Today’s labor market is much more competitive than it once was–and there are interesting new dynamics that are making hiring more complicated for business owners. A record 4.5 million Americans quit in November 2021 alone, citing burnout and other pandemic-related causes. Many people are switching jobs, as wages increase and companies compete for talent, rather than remain unemployed. As a result, companies are struggling to fill hiring gaps; applications for new jobs have risen, but not enough to meet demand for labor, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Attracting and retaining great talent is one of the top five risks business owners are most worried about. Cultivating loyalty to avoid employee turnover is a real challenge. But, there’s plenty of data to show that with the right combination of incentives, positive feedback, growth opportunities, and inclusive work environment, business owners can retain their talented workers.
Here are some important steps to take to make sure your best talent is happy and satisfied with their jobs.
An employee value proposition (EVP) is a combination of rewards and benefits that employees are offered in return for performing well at work. Research from Gartner shows that, for most people, an enticing EVP includes a combination of compensation, work-life balance, stability, location, and respect. EVPs provide incentives for hard work, but also create a supportive, inclusive work environment where every employee feels valued. And, organizations that deliver on their EVPs are able to decrease employee turnover by nearly 70%.
Employee satisfaction depends on more than just salary–today’s workers are motivated by things beyond money. In the US, health benefits and location are the second and third-highest ranked factors for employees considering a new job. Even simple, affordable perks like flexible work hours, remote work or work from home options, a stipend for gas, or casual Fridays can be enough to keep workers satisfied.
It’s important to celebrate success, but also just to have fun in general. Pick a random holiday, like National Fun at Work Day or an industry-specific day. Restaurants can celebrate International Waffle Day on March 25, or law firms can celebrate “International Be Kind to Lawyers Day” on April 12. Designating a single day to balance work with fun is a simple way to help boost employee morale.
Forbes reports that providing time for your staff to volunteer increases employee engagement and collaboration far more than endless staff meetings or training sessions. Together, you and your team can support a local cause, giving back to the community and forming a stronger work culture in the process. Find a cause that your team believes in and take an afternoon off each month to give back.
Staying connected throughout the pandemic has been crucial for businesses. But, this commitment to transparent, open communication should continue long after the ups and downs of COVID have subsided. Continue to prioritize individual check-ins with your team. Without prying, try to understand what’s going on in your employees’ lives, whether they’re trying to juggle child care, complete a degree, or work multiple jobs–and see how you can be supportive with scheduling, payroll, or benefits.
Restaurants have a prime opportunity to reduce food waste and boost employee morale: snacks. For the ultimate perk, consider adding or improving upon a time-honored tradition in the restaurant world: sharing a meal together. Bring your crew together before the dinner shift to enjoy a tasty meal and fuel up for the evening rush. For inspiration, look to two restaurants in Singapore that have figured out a way to reduce wastage and forge bonds in the process.
Look for apps and tools that make work easier for everyone. For scheduling staff, software such as Time Clock by Homebase, which is preloaded on the Clover POS, provides a simple way to build schedules and share them with the team. Other apps streamline payroll, table management and bar tabs, waitlists, and more.
One of the most common complaints employees have is friction with peers. Rather than ignoring it (which is a natural response), you should treat conflict as an opportunity to learn and improve the workplace environment. Use active listening to figure out a way to bring people together, find common ground, encourage compromise, and set boundaries to prevent future problems. In the long run, conflict resolution is far easier than letting simmering tensions eat away at morale.
Nate Masterson, an HR manager for natural beauty product firm Maple Holistics, said an advantage of working at a small business is the wealth of opportunities that come your way. “[If] you’re good at what you do and show talent and skill, you’ll be given new responsibilities [and] taught new skills and groomed, making you that much more valuable to the market.”
Reward employees often with opportunities for growth, mentoring, and on-the-job training to further their skill set. Small business employees often wear many hats; but formally recognizing this entrepreneurial attitude, you can help develop someone into a well-rounded professional.
You may not be able to offer extra bonuses or financial support right now, but you can show appreciation for your team in many other ways. Think about what feels most appropriate for each staffer: if they’re hurting financially, perhaps you can give them a gift card for their favorite grocery store—and assuming it’s a local one, you’ll be supporting your local economy and your team. Small but meaningful gestures, such as an extra day off or a gift card for a favorite online store, can also make a big difference.
Simple changes that help employees prioritize their mental health can go a long way. Maybe it’s planning for extra coverage, so your team can take a quick time-out during the most hectic time of day. Or, maybe it’s a quiet space where employees can go when they feel overwhelmed. Maybe it’s time off each month for a wellness activity, like visiting a doctor, spa, or therapist. A little creativity could reap big returns in employee satisfaction and well-being.
Covid has forced us all to be a little more flexible and forgiving. Consider, for example, how to accommodate working parents whose children are schooled at home. Can they work from home? Can you adjust working hours to accommodate a half-day at home and evening work instead when the kids are done with schoolwork? Try to be aware of the concerns taking your teammates’ time and attention, and be creative in accommodating those concerns.
Did your team just help you open a new location? Did you launch a new product together? Or, did you just make it through the holiday rush successfully? Celebrate these big moments you’ve had together wiht something more tangible, such as:
Whatever gift you offer, consider including a hand-written note to each employee recognizing what they have done to make your business more successful.
Close shop for a day during the post-holiday, pre-tax season slump. Invite your team to an offsite fun day. Meet at a theme park, museum, skating rink, bowling alley, or other place of interest. You might even qualify for a group discount.
Whether it’s pottery, truffle making, or design, learning something new together is a team-building opportunity, a wonderful way to say thanks, and demonstrates your commitment to enriching your team. Ideally, this class will be totally unrelated to your profession; it should be something fun and relaxing for everyone. These days, it’s easier than ever to book a virtual group class.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but employees want their businesses to take a stand. A recent Gartner survey found that 87% of employees believe businesses should take a public position on societal issues relevant to their business. “Another Gartner survey indicates that when corporations do take a stand, they can expect an increase in the number of employees who go above and beyond the call of duty at work. This discretionary effort is a key component of employee engagement.”
Do what feels right to you: if you feel particularly passionate about a cause, some employees will appreciate you speaking up for what you believe in.
This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.
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