Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2022-01-20
The life of a small business owner is never boring. At least, not in my experience.
Small business owners are constantly pulled in many directions and taking on many roles – your title may be CEO, but you’re also ultimately responsible for your company’s finances, operations, IT, marketing and human resources. The Great Resignation has only added to the weight a small business must carry and balance among other imperatives. In 2021 the U.S Department of Labor data saw a significant increase in people voluntarily leaving their jobs, especially in professional and business services. Employees are reevaluating their priorities: they want meaningful work that fits the lifestyle they want, and they’re willing to leave if those needs aren’t being met.
In response, a recent Forrester article points to an increase in companies focusing on their “employer branding,” in building an employee experience (EX) that attracts and retains top talent. Psychology Today says organizations must “embrace practices that will contribute to a more attractive workplace for employees and better address their needs.”
It may not be easy, but a positive EX and keeping top talent should be a priority for businesses of all sizes. From my experience as a longtime small business owner with a great team—including many who have been with us for years—here are four things that small businesses can do to retain their staff, even in the midst of the Great Resignation.
A great employee experience starts with listening to your team. What they’re saying, as well as what they’re not saying. It doesn’t cost anything, but the rewards can start paying off almost immediately. Show your employees they are valued by valuing what they say and taking steps based on their input.
Competitive compensation and quality benefits are important (and should be a critical part of your employee retention plan). But so are the intangible benefits -- and working for a small business has many, such as a sense of camaraderie and value felt from being part of a small, vital team. Small businesses should focus on building this culture and maintaining it regardless of external circumstances.
Like many small businesses, in responding to the pandemic, our team at OMI had to work even harder than before. Our business is centered around data quality and as businesses closed or furloughed employees, data quality was decaying at a rapid pace. But conducting business in survival mode can quickly lead to burnout for employees, so we were intentional in not losing sight of our most important asset – our employees.
I make it a point to check in with my team individually on a regular basis to discuss business topics, but also to see how things are going on a personal level. A recent Atlanta Small Business Network article describes it as thinking about the “whole-person,” including their physical, financial, emotional, and work well-being. Even in challenging times, I try to stay level and approachable.
One of my top priorities is to ensure my team feels supported. As part of checking in with them individually, we personalize strategies for each employee so that they can achieve their goals. Each employee is different -- with different goals, needs, and expectations. Professional growth may look different in a small business, but it’s important in both retaining and growing top talent.
Building a great employee experience is an ongoing process – it starts with listening but it also requires that you keep listening to your employees and adjusting as needed. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about meeting your employees’ needs and continual improvement in the hope of exceeding those needs.
Ongoing employee engagement is key to creating EX that can withstand the Great Resignation.
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