Employee Retention for Small Businesses
“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.”
Emily owns a boutique investment opportunity firm. She finds her small business has an employee retention problem. “I really need skilled workers,” Emily says. “I feel like I just get them trained and they leave. It’s so frustrating.”
Emily went to an executive coach to try to find out what the problem was. With a small business, each new hire created a proportionally higher business cost. “I just had to find a way to cut costs,” Emily said.
The coach helped Emily face some painful truths. She was part of the problem. The good news was there were things she could do as owner and manager to help retain her employees.
Feedback. “My coach helped me realize that I was not very good at taking feedback. I was so focused on getting the job done… and getting it done my way… that I was not listening. As I started to listen, I found that some of my employees had valid concerns and great suggestions.”
When Emily started listening, it did several things to increase employee retention.
- The employees felt more important and valued. They saw their impact in the company increase. Especially in a small business, when the input of one employee is taken, it can change the course of the company.
- Dissatisfied employees found their problems might be corrected if they spoke up. That meant the problem could be solved without leaving the company. It also increased job satisfaction among Emily’s workers.
- Emily’s business improved. The great feedback helped propel the company to a stronger niche presence. The elevated esteem of the company transferred to the employees as they felt the increased prestige.
Balance. Once Emily started listening, she discovered the burnout, unrealistic expectations and the need to be available 24/7 were driving her workers to leave.
“Those things are kind of expected in our high pressure industry,” Emily said. “But it was time to do things differently. I studied other methods and came to recognize the benefits of down-time. We implemented deliberate time off.” Emily created a rotation system.
She had her employees cross-train so each employee could be “on call” as needed. This gave others time off. “The difference was amazing!” Emily said. “I could feel the tension lift. I came in more refreshed and eager to work. My team felt the same way. It was like a new office.”
Training. Emily found the cross-training essential to help every team member function well. Then no one person was indispensable. But Emily went further. She wanted her small business to retain every employee. So she had her people look for products, training, and systems to streamline and save time.
They came up with three software programs that her employees agreed would save time and energy. Emily had them all trained to thoroughly understand the systems so they would feel comfortable and qualified using them.
“This was one outcome of my learning to accept feedback,’ Emily said. “We worked together and agreed on the systems. Those systems really added to the life-balance of my employees.”
“Some were hesitant to change over from the old ways. I know the training was the key to success there,” Emily said. “The proof is that my employee retention is now at 100%. I haven’t lost a worker from my small business all year.”
If you’re a small business and you’re struggling with employee retention, contact Joel for guidance and help.
Talkback: What steps have you taken with your small business to keep your employees?
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