How to Retain Employees in Your Small Business

How to Retain Employees in Your Small BusinessGuest Article

Small businesses may not be able to offer a huge benefit package or the salary of a major corporation to employees, but they don’t have to. The smart ones have a secret weapon that’s even more effective at attracting and keeping the best employees.  It’s the opportunity to be part of something and to make an impact. When employees can see how they’re helping the company grow, not only will the company grow faster, the employees critical to company growth will stay longer.  If you want this for your small business, it all starts with smart hiring. When you hire a candidate whose personality, motivation, passion, and values line up with your company, you’ve set that person up to have a long-term relationship with your business.  With that in mind, here are four tips to retain employees in your small business:

1) Define Your Values and Vision:  If you have not defined your company culture, values and vision, now is the time.  It will be your lightning rod for attracting employees that stick around and your personal yardstick for measuring up job applicants.

A great culture starts with a great vision and clear values. The vision defines the “why we are here?” and the values define “how we work together” to get it done. A great company culture attracts the best and brightest people because they want to work there.  Invest the time in really thinking about what your company is about, what you hope to achieve, and by what means you hope to get there. Consider what values, actions, or traits you would require from yourself and other employees to hold those values true, and then incorporate questions in the interview process that will help uncover those traits about a particular candidate. Every new hire should feel like you’re raising your overall level of excellence – that you feel a “lift” to your organization.

2) Get Rid of Your Bad Hires:  There are no half-ways when it comes to fit, which means you should be parting ways with the bad hires sooner rather than later. If you have an employee that nags at your gut every Monday morning with nonsense, it must stop. The last thing any small business owner wants to have is an employee that sucks the positive energy out of a room. Regardless of how skilled or experienced this person may be, if they’re dragging you down, or not a good fit with your company and its values, they are poisoning your business environment. And, ultimately, they could become the reason why some of your other employees leave your company. When you make a change, your decision will not be lost on your employees, in fact, they’ll likely take note and be glad you made a staffing change.

3) Show a Path to Personal Growth:  When a strong employee shows potential, support them, set them up for success – thereby setting the business up to succeed as well. Help them to strive for more by giving them extra responsibilities or building a personal development plan. Research has shown this matters more to employees than money.  If you can develop or grow an employee, they’ll feel a sense or purpose and defined path to growth within your company.  Any small business can afford non-financial rewards as ways of recognition and appreciation.  Everyone knows that it feels great to be appreciated and noticed when you’ve done a good job, especially when accomplishing something new and challenging.

4) Encourage Referrals:  Your current “best” employees are your best source for hiring other wonderful candidates. Encourage your existing employees to reach out to their personal networks for interview candidates. It will not only streamline your hiring process, but it will vastly improve your retention numbers. When you hire the friend of another worker, both become “socially committed” (i.e. both will stay with the company for a period of time, at minimum, to fulfill each others’ need to be there). Further, great employees are often friends with other wonderful potential candidates who share their value systems and level of passion.

Employee retention starts with hiring people who fit.  It not only helps save time and money, it creates a stronger culture.  If you want to build a great company, it starts with hiring great people and helping them fulfill their potential – and your businesses potential.

“Leadership Signpost” courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Ben BaldwinAbout the author
Ben Baldwin is the Founder and Co-CEO of ClearFit, a hiring tool that makes it easy for small and medium-sized businesses to find and hire employees that succeed.  He’s a patent holder, Wall Street Journal Startup Mentor, and business advisor.

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