Employee Retention – How to Get your People to Stay Longer

What traits do the highest performing small businesses have in common? Yes, you guessed, employee retention is up their with customer loyalty and cash flow management. In this article small business experts provide top tips to help you boost your employee retention.

20 Employee Retention Tips from the Experts

We reached out to a range of experts including human resource professors, management consultants, leadership coaches, and recruitment and retention specialists. We also spoke to several small business leaders to share with you what improves employee retention in their experience.

Let’s hear from the experts.



1. Delve into Development

Michelle Roccia is Executive Vice President, Employee Engagement at WinterWyman, who advise 1000’s of clients on how to find and retain the best talent. Michelle shared this excellent tip with us:

“It costs nothing to get creative about how your business stakeholders can help each other learn and develop. For example, continuing education and development is something that keeps employees excited about their jobs. Instead of sending teams away to costly off-site seminars, sponsor a series of internal ‘learning lunches’ or lectures. Invite your business leaders, customers and partners to come and speak on timely topics.”


2. Provide regular and open feedback

Alexander Lowry runs a small business inside Gordon College. His business delivers a one-year Masters in Financial Analysis, which he personally leads. Alexander’s tip is to invest time and thought into providing personal feedback. He had the following to say:

” Your question is right up my alley because budgets are very tight. I have learned over the years that employees are often most motivated by being valued and recognized for their work.

“It starts by being generous with praise. I believe in giving 5 positive feedback experiences every time I give one constructive comment.  This is because I want my team to have no doubts that I’m in their corner. I believe in praising publicly and offering constructive feedback in private.  So I will regularly share how someone in my team has gone above and beyond for me when we are both meeting with their boss. It’s awesome to see how they appreciate this. Or, if I don’t have an opportunity for that sort of meeting, I send an email and copy my team member in.  When you make your support genuine, specific and public it becomes so much more powerful.”


3. Create a Director of Happiness Role

Brian Lim is the CEO of iHeartRaves, who inspire individual creativity and expression through fashion at festivals. Brian shared this great tip from his business:

“One of the best things we have done is to created the position of Director of Happiness. We all work hard at iHeartRaves and the primary responsibility of this role is team member engagement and morale. For example, we give personalized birthday celebrations, free music festival tickets as rewards, and a team member of the month award worth $500 in gifts. We also recognize the major wins of each department at our monthly meetings followed by free lunch and games. We know that initiatives like these help to make us all happier and this improves performance, reduces staff churn and boosts our profits over time.”


4. Share Succession Plans with Key Employees

Timothy Wiedman was the Associate Professor of Management and Human Resources at Doane University until he recently retired. Timothy was kind enough to share this excellent insight with us:

“Often small business owners groom replacements for key positions. But these employees may be considering alternative opportunities because they have no knowledge of the fact that they are being considered for progression.

I would advise small business owners to consider sharing their succession plans with key employees. Through laying out a roadmap for advancement, you can show your best employees that although they can move to earn more now, they have more potential to develop long-term by staying right where they are.”


5. Be intentional

Colette Ellis is the Founder of InStep Consulting and Creator of Start Within Coaching. With a wealth of experience in business consulting and leadership coaching, Colette was kind enough to share the following expert advice:

“Creating an empowering workplace culture that employees want to be a part for the longer-term doesn’t happen by accident. You must set it as a goal for your company and impart that intention to your managers. It starts with you (the Founder or CEO) and then it flows through everyone in your business.”

“It’s also important to be open to feedback as being intentional doesn’t mean operating in a vacuum. Seek out feedback and listen openly when you receive it. Iterate and correct your intended course based on the feedback you receive.”


6. Hire Remotely says Jurgen Krammer

“At 4Four Creative we hire remotely for roles that do not have to be office based. This costs a lot less, opens up a massive pool of creative talent and has improved our employee retention. The reason our remote staff stay longer is because they get control over their own work-life balance.”

Indeed is a great place to hire staff remotely. This is because you get access to a huge pool of talent and you don’t pay recruitment fees until you make a hire. If you haven’t used Indeed before, you also get a free $50 credit to post your job on their site.


7. Give a WOW

Mike Byams is the CEO of Terryberry, who provide over 10,000 organisations with recognition program services and apps. Mike made time to share the following tip:

“A simple and inexpensive way to retain employees longer is to show them they’re valued. This doesn’t take a big investment, but it does require a commitment to consistently giving positive feedback and recognition for a job well done.”

“If you don’t have any budget to spare, you can take the 100-note challenge. Buy a pack of sticky notes and commit to write at least 2 thank-you notes each week, appreciating a staff member for something specific that made a difference. You’ll be amazed at how this improves motivation and retention. If you have a little budget to spare, consider a peer-to-peer recognition program. There are inexpensive options available in the market, like our own Give a WOW program.”


8. Read "Culture Wins"

William Vanderbloemen is the Founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. Long before it became topical, William was investing in his small business work culture. It’s paid huge dividends. So much so, Vanderbloemen Search Group has been recognised three times as Entrepreneur’s Top Business Culture. William believes that:

“It doesn’t matter what amazing benefits you offer your people, if you have an unhealthy work culture where people feel stuck and unappreciated, they won’t stay long. In fact, most people leave to get away from poor managers, not poor jobs.”

Culture wins shares William’s experience of creating an award winning work culture and how to create your own to improve employee retention and profits.


9. Use Quick Kaisen Boards

Sarah Boisvert is the Founder of Fab Lab Hub, which provides training for new collar jobs. Sarah shared the following amazing tip with us:

“Quick Kaizen Boards – Kaisen is Japanese for ‘change for the better’ – can drive continuous improvement for your business and unite your team with a common purpose at the same time. Your team brainstorm ways to improve the business with you and monitor progress via a Kaisen Board.”


Quick Kaisen Board in Use

“This could be anything from re-organizing work flow, cleaning up a store room to creating an induction program for new joiners. Anything that makes the workplace more efficient and effective. The Quick Kaizen is then posted to a common area that everyone can see.”


10. Make it personal!

Jan Bednar is CEO of Shipmonk, who provide above-and-beyond fulfilment solutions for the global economy. Jan shared a tip with us that we believe will be valuable to you:

“It’s imperative to understand your employees and what they actually want. Does one of your programmers want to spend time with her family and work from home? Consider incorporating flex time into her package. Does a lead account manager have interests in going back to school? You can build loyalty by providing tuition assistance. Tailoring the employment experience to your employees will go a long way towards retaining them.”


11. Empower Your Employees to Make Their Own Work Schedule

Ellen Grealish is a Co-Founder of Flex Professionals who connect businesses with exceptional part-time professionals.

“We are a 100% results-based company, which is why all of our employees decide WHEN, WHERE, and HOW they do their best work. They are encouraged to set a schedule that works best for them, as long as our clients are being served in a timely manner. 

“In addition, we do not track vacation or sick leave. This gives our 
trusted employees a lot of flexibility to balance work and home without 
having to feel guilty about it. In return, they are motivated to remain 
productive and loyal! As a result, we have had little to no employee churn in the last few years and truly have the most committed and hardest working team we could have hoped for.”


12. Engage Better with Freelancers

Robert McGuire is the Founder of Nation1099, a web publication for independent contractors. As an expert in the gig economy, he had the following insightful tip to share:

“Another approach small businesses can take is to be better than their competitors at recruiting and engaging self-employed, freelance talent. More than 11 percent of the workforce is full-time freelance, and this is growing fast. That means more of the talent you’re looking for is self-employed rather than working for any single employer.”

“Few companies have yet established good practices for finding,  onboarding and retaining this talent effectively. That leaves a great opportunity for nimble small businesses.”


13. Help Your Team Give Recognition to Eachother

Ginger Jones is the Founder of Jones Therapy Services, which provides speech and language therapy services to children with a delay or a disorder. From a team of one, Ginger has built her team to 70 working out of seven clinics. She had the following tip to share with us:

“We recognize our employees each month in our monthly meetings by setting up a “survey” that is called “and then some” where we send a link to all our employees and they nominate a colleague for this award that just means they went above and beyond to help others, be a team player, bring positive energy, etc. Then we read them during the meeting and give recognition to everyone who was nominated.

It is a simple way for everyone in our team to show others that we appreciate them without having to break the bank. It helps with encouragement, moral, retention and keeping eachother accountable too!”


14. Focus on Scalable Benefits

Charlie Gray is the President and Co-founder of Gray Scalable, which provides custom HR solutions for startups and growth stage businesses. Charlie shared the following insight with us based on his experience of advising early stage businesses:

“Small businesses should play to their strengths. Given they can be more flexible, it makes sense to poll employees and focus on what matters most to them. Sample policies that tend to be valued include: Flexibility in how time off is used, time for team field trips and offering coaching services for managers.”

“However, it’s important to think hard about how each of your employee benefits scale. Why? Because it’s a lot more fun to expand a policy (free lunch once a month!) than to cut it down (no more daily free lunch!)”


15. Set Reasonable Expectations for a Working Day

Ashley Hunter is the Managing Director of HM Risk Group, who provide niche underwriting facilities for emerging industries worldwide. Ashley has an amazing way to drive consistently good work performance and employee retention at the same time:

“It’s true, I am not able to afford the salaries that my larger competitors are able to afford. But in lieu of higher salaries, we offer a range of benefits like a monthly car-share allowance, an allowance for memberships and flexible working. However, the fact that we expect our employees to work no more than 40-hours a week is probably the policy that most clearly demonstrates our commitment to being a responsible employer that understands its people’s needs.”


16. Grow Leadership Skills without Spending a Dime

Halelly Azulay is an experienced facilitator, speaker and leadership development strategist. Halelly made time to share some of her expertise with us:

“One of the main reasons people change jobs is to get away from a bad manager. So it makes sense to invest in line-management training. Better line-managers equals more engaged employees. So to better retain good employees, small businesses need to give managers opportunities to develop their leadership skills rather than just use the ‘sink-or-swim’ approach.”

“There are lots of ways to grow leadership skills without spending a dime, such as using a volunteering role outside the company to grow leadership skills, pairing up with a mentor, or even serving as a mentor before they’re promoted so that they can hone their leadership skills and be more ready for the promotion.”


17. Organise Volunteering Days

Tyler Butler is the Founder and Principal of 11Consulting, a boutique corporate social responsibility (CSR) consulting firm focused on aiding companies that care. Talking from experience, Tyler was kind enough to share the following tip with us:

“A great way to engage employees and serve the community is through volunteering. By creating volunteer days your employees are given a chance to connect with one another (and you) in a less formal setting. The natural high that people feel when helping others is a real emotion and that emotion is transferred, at least in some part, to how they feel about who they work for. By organizing volunteer opportunities you can get to know your team better, do some good together and grow their loyalty for your business.”


18. Inspire Your People By Trusting Them

Karolyn Hart is the COO at InspireHUB, which is a simple way to engage with all of the business communication tools you love from one easy-to-use hub app. Karolyn shared how increased autonomy improved InspireHUB’s performance and employee retention:

“Sure, in the early days of our startup with limited resources we had no choice but to get creative. We asked our team what would motivate them most besides a raise. Their answer? Time! So we began rewarding outcomes with time off. Eventually, that morphed into unlimited vacation. What we hadn’t anticipated was the spike in productivity. When our team was provided with autonomy it transformed our culture. In fact, we had to implement minimum vacations as people weren’t taking them.”


19. Create a Truly Collaborative Work Culture

Goerge Schildge is CEO of Matrix Marketing Group, who are a performance driven digital marketing agency.

George kindly shared with us a recent employee survey from Korn Ferry. The survey highlights that the main reason people will be making a move in 2018 is because of a lack of challenge or because they feel bored. Only 19% move to get a raise. George was also kind enough to share the following valuable tip:

 “Our solution to a lack of challenge is to create a work culture of collaboration, where all of our people feel that they can speak their mind. Employees should never be afraid to suggest improvements or put forward new, innovative ideas. When they feel like more than just a cog in the machine, it’s amazing how the office atmosphere shifts from being a stiff, cold environment to a buzzing, welcoming workplace where good things happen.”

20. Inspire and Challenge to Make Work Meaningful

Cheri Torres is a leadership coach and business consultant for Innovation Partners, which helps individuals, groups, organizations, networks and communities to ignite and implement positive change and transformation. Cheri shared the importance of being both inspirational and challenging:

“Get your team engaged in the mission of your business beyond just doing their job. To do this you have to inspire them through conversation. Frame conversations to focus on what you want to happen, ask for their ideas and perspectives, invite creativity and innovate together. Notice individual strengths and invite your employees to work on things that use their strengths and passions to the full.  Challenge them to learn, take thoughtful risks, and acknowledge people who help them reach their goals. Make work meaningful and people will stay.”

The Juice Press

This article shared a range of great expert tips on how to maximise employee retention to drive the success of your business. If you have any tips of your own, please share them below in the comments section.