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Retaining Great Talent in a Tough Job Market

Retaining Great Talent in a Tough Job MarketAs a small business owner, your employees provide the winning edge in a competitive economy. How do you hold on to talent that could be looking elsewhere?


For more than five years, the job market has undergone change. Severe contraction during the Great Recession threw a lot of people out of work, and many small business owners had a tough time staying afloat. Entrepreneurs that did hire enjoyed a deep talent pool available at rock bottom prices.


Today? Not so much.


As the economic engine heats up, more jobs are created and labor markets are tighter. Early in 2015, small business owners stoked a five-month trend of job creation, snapping up talent, and struggling to hold on to key employees who drive their profits.


By November, that trend slowed, but a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey reports more than 55 percent of small business owners are still trying to hire for positions where there are few, or no, qualified applicants.


With the shoe on the other foot, small business owners have to find new ways to hold on to employees who could be at risk of being hired away.


I talked earlier about why it is important to keep your employees engaged. Now we’ll talk about ways to do it.


Seven tips to keep valuable small business employees on board


So how do you keep your best employees working for you—and not your competitor?


Engagement is a great but overused word. You put time, energy, and money into training the people you hire. Depending on your business, that could mean specialized training, an emphasis on service skills—or whatever combination keeps your business humming.


It used to be easier to hire and keep good talent. Switching jobs every two years, or even every year, looked bad on a resume. Today, steadily switching out one job for the next is a routine way to gain benefits, better working conditions, and higher income. For talented employees—it works.


Many small business owners operate on a tough edge—just balancing revenue and payroll. As I work with my clients to increase their revenue, we look at the whole equation. My goal is to create wealth for my clients—in the million dollar range. While most entrepreneurs believe exhaustion and slim profit margins eventually lead to success—I can tell you, working harder will not make you wealthy. Working smarter does.


Because your workforce is critical to your success—it pays to retain key personnel. Let’s take a look at some positive steps to safeguard your investment in your employees—and your business:


  1. Hire wisely: Set the stage for success with your employees during the hiring stage. Know your hiring plan, what you need—and what you have to offer. Because small businesses have fewer employers, a bad hire could significantly affect productivity and morale. Get it right from the start.
  2. Engage: Okay—get involved. Once hired, connect with your new hire via email, or phone call. Let them know you are looking forward to their skills and help. Plan for onboarding. Include necessary documents, a tour of your business, a chance to meet co-workers, and a general warm welcome.
  3. Communication and culture: Communicate your work ethic to your employees. Be as transparent as possible with news, developments, and company direction. Foster employee involvement in creating and supporting a company culture of service and concern. Participate in a community volunteer effort as a group. Encourage individual or anonymous feedback on a regular basis to learn about problem issues before you lose an employee.
  4. Compete: Think about the key personnel in your company. Now think about what would happen if they gave notice tomorrow. If you cannot increase salary, think about incentives like:


  1. Improve benefits
  2. Offer flexible work schedules
  3. Discuss career paths
  4. Offer training
  5. Create incentive programs
  6. Sponsor an attractive annual dinner, party, or even a trip or cruise with co-workers
  7. Offer something of value to employees that fires up their enthusiasm for working for you


  1. Treat employees honestly: Be a good employer. Create an environment everyone wants to work in. You may be the boss, but you are drawing a paycheck, too—help employees buy-in to the success of the company for the benefit of all.
  2. Appreciate: Congratulate employees for work well done. Recognize critical work performed by individuals and teams. Your employees offer greater value to your customers when they feel they have intrinsic value in their workplace.


Hire the right people, and create a winning workplace. Inevitably, even highly engaged employees move on for their own reasons. Just don’t lose them for reasons you could address.

When you are ready to bring in more profit, I hope you will call me at 585-633-7563. Make 2016 the year that you break out and earn more by working smarter instead of harder. I can help.

Yours in profit,

Bob Britton

About the Author Bob Britton