Employee retention strategies for your small business - Top tips and best practices

According to a recent survey, one in four employees plan to quit their job this year. Two years of cutbacks and business austerity have taken their toll on staff morale, and many now want to move to pastures new.

This will have a potentially disastrous impact on businesses across the country. Many firms will find themselves losing their brightest talent and having to fill new vacancies. Aside from the loss of experience that this will cause, businesses also stand to incur significant recruitment costs.

So which employee retention strategies can help you prevent a rush for the exit and hold onto your best employees?

1. Be prepared to listen

Many employees are troubled by a sense that their input is not valued by the firm. This often stems from managers’ failure to listen to their employees.

It was, presumably, their abilities and judgement that led you to employ these individuals in the first place. So why not use those characteristics? Involve your employees in the decision-making process; they will often have a more accurate interpretation of the situation ‘on the ground’, and will be able to contribute an important new viewpoint. The firm as a whole will make better decisions – and your employees will feel more highly valued.

2. Compensate properly

Compensation is one of the key concerns for any employee. Quite understandably, many individuals will be drawn to the position in which they are best paid.

It is therefore vital that you compensate your employees properly if you wish to hold onto them. It is worth remembering, though, that the headline salary is not the whole picture. An attractive benefits package can often be just as valuable to an employee as an increase in their salary – particularly if they wish to reduce their tax bill.

3. Recognise achievement

A simple ‘thank you’ is often enough to ensure that your employees feel valued. Of course, staff members are paid to work – but this is not necessarily recompense enough. If you wish to raise staff morale, increase productivity, and reduce your employee turnover rate, you should make sure that achievement is properly recognised in the firm.

Consider ways that you can ensure that employees know their accomplishments are noted and appreciated. This might include awards ceremonies or special events.

4. Be flexible

Workplace flexibility is likely to become an increasingly hot topic as the government considers plans to roll out flexible working.

In the meantime, you can keep your employees happy by flexible working arrangements of your own accord. In circumstances where employees do not necessarily have to be in during set hours, consider allowing them to choose, within reason, when they come into and leave the office. As little as half an hour at either end of the day can make a big difference to employees’ lives.

5. Think about downtime

Long, uninterrupted work hours are bad for productivity. Indeed, in most cases the longer an employee is in the office, the less they will achieve per hour.

Consider ways that you can encourage employees to make the most of their downtime. Some employers have taken to actually forcing staff members to eat their lunch away from their desks; this way they can return to their work refreshed, having had a proper break.

You may also wish to think about how you can ensure that your employees do not regularly work late. Again, as well as increasing productivity this will help employees maintain a good work-life balance – and therefore feel better about their job.

6. Build teams

Employees that feel they are part of a cohesive team tend to be more motivated, happier in their work, and less inclined to look for employment elsewhere. As such, you should think about ways that you can encourage good relations between your employees.

You need not go for the clichéd team-building exercises that you might expect to see in an episode of The Office. Instead, the most effective methods are often the simplest – and the most laid-back. Putting some money behind a bar or paying for employees to go out of an evening can be a great way to get staff members talking, and begin to forge strong links amongst your workforce.

As the economic situation begins to improve, staff turnover will become a more significant problem for businesses of every size. Recruitment is an expensive business and, as a result, you need to think about ways that you can keep hold of your best talent. Following these employee retention tips can help ensure that you build and maintain a strong, productive workforce.

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