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3 Ways to Retain Employees in Small Businesses

As a Recruiting Specialist here at EA, my focus during this pandemic has been how to recruit for talent in such a competitive market. Writing good job postings, beefing up the value proposition, increasing pay and benefits are a few of the ways we approach that. But as the pandemic draws on with no end in sight for the fight for qualified candidates, it’s a great time to reflect on what we are doing to keep our current employees.

There have been several articles and studies that are forecasting a “great resignation” or a “turnover tsunami”. The number of people expected to leave their current positions in search of new jobs or to leave employment all together is forecasted to return to pre-pandemic levels or higher by the end of 2021.

So what should small businesses be focused on when it comes to their current employees? Here is a start:

  1. Conduct Stay Interviews- Waiting to get feedback from employees on how they are feeling regarding their employment, the organization, etc. until completing an exit interview will not stop that employee from leaving. Start asking employees what the company is doing right, why they are staying, if they are considering leaving. This will give you a summary perspective on what your employees are thinking. Through stay interviews, employees may offer some suggestions to increase workplace satisfaction that are easily implemented and low cost. Remember to keep participation voluntary and anonymous and communicate the organization’s intent for stay interviews clearly. And don’t just collect data and take no action. Following up with your employees to let them know of any changes being implemented or actions being taken related to their feedback encourages good faith relationships between the organization and the employees.

  2. Manage and recognize burnout in employees- This pandemic has brought about a lot of change in our workplace processes and has a lot of organizations working with reduced staff. That means we are asking our employees to do more, for extended periods of time. Be sure that you are recognizing employees’ contributions, through both formal and informal means. Shout outs and kudo boards are a great way to recognize employee contributions. So is a well thought out and personal thank you card. These items are no cost to the bottom line and go a long way in keeping up morale. If able, think about treating employees to a free breakfast or lunch, encourage employees to take some time off, or consider offering stay bonuses instead of hiring bonuses. Whatever your budget (or lack of), be intentional about recognizing employees in ways that are most well-received by the person you are providing it to. And recognize the “small” efforts, like taking on additional hours, learning new skills, simply showing up every day during a very uncertain time---not just big wins, new customers, and above and beyond efforts. These recognition attempts help to alleviate the feeling of burnout, which is a major contributor to employees leaving their jobs at this moment.

  3. Don’t forget about your high performers- It’s easy for small businesses to focus all efforts on surviving the pandemic—so things like career-pathing and training classes or opportunities may have fallen out of priority. But remember that it has been shown that replacements costs usually exceed retainment costs. Keep open dialogues with your high achievers, look for ways to start or continue skill building. Business and positions may look different now, due to the pandemic, so re-evaluating job duties and positions may be key to keeping a top performer fulfilled long-term.

These are just a few ideas to get small businesses thinking about investing in and maintaining one of their biggest capital assets—it’s employees. A little preparation and front-end work help alleviate the need to search for new hires in an ultra-competitive market, where costs exceed efforts to retain the employees you have.


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