Employees of small businesses are often asked to go way beyond the call of duty, most often without the benefit of a large paycheck. Fortunately, there are many low-cost ways small business owners can keep their employees happy. If you make an effort to truly get to know your employees, you will be able to build strong relationships with them—and they, in turn, will be willing to go the extra mile for you. Here are seven sure-fire ways small business owners can build employee loyalty:
- Provide much-deserved time off. There are many ways to give your staff a little break without slowing the business down. Give them Friday afternoons off in the summer. Or give them either the day before or the day after their vacation to relieve the stress that always accompanies returning to work. Also consider setting up a compressed work week so that people get time off at the end of the week. You'll help them ward off burnout, and after a little break, they'll be ready to get back to work and do a great job for you.
- Provide bonuses at critical times. Presumably, you work closely with your employees and know a lot about their lives outside of work. Act on this knowledge in ways that benefit them exactly when they need it most. If one of your employees has a new baby or a sick spouse or child, a bonus will help ease their financial burden. He or she will appreciate your concern for the family's well being.
- Be flexible. Your employees work hard to make your business the best. The least you can do is be flexible when they have to take unexpected time off. If an employee is having a personal problem, help him create a work schedule that allows him to solve his problems without worrying about job security. If your employees have children or are taking care of their parents, you may want to consider providing childcare or eldercare assistance. Some employees might be interested in telecommuting at least part of the time or working flexible schedules. If your business can operate this way, talk with your employees to see if you can accommodate their needs.
- Be sensitive to employee strengths and weaknesses. Carefully evaluate where your employees do their best work. Keep the lines of communication open. If an employee expresses an interest in training for a different job, by all means get her trained! If your employees feel passionate about their jobs, they'll want to do their best for your business.
- Help employees better themselves (and in turn improve your business). Pay for employees to take classes, both those that will directly improve their job skills or just on a topic that interests them—even if it is unrelated to their current position. In addition, provide discounts on health club memberships or enroll in a business-wide wellness program that everyone (including you) will take part in. Your employees will appreciate your concern for their health and your healthy employees will save you money on health care costs. It's a win-win for everyone.
- Help employees leave if the job isn't the right job for them. Working in a small business isn't for everyone. If you notice that one of your employees is struggling in the environment or simply isn't happy, talk with her about whether or not your business is the right place for her. If you both decide that it isn't, help her find a more suitable job. How does helping an employee leave build loyalty? The exiting employee will spread the word about what a great boss you are. Plus, your other employees will see that you are a caring and understanding employer, even when someone is ready to move on. Seeing how well you treat your people, even those on their way out, will make others think twice about leaving—believe me, not all employers are so gracious!
- Create a sense of ownership. I like to use what I call “A stock” and “B stock." Here's how it works: A stock is voting stock and B stock is nonvoting stock. The B stock is distributed among my employees and me, while I keep all of the voting stock. While the employees have no final vote in what happens with the company, they still receive all of the benefits of owning stock. This helps me create employees who feel like partial owners of the company, which makes them work harder and take more pride in what they do.
All of the perks in the world won't mean anything unless you show your employees the respect they deserve. Frequently ask them what they think about various areas of the business. And whenever possible, implement their ideas and suggestions; there is no more powerful way to say “I value you.”
Your employees are your greatest asset. Anything you can do to ensure that they stick with you is well worth the effort. You don't have to break the bank to show them a little extra appreciation. The loyalty these actions build between you, your employees, and your business will be priceless.