3 Ways to Keep Qualified Workers

For many small business owners, retaining qualified talent is top of mind.

When a small business loses a highly trained, valuable employee, the impact can ripple across the business – especially in today’s tight labor market.

More than two-thirds of small and independent business owners say that they’re having a harder time filling the most-skilled positions now than they did two years ago, according to NFIB’s research. Keeping qualified workers in highly skilled positions could become even more of a challenge as roughly 1 in 4 U.S. workers (some 42 million total) will leave their job this year to work for another company, according to the 2018 Retention Report: Truth and Trends in Turnover

That’s why small business owners must pay even more attention to their retention efforts. Here are three ways to keep your competitors from poaching your talent:

Get Creative with Compensation

According to NFIB’s May 2019 Jobs Report, a net 34 percent of small business owners reported higher compensation in April. A net 20 percent planned increases in the next few months, a strong reading and a good leading indicator of future compensation gains.

“It’s a competitive marketplace, and anyone worth their salt right now—who wants to keep their people—pays well,” says NFIB member Mike Kovach, founder of the family-run business City Machine Technologies Inc. in Youngstown, Ohio.

It’s important to note, however, that not all small businesses can afford permanent salary increases. A raise isn’t the only way to compensate employees and show they’re appreciated.

Provide Growth Opportunities

Even when employees have more than a year under their belt in a particular position, one-third of small employers continue employee training, according to NFIB’s Employee Training survey. That can be a boon to retention efforts, as employees crave opportunities to grow in their roles and advance their careers.

“We’ve always dug deep into the trade schools, and naturally we’d like to hire them fully trained, but that’s just not realistic,” says Kovach. On-the-job training can go a long way to making hires feel as invested in staying with the company, he says.

Cultivate a Connection

The advantage of working at a small business is that employees can really connect with the company’s mission and understand how their roles make a difference. “There’s a lot of personal satisfaction in that for people,” Kovach says. “Everyone is touching every job to some degree.”

Two employees who quit the 70-person company returned within 18 months, Kovach says—and it wasn’t salary that lured them back. “One wasn’t getting overtime at their new company, and the other didn’t feel like they were being treated like family and found his job monotonous,” he says.

In addition to promoting the company’s mission and being clear about how each person plays a part in it, small business owners can build trust—and tenure—by seeking feedback from current employees. “It’s an opportunity for us to ask employees: What can we do?” says Kovach, who meets one-on-one with employees during an annual review process and asks that people not hold back. “It’s a time to air their grievances, which helps them feel heard.”

And when your best workers feel heard – and like their feedback matters – they’re more likely to stick around.

SOURCE: National Federation of Independent Business.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.