Why Good People Leave and How You Can Keep Them at Your Small Business

9 Minute Read
Asking the right questions is key. Here is a look at what you can and can’t say during job interviews.
Keep Them at Your Small Business

It’s not enough to just win valuable top talent. Read on to learn these 7 tips on how to keep them!

Sometimes in small business recruitment, we have blinders on and focus on just hiring the right person. In reality, this is just the beginning!

After you hire the right person for the job, you have to do the work to keep them.

The consequences of losing a great employee are felt by everyone in the workplace. Colleagues have no choice but to absorb the extra work, productivity dwindles, morale falls. Sometimes, it sparks a wave.

You’re also tasked with the dreaded job of finding a replacement, which eats up energy and resources. And don’t forget the fiscal costs of turnover to your business.

The average employee exit costs 33% of their annual salary. (Employee Benefits News)

The solution? Consciously making the effort to create an environment where your top talent wants to stay.

In this guide we’ll talk about 7 strategies for how you can increase employee retention at your small business!

1. Keep Your Employees Engaged

A job is about more than just checking off boxes and clocking in and out. When employees aren’t engaged in their work and don’t feel a personal investment, they become complacent and are quick to jump ship if something comes along that feels more worthwhile. You might not even realize the lack of engagement on their end until they surprise you with their two week notice.

When employees are engaged in their work, they’re more likely to be loyal even when flashy new opportunities come their way. They feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment from their jobs and see a connection to the big picture.

Engage your employees by making them feel valued and respected as part of your team. Show them the real-world impacts of their work, and ask for their input in making important decisions. You want your employee to go home at the end of the day satisfied that they did something meaningful, not disappointed that they spent another day on autopilot.

Prove you trust your employees and value their work by giving them responsibilities without micromanaging them. Instead of hand-holding, give skill-appropriate tasks along with the right training and motivate them to complete it well! Create a culture of support where they will be comfortable coming to you with help as needed, and treat this as a learning opportunity for you both.

This employee will feel invested and engaged and will truly care about your mission.

2. Reflect on Your Management Style

We’ve all had a manager at one point or another whose management style soured a perfectly fine job. The task itself could be enjoyable on its own, but your management style could completely turn your employee off to the point where they’re looking for the nearest exit.

One common complaint is micromanaging. Micromanaging makes your employees feel like you don’t trust them to do the job well on their own and that you don’t find them capable. It can create tensions from always feeling on guard and worried about breaking rules that might not need to be there in the first place. When employees feel relaxed, they’re actually more productive and do better than if you watch their every move.

Lack of appropriate management skills makes employees 4x more likely to quit. (TinyPulse Employee Retention Report)

If you give your employee a skill-appropriate task with adequate training and support as needed, you shouldn’t need to micromanage because they are empowered to do the job (and feel more motivated to do it well) on their own! Encourage collaboration both among your staff and between staff and management. When you ask for help and input from your employees, you show that you value their expertise and increase their sense of responsibility to your organization’s goals.

Additionally, consider how you react to and handle hiccups. Do you react with your emotions and create mountains out of molehills? Or do you approach the situation with a solutions-oriented, collaborative mindset? Your employees shouldn’t fear you or prefer to leave you out of the loop because they’re rather not risk getting you riled up.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t hold people accountable and address problems, but the conversation should be helpful, not punitive.

3. Offer Opportunities for Advancement

Your employees will be more engaged and stimulated by their work, as well as motivated to do well and improve, if there is room for growth within your business. This is especially true for the high performers you so desperately want to hold on to.

Even if your employee enjoys their current job, if there’s nowhere to go, then the treat of wasted potential will fester and lead to them leaving your team. At the end of the day, this job needs to align with your employee’s career goals in order for them to stay happy. If there’s no room to grow, why would they want to stay?

Not every employee wants to stay in the same job for their whole life, and some don’t want to advance to a management position either. Offer enriching educational and career advancement opportunities to get your employees excited about what they do. You will add more knowledge and talent to your team that everyone benefits from!

Don’t withhold these opportunities out of fear your employee will outgrow your organization, or else you’ll surely miss out on all that is to be gained in the meantime. If they leave on mutually good terms, they could be a great source for referrals and might even return someday.

4. Give (and Solicit) Feedback

You need to be checking in with your employees to know how they’re doing - both in and out of work - in order to help them do their best at their job.

A simple way to do this is to establish a routine of regular 1-1 check ins, where you both give constructive feedback and ask for feedback in return. This open door of two-way communication will minimize surprises and preventable, unnecessary departures. Open communication will also build and sustain trust, without which your company will disintegrate.

Employees whose managers consistently acknowledge them for good work are five times more likely to stay at the company. (Qualtrics)

Don’t let employees second guess their work performance, and don’t let good work go unnoticed! High performers are motivated by recognition, and conversely, have less of an incentive to keep doing well when they feel that their work goes unnoticed. It has been shown time and time again that positive feedback is more effective than strictly negative feedback, although negative feedback should be addressed appropriately as well. Try to accompany negative feedback with positive feedback so your employee doesn’t walk away feeling downtrodden.

Understand that when people feel undervalued, they will start looking elsewhere for an employer that shows their appreciation.

Just as you want your employees to commit to improvement, demonstrate that you are committed to improvement as well by actively seeking feedback about your employee’s job satisfaction, workplace environment, and management. Take the feedback seriously and make changes as appropriate.

Get to know your employee as a whole person, with goals and struggles. See how their current reality aligns with their goals and what you have in your power to do to increase their job satisfaction. There’s a chance that the source of their unhappiness at work is an easy fix that can be addressed before they can’t take it anymore... and leave.

5. Think About Your Policies

Your employee and their job do not cease to exist once the workday is over. Think about how their job fits into their life as a whole, and how your policies genuinely affect this picture.

How do your policies affect your company culture? Does your culture prioritize work output over mental health, or do you treat your employees as humans with needs and dreams?

While clearly defined structure is important, avoid unnecessary rules that end up micromanaging - and suffocating - your workforce. Demonstrate trust by allowing flexibility when possible. Although total flexibility is often not feasible (and too much is a bad thing), when you give your employees a bit of control over how they get their work done, they are more relaxed and more likely to do it well on their own terms.

How does your workplace and its policies treat your employees? Do you allow for balance between work and home life? Is there room for discussions on mental health? Your policies are a reflection of your values - shape them in a way that nourishes your employees’ well-being before they crack and find another employer that does.

6. Believe in What You Do!

If you don’t truly believe in your mission, your team will be able to feel it. And why would they believe in it and care if you don’t?

What do you stand for? What bigger mission is your company working towards? If you and your employees don’t believe in what you do, you will be disengaged from the tasks at hand because you just don’t see much point. A common mission creates a stronger bond and guides your team during hard times when you would otherwise crumble (and lead to a wave of resignations).

Make sure you have a clearly defined mission and that you make an effort to tie in the everyday routines. When these routines become mundane, a clear connection to the mission will help sustain morale when a generic pep talk fails.

7. Respect Your Employees

There is no question that this employee-manager respect needs to go both ways. One of the best ways to create a culture of respect? Model it.

Respect goes beyond just treating your employees with basic kindness. You need to be treating them as they deserve - as a human being, and as a capable adult. Make sure your workplace policies respect them as people first, and not as cogs in your machine.

When your employee does not feel that you or your company respect them, it breeds resentment and they’ll be ready to leave when the opportunity presents itself (if they aren’t already actively looking).

This respect might come in the form of adequate compensation for their labor, whether it’s monetary or just simple recognition. The second they start feeling taken for granted, you start losing them.

Additionally, respect your employees by communicating openly about the comings and goings of the company, setbacks, and things that need improvement. When people feel like you are hiding things from them, whether it was intentional or not, they begin to lose their trust in you because they feel you do not value them enough to let them know.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day, your employees need a job that fulfills them and fills them with satisfaction. This comes from finding bigger meaning in their work, feeling valued as both an employee and an individual, and feeling that their role and trajectory are in line with their career goals.

It’s no small feat, but your job as a manager is to figure out how to make that happen within the context of your small business!

For more advice about hiring and small business recruitment, trust Hiring Team. Hiring Team brings together expert advice and best practices for one goal: your success.


Karyn Moyer

Karyn Moyer

Karyn Moyer is the Marketing Manager at AgHires. Karyn enjoys learning and discovering new ways to help clients to reach their goals. Hiring Team takes the guesswork and frustration out of the hiring process. Your on-demand Hiring Team will cut down your time spent hiring up to 70%.