One of the biggest challenges of owning a small business is finding and retaining good employees. Quite often, we find ourselves stuck with subpar employees because our best ones move on and the options to replace them simply aren't up to the standard of their predecessor. I've seen it happen more times than I can count.
How can a business find good employees and retain them when they arrive? Even more importantly, since this is a website devoted to small businesses, how can a small business pull this off?
To answer this question, I've been studying the tactics used by some of the businesses that consistently rank highly in employee satisfaction, particularly SAS, a company which always scores well. I've been able to find four principles that stand out.
First, give your employees perks that are important to them. If your office is full of coffee drinkers, supply their morning coffee to them - and make it good coffee, not the cheapest stuff you can buy. If your office is full of soda drinkers, give them free sodas. Have a workplace lunch once a week where you provide the food and everyone eats together as equals. These cost very little, but they can greatly improve the quality of your work environment and help with retention of good employees and attraction of new ones.
Second, give as much respect to their time as you possibly can. If your employees are family-oriented, make sure they can easily get time off to take care of a sick child or to make it to a soccer practice. If you have some younger employees, allow them to adjust their hours a bit to match what's going on in their social lives by coming in an hour later and leaving an hour late - or coming in earlier and leaving earlier.
Third, give them respect and the freedom that accompanies it. If an employee does a good job, don't just tell them, offer them more trust and respect. Give them a bit more autonomy in terms of the choices they make in their job, especially if it's clear they can handle it. An example: if you run an auto shop, allow your mechanic to interact directly with customers and allow them to show off what they know to the customer. The employee gets to feel good about showing off their knowledge and calling the shots on the repair, while the customer gets to see an engaged and knowledgeable employee.
Finally, talk to them individually. The single best work experience I've ever had was one in which the boss took the time to have an individual chat with each employee at least once a week - and often more than that. The talk was sometimes about work, but it was often about other things too. We would swap family stories, talk about current events, and he'd often just ask us if we were having any troubles in our life, either at work or otherwise. These simple conversations bought more loyalty and effort than one could imagine.
Try doing some of these things in your own workplace. On their own, these ideas don't eat significant time or money. On the whole, they create an environment where good employees - the ones you want to retain - feel more at home at your business and strive to work harder for you. Not only are they more productive, but you also save money on not having to go through yet another hiring process.
Image credit: Colleen Hepner