With very few exceptions, running a successful business means having employees. Employees are the backbone of any business, no matter the industry and no matter the size. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of finding the right employees for your business, how do you keep them?
How do you know what your employees need in order to keep them showing up every day, ready to work? There’s one very simple way to find out—ask them.
Foster an attitude of open communication between you and your employees. If you have managers, make sure that they are encouraging communication with those they supervise. Conduct “stay” interviews with employees, and find out the things that keep your employees coming back every day. Ask things like, Why do you like working here? What can we improve for you? Both new and established employees can help you pinpoint problems.
If you’re worried about not getting truthful answers or employees telling you what they think you want to hear, ask them to fill out an anonymous survey, which allows them to share their suggestions without fear of repercussions.
The second part of asking your employees for feedback is to show that you’ve heard them. Take action to prove that you’ve heard and understood the challenges facing your employees. According to the Wrike Employee Engagement Survey, only 59% of the 5000+ survey participants said their company conducted regular engagement surveys. Of that 59%, only half felt that their company acted on employee feedback.
Did your employees ask for more flexible work schedules? See if there are ways to allow employees to work from home. Are your hourly employees struggling to juggle their schedules? Work to keep their hours more consistent.
Is there a manager who is hurting your employees’ ability to do their best work? Have a difficult conversation, and find ways to solve the problem. Are there repetitive tasks in your employees’ days that could be automated? Are they struggling to work with outdated software or tools? Time spent struggling with outdated tools is time that isn’t being spent building your business.
Find ways to recognize the hard work of your employees. Take time during staff meetings to recognize successes both big and small on your team. If you don’t already, train yourself and your managers to verbally thank and congratulate employees for the success of the company.
Don’t forget the power of peer-to-peer recognition. For example, JetBlue has implemented a peer-recognition program allowing employees to nominate one another for either everyday excellence or for an extraordinary case of going above and beyond. Nominated employees receive recognition in an internal newsfeed and earn credits that can be redeemed for rewards of their choice ranging from dinner to cruises. While that program may be beyond the reach of most small businesses, the idea of peer nomination, internal recognition, and employee-chosen rewards is not.
If you want employees to invest in your company, lead by example and invest in them first. Promote from within whenever possible. At the very least, offer employees the chance at advancement before turning to outside sources. Take a look at who you promote and why—imagine you are accountable to someone outside your business and make sure you can justify your decision.
Prove to your employees that you see their hard work and are willing to invest in their long-term growth by offering career development opportunities. Whether you hold these in-house, pay for an employee to attend a conference in your industry, or offer tuition help for those pursuing a degree, showing that your business is invested financially fosters employee loyalty and retention.
Look at any calendar—you’ll notice that almost every month has a reason to celebrate. It’s human nature to look for reasons to celebrate, and the business world is no different. Find ways to celebrate both big and small milestones. Celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, making it to the end of a hard week, the first day of spring, Earth Day, the leaves changing in the fall, landing a new account. Whatever the reason to celebrate, include every employee possible and lead by example.
Celebrations give employees something to look forward to, whether it is a company-wide celebration or an individual accomplishment. Anniversaries are a perfect time to celebrate the loyalty of your employees, so mark the occasion in a way that fits your business’s personality and budget. A gift card to a local coffee shop or restaurant, a bottle of wine, or an additional paid day off are low-cost ways to celebrate your employees. Even if it’s just a hand-written card, a little appreciation can go a long way.
Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.