5 Ways to Attract and Keep Employees

Although small businesses represent the majority of employers in Canada it can be hard to draw in and retain the talent you deserve. Thankfully, there are a few easy things you can do to feel ‘big’ to bring in and keep the top-notch talent in your industry.

1. Formalize

Employees coming from large organizations to small business may become irritated by a lack of structure and formalized policies. I know I did. For many small businesses, would-be policies that describe “the way we do things here” are not written down, but contained in the head of a long-time employee or the business owner. Formalizing these practices into policies contributes to a sense of structure and security for employees, meaning less turnover and higher job satisfaction.

When looking to formalize, think about:

  • Job descriptions (Who does what? What are each position’s responsibilities?)
  • Training/onboarding (How are employees welcomed and/or trained?)
  • Optional an employee handbook (What are the general practices and expectations of the business?)

2. Streamline

Once policies are in place, look to streamline procedures. In the small business I worked for, for example, there wasn’t an office-wide procedure for employee expenses. A lack of process meant no one knew when expenses were due, leading to long payout times and lots of frustration. With your policies now in hand, sit down and think about how you want things to run.

Consider streamlining:

  • Time off requests/vacation
  • Employee expense approval and payout
  • Project invoicing
  • Paying receivables

3. Connect

This is where small businesses have the edge – employees are generally better connected with and closer to (literally or figuratively) their supervisors in smaller organizations. Take advantage of this proximity by conducting regular check-ins (monthly works well) with staff to gauge workload and satisfaction. A note of caution here: regular check-ins must have a purpose. Rather than using check-ins to speak with employees about “how things are going”, meet regularly with the aim of checking on skill development, job progression or career goals.

4. Separate

In a small business every employee wears many hats and may work longer hours as a result. In my experience, I found myself checking emails at all hours of the evening and weekend, which was positively demonstrating my commitment to the business but was negatively affecting my quality of life. So, it becomes important to define working hours, as well as phone and email checking times to allow employees to enjoy work-life balance (your employee handbook would be a great place for this information).

Questions to consider:

  • What are your standard operating hours?
  • What are your expectations around overtime?
  • When are employees expected to be monitoring emails/phone calls?

5. Celebrate

Finally, don’t forget to reward small victories. Large companies often have the luxury of deep pockets to allow for birthday parties or other celebrations. But small businesses can celebrate too! Even a small celebration budget can allow employees to feel valued and appreciated. Celebrate what matters to you and your business – whether that is achieving sales targets, revenue goals or simply getting to Friday!

With these five methods in mind, employees will feel the safety and security offered by large companies while enjoying the many benefits and rewards of working for a small business.