a blog from CenturyLink

Employee retention strategies for small business owners

by | Sep 22, 2021


Hiring and training new employees is costly and time-consuming, requiring resources that could be used to grow your small business. Employee retention is important for any business, but especially small businesses with a small number of employees integral to business operations. Some causes of turnover can’t be avoided, such as relocation or other personal reasons For those that can, several strategies can help incentivize employees to stay. Employee retention strategies can help your small business engage your employees and save the cost of hiring and training new employees.

Boss shakes an employees hand after her promotion.

Appreciate your employees

One no-cost strategy for improving employee retention is appreciating and recognizing employee achievements and anniversaries. Making employees feel valued ensures employees know that they are an important part of your business. Ways to recognize your employees include:

  • Send an email announcement recognizing an employee going above and beyond
  • Congratulate anniversaries in team meetings
  • Directly recognize or reward significant achievements, like helping win a new client
  • Have a formal or informal party to celebrate a major work anniversary

Asking for suggestions and feedback from your employees also confirms the value of their perspectives and skills. Employees offer a different outlook on your business and regularly asking for their ideas will help improve employee engagement.

Small business team on a videoconference call to set expectations.

Set clear expectations

Another way to improve employee retention is to set clear expectations for each of your employee’s roles. Not only will setting expectations improve productivity, but it will also make employees feel more confident in their position. Without clear expectations, employees might feel lost or unmotivated. Set attainable goals and priorities for your employees and make deadlines clear. Part of setting expectations for your employees includes providing them with the necessary tools to complete their jobs. If you run a house cleaning service, for example, make sure your employees have the tools and supplies they need. For small businesses that rely on online services, you’ll need to provide reliable business internet for your employees.

Small business employees participate in a team-building exercise as an employee retention strategy.

Improve company culture

Positive company culture is key to keeping employees satisfied at your small business. A company with a positive and communicative culture is seen as a huge benefit for employees, and a negative culture can push them to look for other opportunities. To improve company culture, try these approaches:

  • Maintain transparency. Honesty and transparency about business challenges and goals instills trust. Let employees know how the business works through clear and open communication.
  • Share company successes. The success of your small business relies on your employee’s hard work and dedication. Recognizing team wins, like yearly increases in sales or clients, can improve employee engagement.
  • Build community. Encouraging employees to connect and collaborate can improve overall company culture. Implement team building activities or give employees space to collaborate on their own.

Promote from within

As your small business grows, giving your employees opportunities for advancement can greatly improve retention. Before searching for outside candidates for new positions, consider your current employees. Promoting from within can boost morale and make your employees more committed to your business. Promoting employees may not always be an option for small businesses with very few positions—another option is to keep track of your employee’s progress and rethink their responsibilities. Giving strong employees the opportunity to learn new skills and experience, like managing other employees or interacting directly with clients, can improve retention.

Employee is recognized in front of her peers at work by her boss.

Revamp compensation and benefits

Increasing compensation is one of the most common ways to improve employee retention. Keeping your small business’s compensation competitive for the role and location will make employees more likely to stay longer. Small, regular raises is another way to incentivize employees to stay at their job; the cost of this additional compensation may be lower than the cost associated with hiring and training new employees, which means you can satisfy employees while saving money overall.

If raising compensation is not possible for your small business, benefits are another area that can help improve employee retention. Offering unlimited personal time off can make your business stand out for employees looking for a healthy work-life balance. Although your small business may not be required to offer health insurance, offering this benefit can attract strong talent and greatly improve retention. The health and well-being of your employees should be a priority.

Final words

It’s not possible to always avoid employees leaving your small business, but employee retention strategies can make working at your small business more desirable and improve retention. Appreciating your employees, improving company culture and offering competitive compensation and benefits can keep your employees satisfied and save your business money. Explore more CenturyLink articles to learn more tips and strategies like how to determine your bandwidth needs for your small business.

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