How Do You Retain Employees in a Small Business?





You’re excited because your business has grown. It’s no longer just you running everything. Things are cranking along. Your sales are now predictable enough that you start hiring employees.

After a couple of months of searching and hours of reviewing resumes and interviewing, you really stretch your budget and hire a manager for a key role.

Let’s call him Joe.

You spend many hours getting Joe up to speed on your business. You pay good money out of pocket to send him off for specialized training to learn the systems and software your business uses, and to develop stronger management skills.

After a year or two, Joe has really caught on. He is engaged and contributes everyday. He is reliable and a team player.

Joe is so good that he develops deep know-how about your business and how to run it. You’re very pleased with Joe.

One day a horrible thought hits you: What if Joe leaves?

It will be difficult to replace him without disruption. Your business could be in for a world of hurt, at least in the short term. And that gets you thinking: what do I have to do to make sure Joe doesn’t leave? And it’s not just Joe.

You think about the rest of your employees and how they work as a team and keep the business operating.

The larger question becomes: How do I retain all my valuable employees?



MetLife has a whitepaper that answers that question about how to retain good employees.

Here’s a snippet from Metlife’s whitepaper, “Five Secrets of Employee Retention”:

How Small Businesses Can Ensure They Keep Their Best and Brightest

Great employees are the lifeblood of any small business. However, as the job market accelerates, even happy workers may be tempted to explore whether the grass is greener at another company. Losing employees is a concern for most small businesses, not least because of the cost: a study from the Center for American Progress estimated that replacing an employee costs, on average, 20 percent of the employee’s annual salary. So if a worker making $50,000 a year quits, you’ll pay roughly $10,000 to cover the lost productivity costs and then recruit and train someone new.

‘At a small business, everyone is that much more important; you’re a bigger piece of the pie,’ says Dawn Fay, New York-based district president for staffing firm Robert Half. ‘There’s the cost of losing someone, but you also run the risk of losing other employees or burning people out as they carry a larger workload, which can affect your client service and product and ultimately impact your revenue.’

For small companies, keeping the right people in the right seats is paramount. Here are five ways to improve your employee retention and ensure your best and brightest stick around:”

  1. Take the time and effort to hire right. In a small business you can’t afford to make even a single bad hire, because one person may be a large part of your staff. If you have 10 employees, by picking the wrong person for just one position you’ve now negatively impacted 10 percent of your workforce.
  2. Get creative. You’re competing with a lot of other companies out there – some of which may be able to offer higher pay than you can. Consider adding non-monetary benefits such as flexible work schedule, and non-medical benefits such as vision and dental coverage. Most employees will look at the total overall package.
  3. Recognize good work. Employees want to be appreciated. Atta-boys and plain old thank yous for going above and beyond, are important. Recognition programs such as employee of the month help, too. Don’t let all or even a majority of your feedback be negative or “constructive” — show appreciation for a job well done.
  4. Create connections. Relationships matter. Take the time to develop relationships with employees such as by mingling during lunch breaks and holding internal celebrations. One thing I learned a long time ago is that employees like to work in a place where they like their boss and their coworkers.
  5. Listen. No one likes to feel powerless or like they don’t matter. By listening to suggestions and input, you show that the employee is important. They matter.

For more information, download the MetLife white-paper with more tips and advice for how to retain good employees check out MetLife Benefit Trends and continue reading on MetLife.

Employee Photo via Shutterstock



5 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

5 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    More than recognition, employees have different needs. Some of them needs freedom while others need benefits. If you can provide these, then they will be less likely to leave.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    Is it examples of good business cases of small businesses that have managed to retain (and develop) over time, in the white paper?

  3. Afolayan Emmanuel

    In any organisation that the warefare of the employee is not well treated, the positive input will be low.

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