How can I retain good employees?

Q: As a small business owner, how can I retain good employees? What are the most important benefits employees look for in an employer like me?

Holding on to talent is always a challenge, especially when unemployment figures are low. Of course, pay, good insurance and a 401k plan are all components of keeping employees happy. However, it has been proven time and again that these are not the most important factors in retaining employees. Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics fame says it best, “There are two things people want more than sex and money, and that is recognition and praise.”

Recognition and praise come in various forms and you must listen and be creative to figure out how to show your employees your appreciation. Mark Naster, of Naster Consulting Group, spoke at a seminar and advised all in attendance to follow the silver rule, not the golden rule when managing employees. We all know the golden rule — “Treat others as you want to be treated.” The silver rule says, “Treat others as they want to be treated.” In most instances, if you have five different employees, they probably have five different ways they would like to be treated.

The trick is to be flexible enough in your rewards and recognition to make everyone happy. Remember that expectations in the workplace vary greatly depending on age and circumstances. For example, a working mom may prefer to be rewarded with time off while a single male would prefer tickets to a football game. A good insurance package might be the most important benefit you could give someone who has a family member in poor health.

Consider the key events that shaped the lives of different generations.

The perspective of the Greatest Generation was deeply defined by the Depression, world wars, the Cold War, international and economic uncertainty. Their key values and beliefs are discipline, sacrifice and being a team member. The perspective of the Baby Boomer generation was defined by the space race, political unrest of the 60s, the Vietnam War, Civil Rights and unparalleled economic prosperity. Generation X is a relatively small generation shaped by high divorce rates, technology changes, AIDS but very few major world events. Generation Y or Millennials, born in the 1980s and afterward, have been shaped by prosperity, 9/11, rapid technology shifts, the greatest recession in nearly a century and long, divisive wars — an uneasy mixture. This generation is expected to change jobs frequently.

Having some insight into the belief system of each generation represented in the workforce today can go a long way.

Listen to your employees’ wants and needs. If you are responsive to their individual needs, they will think twice before they venture elsewhere.

For help exploring your business ideas, contact a business development specialist at a Small Business & Technology Development Center. Visit our calendar of events for a listing of business training events in Missouri.

– BDP staff