Here To Stay
Staff retention is a common problem, but fortunately one that has many DIY solutions.
Keith Twitchell spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.
For virtually all entrepreneurs, staffing is a major issue right now. The marketplace is more tilted in favor of employees than it has been in decades. Many people took time off during the pandemic to examine their career and life goals and are demanding more from their workplaces. Many have decided that the standard employee model in general is not what they want.
Hiring and training new employees is a major expense for businesses large and small. Add this to increased costs for almost every other aspect of operations, supply chain issues, and all the other pandemic disruptions, and the result is a huge headache for many business owners.
The good news is that of all these issues, employee retention may be the one that entrepreneurs can do the most to address on their own.
The most obvious solution, of course, is to pay your staff more money. That certainly helps, but in the context of all the other increased costs, it may not be feasible. And despite the current high rates of inflation, wages are surprisingly low among the factors that cause businesses to keep or lose their employees.
Successfully retaining staff begins with how they are brought on in the first place. Well-trained employees feel more comfortable in their jobs, and perform them better. People who understand their workplace culture mesh better and are more comfortable with it. Establishing a workplace culture that is supportive and inclusive is one of the most essential aspects of running a stable business. Making sure new employees understand expectations and standards across the board, from performance to personal interaction, helps integrate them seamlessly and keeps them comfortable and productive.
As an aside, tolerating corrosive, even toxic staff members, regardless of what positives they may bring to your company, is simply not worth it. The harm they will do in terms of costing you other employees and eroding your workplace environment outweighs any other possible benefits.
Related to this is management style. Encouragement at all times, acknowledging successes large and small, building a team approach in which leadership regularly engages and collaborates with staff: These are vital to helping employees feel valued and supported. And when the inevitable issues arise, a proactive, positive approach is critical. The “How can we make this work better?” approach, as compared to “Here’s what you did wrong,” is a thousand times more effective.
Also in the workplace environment category, flexibility is definitely the new normal. Different types of enterprises clearly have different capacities to implement this, but it’s worth taking a little time to see how you can provide flexibility for your staff beyond the obvious things like working hours and working from home. What can you do to support the physical, emotional and even spiritual needs of your staff?
Most employees have ideas about how things could be improved in their workplaces, and developing a method for honoring and listening to these ideas is a powerful retention tool. People feel more invested in any situation where they think their voice is heard. Problems can be discovered before they fester, some good suggestions will foster productivity, and even unworkable ideas can be acknowledged and discussed in a way that keeps the focus positive.
In a similar vein, most employees want their jobs to be growth experiences. This means both personal and professional development. The more of these opportunities that you can provide, especially in a team context, the more loyalty you will develop among your staff. Career advancement opportunities are also important to many people; this is easier for some entrepreneurs to offer their staffs than others, but again, think creatively about how you can make this work.
Finding good people is always challenging, but keeping them doesn’t have to be.
Writer Keith Twitchell’s blog, “Neighborhood Biz,” appears every Thursday on BizNewOrleans.com.