Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium No Text.pngThere is plenty of good news in the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), but maybe the best of all is that almost a third of small business owners surveyed are looking to hire in 2014.

And why are they hiring? That’s good news too. More than half said it was due to an increase in business, about a third said it was because they needed to bring in employees with additional skills, and a quarter said it was to relieve overworked staff. Small businesses are hiring because business is up. As I said, it’s good news all around.


And all of this hiring begs the question: Once you have found great employees, how do you keep them coming back every day?


1. Money: According to the SBOR, 54 percent of those small business owners surveyed said that they use “competitive salaries” to retain key employees. So yes indeed, as we all know, money is a mighty motivator.


Aside from competitive salaries, offering raises and bonuses to people who excel at their job is also a time-honored tradition for good reason – it too works. If you decide to use bonuses or a raise for that purpose (45 percent in the SBOR do), the important thing is to be sure to tie the increase to job performance. By letting people know that there is a carrot they can get if they reach certain performance goals, you will be creating a culture where people will feel rewarded for a job well done.

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2. Recognition: Aside from financial remuneration, the other important way to make people feel wanted is to recognize them for a job well done, both publicly and privately.

  • Publicly, by letting the rest of the company know that, say, Alisha did a great job, you reinforce to both Alisha and the rest of your staff that you value a job well done. People love that.
  • The same goes for private recognition, only more so. Surveys of employee satisfaction routinely indicate that the happiest employees are those who feel valued. So be sure to let them know that they are in fact valued. Alisha is far more likely to stick around if she thinks that her boss appreciates the excellent job she is doing, and vice versa. If she feels unappreciated, she is likely to bolt.


3. Career development: More than a quarter of the entrepreneurs surveyed in the SBOR use career development as a tool for retaining great employees. This strategy works particularly well with Millennial employees, for a couple of reasons:


  • Because they are at the beginning of their career, Millennials view having and gaining skills as critical to their development and employability.
  • They also know that they will have many employers and several careers and thus, appreciate being able to learn new skills and strengthen the ones they already have.


Pull Quote.png4. Flextime: Another benefit valued by Millennial employees in particular, but also by almost any employee, is having the opportunity to balance work and life via flextime and variable schedules. The good news about offering flextime to your staff is that it costs you little but gets you a lot.


This strategy is also reflected in the SBOR where 47 percent of the respondents said they use flextime as a way to retain staff.


5. Listen: A statistic that jumped out at me when I looked over the SBOR results was that 38 percent of those polled said that they use recognition and implementation of employee ideas and suggestions as a retention strategy.


Upon second thought of course, it made sense. People work for all sorts of different reasons – to make money of course, but also, to gain skills and make a difference. It is that last point that is in play here. Listening to your staff means that you value their thoughts, that what they think and do does in fact make a difference.


And in the end, that is the bottom line when it comes to getting great employees to stick around. If they feel wanted and appreciated, if you show them with words and deeds that that is so, they will feel like their work is important and valuable.


And who would ever want to leave work like that?


What strategies do you use to retain top talent? Share your story below.


About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.


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