SMEs face a special kind of challenge when it comes to retaining staff. Given the size of the business, having the best people working for you is crucial for your success. But as you’re a smallish sized business, you often can’t compete with the wages and benefits offered by larger corporations. So how do you retain talent in today’s upwardly mobile, highly competitive environment? The following tips will help you get started.
Recognise the costs of high turnover
It’s easy to discount how much losing an employee actually costs you in the long run. Conservative estimates place the cost at around 20% of the employee’s annual wage, but this can go up to 200% for highly skilled workers. Then there’s the fact that after working for your business, your staff gain knowledge and experience that makes them more efficient and effective at doing their job. When they leave, you lose that expertise and then incur additional expenses as you hire and train replacements. When you look at it in this way, you see that maybe it is worth paying a bit more in salaries and benefits to keep your best talent happy. Rather than accepting the high cost of employee turnover, act now to build a stable team that contributes to your goals. You should offer salaries that are as competitive as possible.
Focus on lifestyle
Countless surveys show that lifestyle is the number one priority for millennial workers. Flexible hours, work from home days and wellbeing plans are becoming the norm. If you don’t have the funds to pay higher salaries, get creative with lifestyle benefits. Will it really cost the business that much to give your staff early marks on Fridays? Consider staggered working hours, where employees can choose to start and finish early or late. How about a longer lunch break to allow for a gym session? Perks as simple as providing healthy lunches or a kitchen stocked with the basics can be the boost needed to keep your staff happy.
Encourage communication and feedback
You want to create an environment where everyone on the team feels comfortable sharing ideas and providing feedback with you and their co-workers. Organise regular one-on-one catch ups with your staff. Take them out to lunch and have an informal chat about how they are finding their work. Ask them for their ideas. Troubleshoot any issues they are having together. Regularly provide your staff with constructive feedback. Find out what makes them happy as well as how they feel about your business. Ask them if anything troubles them about you and the company and take note of what they say. Make sure each person on the team feels comfortable about reporting problems and suggesting improvements. An emphasis on regular communication makes staff feel important and more inspired in their day-to-day work.
One of the best things larger corporations can offer is a program of training, development and promotion. So you’ll need to focus on this area to remain competitive. Think of a development program that will increase your employee’s skills for their current job, while improving their prospects for the future. This sends a message that you are investing in their goals and value their professional development. This is especially effective if you can provide with them with training that will allow them to take on greater responsibility within your business. There are plenty of opportunities for on-the-job, classroom and online training. You could consider giving them paid time off to attend development courses or offer reimbursement or other assistance for employees who pursue higher education.
Use contests and incentives
This will help keep workers motivated and feeling rewarded. Look up ‘gamification’ on Google and you’ll be provided with hundreds of ideas on how to motivate performance. Any task, no matter how mundane, can be made much more fun when there is a leaderboard and prizes involved. Prizes don’t have to cost a fortune. A day off or some work from home hours will be greatly appreciated.
Conduct “stay” interviews
You’ve heard of exit interviews. Stay interviews are about learning why employees choose to stay with you. They can also give you a heads up if someone isn’t as motivated as usual. Ask questions like: Why did you come to work here? Why have you stayed? What would make you leave? What issues are you facing? How do you find your coworkers? What would you change or improve? Then use all of this information to strengthen your employee retention strategies.
Promote from within whenever possible
Try to give employees a clear path of advancement. Your staff will likely become frustrated and may stop trying if they see no clear future for themselves at your company. If there is no obvious position they could move into, consider developing a position that would lead to increased business. For example, you could have a customer service employee start doing business development work. Or maybe one of your employees has a keen eye for marketing and content creation. Perhaps social media marketing? Try and think of how your existing staff could help to grow the business in ways that would allow them to grow with it.
Promote greater engagement with business goals
Everyone wants to feel valued at work. It’s easy to get bored in a role where you just follow the instructions that are handed down to you. When an employee is aligned with you in trying to achieve your mission, they’ll be more engaged with the work they’re doing. Share your vision with your staff right from the start. Then get them involved in making important decisions. Hold employee brainstorming sessions whenever you undertake a new project. As you grow, you can even hold thinktank sessions and ask them to come up with innovative ways to take your business to the next level. You’ll increase engagement and get some new ideas to boot.
Remember that employees aren’t all about money, and benefits aren’t the only way you can keep your workers satisfied and loyal. The above strategies can create a fantastic work environment that allow you to stay competitive and profitable. Get creative and improving your employee retention rates can be a surprisingly affordable and fulfilling experience.