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How to find and keep your best employees – and surefire ways to lose them

·5 min read

I saw a shocking statistic the other day: one-third of millennials plan to quit their job once the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an issue. That’s a lot of workers who’ll be job hunting. Some may be employees in your small business. How can you retain your best employees? And, as importantly, is this an opportunity for you to attract some really great new hires?

According to Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey conducted in March, 2021, one-quarter of all workers say they’re planning to find a new job when things return to normalcy. But for those 25-40, the number of those planning to switch positions is much higher: a whopping 34%.

All this while America is in the midst of a major labor shortage. Every employer I know is short-staffed and having a hard time finding people – whether in retail, restaurant, tech, manufacturing, professional services, you name it. That means employees know they are in demand – and they’re demanding that more of their needs are met.

► Fast-food companies up pay: Wages rose 10% as restaurants struggle to hire and retain workers, report says

► Shutdown: Three Chick-fil-A restaurants close indoor dining amid worker shortages

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

Work/life balance. The No. 1 reason workers want to leave their current jobs is to get a better work/life balance. Many small business owners – who work tirelessly on their businesses – just don’t get this.

Last week, I heard of a boss in a professional services firm who was desperate for more workers, making the rest of her employees work 60-75 hours a week. She didn’t see the problem since she worked more hours than that herself. But these workers are at home – with partners, parents, roommates – telling them that their work hours are nuts. If you want to lose your staff, overwork them, call them late at night or on weekends. If not, respect their time boundaries.

Remote work. Eighty-seven percent of workers surveyed want to work remotely at least one day a week. Many want more days or permanent remote work. Realistically, accommodating remote workers is often challenging for small businesses that have few employees to cover the office, to meet with clients, to produce goods and services. But if you can find ways to allow some remote work, that is considered an important job benefit today.

► 'The DNA of work has changed': Many Americans want to keep working from home after the COVID-19 crisis passes

Flexibility. In a world where COVID-19 is still raging, child care is going to be a continuing issue for employees with children. Even if their schools or child care centers are open, it’s likely there will be flare-ups requiring children to stay home on short notice. As an employer, recognize that you’ll be dealing with last-minute changes in work schedules.

► Child care shortage: Day care centers are struggling to retain workers

Enough hours and predictable hours. Over the last few months, I’ve heard many small businesses – especially in service and hospitality businesses – complain that they’ve raised wages but still can’t find people to hire.

But many of these business owners have not given workers what they want and really need: full-time jobs with predictable hours. These industries are notorious for giving employees fewer hours than would entitle them to benefits or predictable hours so they can arrange child care, get a second job, or go back to school.

Opportunity for advancement. Moving up is always hard in a small company, but employees – especially your best employees – are always looking to improve themselves. Moving up doesn’t just mean raises, it means having new challenges, greater authority and responsibility, and learning new skills. Find ways to enable your best employees to help you grow your business rather than lose them.

► Report: Temp workers struggle in a 'two-tiered workforce with a permanent underclass'

A safe workplace. COVID-19 is again surging, and the Fall and Winter months are likely to see an even greater increase in illness, hospitalizations and death. Many employees have young children or immunocompromised relatives at home, and being exposed toCOVID-19 in the workplace is a genuine concern. The No. 1. thing workers cited that employers could do to make them more comfortable coming back into the office was to ensure that all workers are vaccinated. If you don’t want to require vaccinations, employers can ensure that all unvaccinated staff properly wear masks indoors at all times and have weekly COVID-19 tests.

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

► No vaccination? Americans back tough rules, mask mandates to protect the common good

Communication and company culture. Employees who are most likely to change jobs gave their current employer a “C” grade or lower when it came to maintaining company culture during the pandemic. Corporate culture was critical before COVID-19 and it’s even more important now when employees working remotely don’t interact with the boss and co-workers, don’t have company birthday get-togethers in the break room, or go out for drinks after work.

Competitive compensation. Right now, remember, your employees have lots of choices for jobs. If they’re a professional, they’re likely being “headhunted” on LinkedIn right now. Pay isn’t the only criteria by any means, but it’s the easiest way for a worker to see how much they are valued and to compare positions. Don’t just offer hiring bonuses or other bonuses – give more permanent pay and benefits.

What do you do in your small business to attract and/or retain employees? I’d love to hear from you. Just connect with me on Facebook www.facebook.com/MeetRhonda or Twitter @RhondaAbrams.

Rhonda Abrams is a small-business expert and a “Top 30 Global Guru” for startups. Her book "Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies" was named one of the 100 best business strategy books of all time. Connect with Rhonda at facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness; Instagram and Twitter @RhondaAbrams. Register for Rhonda’s free small business newsletter at www.RhondaAbrams.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Small business: How to find and retain employees