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Retaining Talent in Any Economy

As a business owner, you must always work to keep a positive culture for your employees. However, if you have a tight budget and employees are concerned about job security, keeping morale up can be a challenging task. Luckily, there are myriad ways small business owners can show their employees that their hard work and dedication is both recognized and appreciated.

Thank Them for Their Hard Work

Even if it’s not a feasible time for bonuses, there are other ways to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Giving positive feedback for a job well done can go a long way in making your employees feel that they’re an important part of the team.

“It’s the leader’s job to protect and maintain the culture of the company,” says Neil Ducoff, author of No-Compromise Leadership and founder and CEO of STRATEGIES, a business education and coaching company.

Ducoff says employees appreciate when they’re thanked in front of the team for meaningful contributions they’ve made. And when you point out good behavior, others are likely to follow the good example.

Janet Boulter, founder of Center Consulting Group for businesses, says a personalized written letter can also go a long way to make an employee feel valued. She recommends listing ways they stand out as an employee and how much you appreciate their hard work and contributions.

Provide Small Rewards

When money is tight, employees will appreciate even small bonuses all the more. Boulter recommends affordable spot bonuses worth $50 to $100, such as gift cards to gas stations or grocery stores. Or buy your team lunch once each week or month. She suggests talking to your tax adviser about employee compensation options that may give you a tax break.

If small bonuses are not within your budget, consider giving them more flexible hours, such as allowing them to work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., rather than 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. With a more flexible schedule, chances are employees will be more productive.

Another option is to offer an extra day off occasionally. Boulter recommends doing it on a national holiday, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Day when other businesses are also closed. Even the smallest perks such as relaxing the dress code can help improve morale. Employees will appreciate the rewards, even if they are not salary-based.

Carl Schumm, co-owner of kitchen re-modeling company Professional Kitchens based in New Jersey and owner of contracting company Schumm Remodelers, says during a slow season for his business he gave his employees the option of having Fridays off while still getting a half-day worth of pay.

“It was give and take,” he says.

He says his employees appreciated the extra time off, and they made good use of their time at the office so productivity didn’t decline.

Be Transparent About the Company’s Status

Bad news can be discouraging, but no news can be even scarier. It’s normal for employees to be nervous about their job security during slowdowns, but Ducoff says if you don’t inform employees of the business situation, the secrecy only feeds the insecurity. Employees might start looking elsewhere if they feel there is even a possibility that they might lose their jobs.

“If you don’t communicate with your employees, they’ll make up where they think the company is going,” he says.

He highly recommends having regular meetings with your team to talk about the status of the company. You don’t have to give them every little detail, but they’ll appreciate being involved because it will make them feel like an integral part of the company.

Ask for Feedback

The most important thing you can do after revealing where the company stands is to solicit feedback from your employees about ways they think they can help.

“During regular staff meetings, ask employees for their ideas and suggestions on what they can do to help the company,” Boulter says. “They’ll feel involved, and it will increase motivation and loyalty.”


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