How to Find and Retain Your Best Employees – and surefire ways to lose them

The other day I saw a shocking statistic: a third of millennials plan to quit their jobs as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an issue. That’s a lot of workers who are looking for a job. Some may be employees in your small business. How can you keep your best employees? More importantly, is this an opportunity for you to bring on some really great new hires?

According to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, conducted in March 2021, a quarter of all workers say they plan to find a new job when things return to normal. But among those 25-40, the number of those planning a change of position is much higher: a whopping 34%.

All of this while America is in the midst of a great labor shortage. Every employer I know has staff shortages and it is difficult to find people – whether in retail, in gastronomy, in technology, in manufacturing, in professional services, whatever. That means employees know they are in demand – and are demanding that more of their needs be met.

► Fast food companies pay more: Wages rose 10% as restaurants struggled to hire and retain staff, the report said

► Shut down: Three Chick-fil-A restaurants are closing indoor restaurants due to labor shortages

What can you do, what can you offer to attract and retain your most valuable employees?

Work-life balance. The main reason employees want to leave their current job is to improve work-life balance. Many small business owners – who work tirelessly on their business – just don’t get this.

Last week I heard about a female boss at a professional services company who was desperately looking for more workers and leaving the rest of her employees to work 60-75 hours a week. She did not see the problem as she worked more hours herself. But these workers are at home – with partners, parents, roommates – telling them their work hours are insane. If you want to lose your co-workers, overwork them, call them late at night or on the weekend. If not, respect their time limits.

Home work. 77 percent of the employees surveyed would like to work remotely at least one day a week. Many would like more days or permanent remote work. Realistically, housing remote workers is often a challenge for small businesses that have few employees covering the office, meeting customers, producing goods and services. However, if you can find ways to enable remote working, it is now considered a major job asset.

► “The DNA of work has changed”: Many Americans want to continue working from home after the COVID-19 crisis

Flexibility. In a world where COVID-19 is still raging, childcare for employees with children will be an ongoing issue. Even if their schools or daycare centers are open, children are likely to have to stay at home on short notice. As an employer, you need to be aware that you will be faced with short-term changes in work schedules.

► Lack of supervision: Daycare centers struggle to retain staff

Enough hours and predictable hours. Over the past few months, I’ve heard a lot of small businesses – especially in the service and hospitality sectors – complain that they have raised wages but are still unable to find employees.

But many of these entrepreneurs have not given their workers what they want and really need: full-time jobs with predictable working hours. These industries are notorious for giving their employees fewer hours than they would be entitled to social benefits or predictable hours to organize childcare, get a second job, or go back to school.

Opportunity for further development. Moving up is always difficult in a small business, but employees – especially your best employees – are always looking for improvement. Moving up means not only a raise, but also new challenges, more authority and responsibility, and learning new skills. Find ways in which you can help your best employees grow your business instead of losing them.

► Report: Temporary workers fight in a “two-tier workforce with a permanent lower class”

A secure job. COVID-19 is on the rise again, and the fall and winter months are likely to see an even bigger spike in illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. Many employees have young children or immunocompromised relatives at home, and exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace is a real problem. The number one thing workers cited that employers could do to make it more comfortable for them to return to the office was to make sure all workers are vaccinated. If you don’t want to require vaccinations, employers can ensure that all unvaccinated indoor employees are properly wearing masks and having weekly COVID-19 tests at all times.

► Ask HR: Can I ask my employer to order COVID-19 vaccinations?

► No vaccination? Americans support strict rules, mask requirements to protect the common good

Communication and corporate culture. Employees most likely to change jobs gave their current employer a “C” or lower rating for maintaining the company culture during the pandemic. Corporate culture was crucial before COVID-19 and is now even more important when employees who work remotely don’t interact with the boss and coworkers, don’t have company birthday meetings in the break room, or go for a drink after work.

Competitive compensation. Remember, your employees have many opportunities for jobs right now. If you are a pro, you are likely being “searched” on LinkedIn. Pay is by no means the only criterion, but it is the easiest way for a worker to see his appreciation and compare positions. Don’t just offer hiring or other bonuses – offer more permanent pay and benefits.

What do you do in your small business to attract and / or retain employees? I would like to hear from you. Just connect with me on Facebook or Twitter @RhondaAbrams.