How Small Businesses Can Retain Top Talent


In a small business, good staff are an immeasurably valuable asset. Having a team of quick-thinking, enthusiastic and talented individuals can be the difference between a successful business and one that struggles to get by. Staff also represent the lion’s share of day-to-day running costs, and if a member of staff happens to leave, it can cost (according to Society of Human Resource Management) the equivalent of eight months salary to replace them.

But small businesses can also face some unique challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent. Firstly, while they are usually able to offer the industry standard, many simply can’t afford to tempt in potential employees with generous salaries – something that larger companies sometimes offer to nab the most capable candidates. Secondly, it can be difficult to compete in perks, such as extended holiday or in-house canteens and gyms.

However, it isn’t all bad news. There are some particular advantages to working in a small organization that can help small businesses entice and keep hold of skilled employees – owners just need to know how to play to their strengths.

Good management is key
A study by Gallup found that 50% of employees who leave their job roles cite their boss as a major reason for the move. This is somewhere that, as a small business owner, you can have far more control than those in a big company. Large businesses often have many tiers of management, and any problems in management culture quickly become embedded and difficult to change. Small businesses, on the other hand, are far more adaptable and it’s easier to create great communication between the whole organization.

Being a good boss isn’t necessarily easy, but it really is worth working on your leadership skills constantly and keeping any management team you have well-trained. Listening to others, showing empathy, keeping your temper when you are feeling stressed are all going to contribute to a relaxed atmosphere at work. 

Create an attractive working environment
Often, it isn’t the amount of money a company has spent on high-spec offices or employee Segways that make somewhere a great place to work – it’s the more allusive assets such as a friendly atmosphere, engaging workload and a low-stress but productive environment. Fostering a great company culture isn’t something that takes lots of cash, but something that the attitude and ideas business owners impart when they are crafting their organization. 

Having a clear care for the wellbeing of your staff will greatly improve your chances of making a good impression to potential employees, and keep them working for you for years to come. Some important things to remember when thinking about staff wellbeing are: 

  • Never overload a member of staff with work, even if they are the most able to get it done quickly and to a good standard. By picking out your best employee and piling them with extra, unpaid, responsibilities, you risk losing them to stress and burnout – as well as appearing to take advantage of their conscientious nature. No one wants to feel they are completing double the workload than their peers – it’s simply a punishment for high employee engagement. 
  • Be open to the ideas, input and sometimes even constructive criticism of your employees. Many business owners are so busy they can sometimes miss the obvious solution, or be completely unaware of when a valued team member is struggling (perhaps due to outside pressures). Your staff need to feel they can approach you and their problems will be resolved. For example, if they are feeling the strain of having to care for an unwell relative, you may offer flexible working hours. 

Show your appreciation, and share your goals
If you have an employee (or employees) who always go the extra mile, and whose work regularly exceeds your expectations, make sure they are aware of your appreciation. Many of us simply want to be recognized when we have worked hard, so while you don’t want to annoy your other staff through apparent favoritism, ensuring that good staff know that they play a key and applauded role in your organization can make a big difference. 

It is also important that great staff know they always have a future in your organization. Let them know your goals and ambitions for the business, and how they are involved as a meaningful part of that – including how you see their role developing as time goes on. Talented employees will always have options elsewhere, but by showing how their goals align with yours, you can build a great business together. 

This post was written by Holly Ashby, social media manager and writer. She works with Will Williams Meditation, a center that teaches Vedic meditation in London. They help companies implement corporate wellbeing programs with the benefits of meditation.