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How to Keep Your Best People: Post-Recession Retention Strategies

As the economy and the jobs market improves, are you prepared to retain your top performers?

May 19, 2011
from Robert Half International

With dogged determination and a willingness to make difficult decisions, you found a way to steer your small business through an epic global downturn. But now are you prepared to pounce on the opportunities that come with improving conditions?

Small business confidence is growing. In fact, in a recent Robert Half survey of more than 5,000 small business executives, nearly 90 percent of respondents said they’re confident in the growth prospects of their companies.

To help firms take full advantage of improving conditions, Robert Half has created a new guide titled Future Success: 20 Ideas for Small Businesses and Pitfalls to Avoid. The guide covers five key areas company leaders should closely examine in this changing business environment. Employee retention is one of them. Based on the guide, here are tips for re-energizing and retaining your best people:

Understand a Shifting Market

For small firms, the departure of a single standout employee can create significant headaches. And a brightening economic picture means that accounting and finance professionals with highly marketable skills may be tempted to pursue greener pastures. You kept these top performers through the darkest days of the Great Recession; don’t lose them now.

Perk Up

Reevaluate the perks you provide. But don’t do it in vacuum. Speak with your employees to understand what is truly most important to them. Do they prefer telecommuting options and more flexible work hours? Do they want reimbursement to take relevant classes and attend industry conferences? Are they interested in formal mentoring programs or matching gifts initiatives? Solicit your employees’ feedback and consider offering them the perks they value the most.

Understand the Power of Praise

Offering a simple “thank you” for a job well done can be a surprisingly strong motivator. Prompt, sincere and specific praise not only provides an emotional lift, it shows staff that you’re paying attention to their efforts and appreciate their contributions. As author William Arthur Ward said: “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Give thanks privately, but also consider highlighting outstanding work during regular team meetings. Add punch to your positive reinforcement with lunches out, afternoons off or tickets to special events.

Empower Your Employees

Don’t be a boss who micromanages and attempts to take the lead on virtually every project. While this is sometimes tempting on pivotal initiatives, try to loosen the reins and offer more autonomy when appropriate. Allow team members to take ownership of assignments and put a personal stamp on their work. They will reward you for it. People often do a better and more thorough job when they’re put in a position of accountability.

Promote From Within Whenever Possible

Your best hire for an open position could already be on your payroll. Before you post job ads, consider whether there is anyone internally who fits the bill — or who might be groomed for the role with some additional training. Promoting from within boosts morale because your employees see that there are growth opportunities within your firm. Simply put, when you demonstrate loyalty, your staff is far more likely to return the favor. And it doesn’t hurt that it also cuts down on the costs of hiring and training.

Share the Mission and Vision

Promote a strong, supportive culture. While many organizations are marked by established values, these principles are not always expressed clearly or consistently. Remind employees of the positive impact their work has on clients and customers. Convey your firm’s core values whenever you can through your own actions and in company newsletters, on the employee website and in training materials.

Finally, provide relief to an overworked staff. As business picks up and projects continue to stack up, consider bringing in temporary or project professionals to help ease the burden. Connecting with a specialized staffing firm is a cost-effective way to handle workload peaks, while giving your core team a much-needed and well-deserved opportunity to recharge their batteries.

For more advice and research, please visit our Small Business Resource Center at www.roberthalf.us/smallbusinesscenter.