief at Capterra, an online directory of business software vendors, agrees flexible hours are optimal for retaining employees, and also results in optimal work production. “Employees can pretty much come and go as they please, provided their work is getting done to a high standard,” says Medved. Not only does this make it easier for people to deal with life outside of work (picking up kids, waiting for the cable repairman), it also lets people work when they work best and allows them to be much more productive, he adds.
Be a (transparent) cheerleader and coach
Yaniv Masjedi, co-founder and vice president of marketing for Nextiva, a cloud-based communications provider in Scottsdale, Arizona, retains key employees by keeping communication lines open. “A pat on the back can go a long way in keeping a high performing employee,” notes Masjedi. “Regular and genuine words of appreciation are incredibly valuable and should be given whenever deserved.”
Masjedi also recommends keeping employees informed about how the company is doing. “High performing employees want to know what is going on in the company they work for,” he says. “It can seem simple, but small business owners can increase retention rates by being transparent with everything they do, where the company is headed and ask for, and listen to, feedback.”
King agrees on the importance of transparency, especially when it comes to discussing salaries and why raises might not be possible. “I provide a full disclosure to demonstrate my total commitment to employees,” says King. “I often detail the overall spending habits of the company and talk about what makes us money and what doesn't. I really try to show the importance of doing smart work. The employees instantly recognize the monetary difference of re-work and poor planning.”
Provide little perks for big payoff
A well-stocked office kitchen or organized after-hour outings cost little, yet create a harmonious atmosphere. A few perks that don’t cost money: having a casual dress code and easing certain business policies, such as an allotted number of vacation days or traditional management hierarchy. The result is an enjoyable work environment that is much harder to leave.
“We have casual dress every day, unless an employee is meeting with a client,” says King “We also offer lots of coffee, water and other beverages in the office and also keep a supply of healthy snacks for consumption.” Medved’s company recently did away with its formal vacation policy, allowing employees to take time off whenever they need it. “We ask that everyone notify their managers when they're planning to take time off, or work from home. That way we can make sure things get covered, and everyone on a team isn't out at the same time,” says Medved.
Capterra utilizes a company-wide Google spreadsheet with a row for each person, where each column is a month. Each employee lists which day(s) of that month they will be out, with a "half” next to it if it's a half day, or a “WH” next to it if they’re working from home. “So far it's worked great,” Medved says. “We think freedoms contribute to an environment where people feel like they are treated like adults, and therefore are more likely to be committed to their work and the business.”