Six Ways Small Businesses Can Attract, Retain Employees and Stay Solvent

Many economic prognosticators suggest the economic downturn has hit bottom.  Among the indicators pointed to are renewal of pay increases or at least the promise of a return of some of the salary that was cut at the height of the crisis.  There are even indicators that – in some sectors – furloughed employees have been brought back and, in certain instances, new employees are being hired.

Most of us have been understandably uncomfortable by the belt-tightening that’s become the standard operating procedure for businesses of all sizes – but especially small ones.  However, any marketplace shift that prompts a small business owner to add to payroll raises a difficult question – one that’s harder to contend with in what is still a harsh business environment: How can I attract and retain employees without putting my enterprise at risk?

As an executive of a growing business and one with years of experience creating and working with small businesses, I’ve found these six ways work to attract and retain employees without a severe impact on the balance sheet:

Hire Right, the First Time

Now that there’s a need to hire there’s a greater need to fight the tendency to grab the first warm body you find.  Hiring the wrong person – for whatever reason – costs money, time and harms your company’s reputation.  You cannot afford to have potential employees learn your company is a rapidly revolving door.

Take the time to get the job specifications right.  Target your outreach to connect with the types of people with the kind of skill sets and behaviors you really want; and vet and interview thoroughly.  

Offer Right-sized Salaries

Just because the marketplace is rough and tumble doesn’t mean you should expect new hires to join your team on the cheap.  Yes, many candidates have been without a job for quite a while but don’t insult them.  They’re professionals with capabilities, experience and energy that can help your business.  Show you recognize and can appreciate that with an offer that reflects what they can bring to the job as well as your view that things will get better and some investment spending in strong employees will pay off in the end.    

Show that Health Benefits Still Matter

People work for a sense of identity, self-worth and pride.  They also work to feed, clothe and house their families as well as take steps to ensure their health and well-being.  Salary covers lots of that but it’s the health benefits that generally address the rest.

All of Washington is wrestling with ways to make health insurance affordable.  As a small business owner, you, more than most, know that is no small matter.  It’s costly and complicated and, for many of your entrepreneurial colleagues, it’s meant the curtailment of health benefits if not an out and out end to such coverage.

You don’t have to say no to current or future employees when it comes to health care programs.  There are options that are extremely affordable and flexible when compared to most traditional health care programs.  They serve as very real, very important safety nets to allow people to take care of themselves and prevent minor issues from becoming catastrophic.  For example, Cinergy Health, offers limited medical benefit plans, which provide first dollar coverage for the predictable medical care people need most frequently.  And there are no participation or contribution requirements.

If you have another health plan in place and a job candidate finds it too expensive, plans from Cinergy Health offer you – the employer – an option and a way to attract a strong employee.

Leverage the Value of Training

The company that spends time improving the skills of its employees will see a return on that investment quickly.  Spending time to coach employees to perform better speaks volumes to them.  In short, it says you really care about them in doing the best job possible.

Training programs needn’t be involved or expensive.  It can be sharing a pizza over lunch and talking about ways to tackle a project or deal with a prickly customer.

Training does more than teach; it ties employees closer to the company and to one another.  It underscores the sense of team and common purpose.

Get Involved in the Community

Public service efforts, charity work, pro bono initiatives – doesn’t matter what you label it.  Doing something – anything constructive – in the community sends a loud and clear signal to current and future employees: you are a caring individual who might just be a caring boss.  Such activities also serve to build morale and motivation among those with your company.  They also act as marketing vehicles carrying word about your company to people in unexpected ways.

Employ Your Employees

The people who work for you know what kind of person will thrive in your company, what work styles and personalities fit and lots of things they might never say to your face.  Use that knowledge and insight to everyone’s advantage by enlisting your employees in the recruitment process.  Incentivize them to recommend candidates and reward them for those you hire and work out well.

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