3 key steps to retaining great staff in a small business

By Fi Darby | 06 February 2017

Think about your workforce, who of your employees is the most valuable to you? How would your company suffer if they were to leave? What impact would this have on productivity? These are all important questions but maybe the most important is, ‘What can I do to keep my great staff?'

Employee retention is one of the most tricky small business puzzles to solve. Give too much and you may be taken advantage of, give too little and you might find your best employees jumping ship to work for your competitors. Never before has there been such easy access to alternative employment, with the digital shift on the world's working environment and recruitment and the growing popularity of the gig economy, your employees may well find themselves being offered new employment before they even know they are looking for it.

According to a 2015 Price Waterhouse Coopers report, nearly 1 in 4 new Australian employees leave a job in the first 12 months. This level of staff turnover is extremely costly to a business’s productivity and recruitment activities. And nowhere is this felt more than in a small business.

The most obvious answers to staff retention problems are attractive incentives and strong salaries, as well as healthy corporate cultures but with resources often already stretched, the best (and most realistic) thing you can do for your business is to work on employee personal development.

We look at 3 key steps that employers should take to ensure staff retention.

1. Ensure Employee Morale

It goes without saying that happy employees are more likely to stay with a company than those who are dissatisfied. Employee morale is delicate but it can be heavily influenced by company policy; ensure that employees understand and feel involved in company decisions through regular communication (including face-to-face communication). You can also encourage high employee moral by asking for and acting on staff feedback. Praise and recognition are both important to self-confidence but within a company situation they should be used carefully. Effective praise should be specific, genuine and fair.

2. Provide Relevant Training

Upskilling your staff through training and education not only leaves your employees feeling more valued and accomplished but also helps improve productivity and efficiency – all of which can only be good for your bottom line. By equipping your staff with more applicable skills and the knowledge to get the job done, not only will your business function like a well-oiled machine but your staff will have a strengthened sense of job satisfaction and will want to continue to work for you.

Finding exactly the right training package for your employees will require some research. First talk to your employees, in particular line managers who will know where there are skills gaps. Next you need to consider which courses are already available (bespoke training can be an expensive solution). This need not be time consuming if you consult a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) like Upskillled to help assess your areas for opportunity and suggest suitable training modules.

Once staff have completed training modules, ensure you put into effect the things they have learnt. Use their new found knowledge to inform other staff and give them opportunities to have an impact on company practice.

3. Offer Flexibility

The workplace and the workforce are not as simple as they once were. Most households have at least two jobs to consider and many struggle with childcare or other commitments. Employer flexibility around hours and holidays can go a long way to ensuring employee loyalty and often have a positive impact on productivity. With home working arrangements becoming easier to manage, offering flexibility in this way (even if only occasionally) may well result in higher employee satisfaction. For some larger organisations it might also be possible to offer sabbaticals in recognition of the career benefits of travel.

All in all, if you have happy, competent staff in your business they are more likely to remain loyal and continue to contribute the business’s success.

Saving time, money and stress while creating a great company, retaining staff is good for all in the small business environment.

This article originally appeared on Kochies Business Builders and has been re-purposed with permission.

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