Small Business Strategies: Recruiting and retaining talented employees when you can’t pay big salaries

 Millennial in copyroomAs a growing small business, you may want to keep your payroll costs as minimal as possible.  But to build your company, you’re probably going to need employees. Talented employees, experienced employees, people who are excited about working for your company. So how are you supposed to do that, if you can’t offer huge salaries? Fortunately, there are lots of folks out there who are more interested in quality of life than making top dollar. Here are six ways to help recruit and retain them:

1. Offer flexibility: Let people set their own hours to avoid traffic or pick up their kids from school. Offer to let them work from home a few days a week. Give them as many options as you can for tailoring their workweek to the demands of their lives. This can be the trump card for securing top-rate experience, not to mention loyalty to your company. At Tribe, I was able to hire a fantastic agency accountant for a very reasonable salary by letting her work a 30-hour week. That way she and her husband could arrange their schedules so that they didn’t have to put their young son in daycare.

2. Be willing to make life-balance a priority. Younger employees (read: cheap labor) consider balance a birthright. If you fill your ranks with Millennials or Gen Xers, they’ll be expecting ways to balance their work with the rest of their lives. While a Boomer might be happy to grab a sandwich and eat as his or her desk, the younger crowd will be spending lunch at a 90-minute yoga class, or heading over to the kids’ school to read a story to the class. Be proactive about accommodating that, and you’ll stay a few steps ahead of the big corporate employers.

3. Make the office a nice place to be: A pleasant work environment goes a long way towards making employees happy to be there. Improve yours with anything from a weekly bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen to having a feng shui consultant fine tune everyone’s workspace.

4. Model healthy work relationships: No one likes to work with jerks, so don’t be one. Demonstrate for your people how you deal with disagreement, with failed efforts, with missed communications. And don’t let your employees play you; whenever possible, nip politics in the bud.

5. Be liberal with vacations, holidays and personal days: You already know most people perform better if they get a break once in awhile. The last thing you want is for your star employees to burn out. Give people an extra week of vacation when they hit three years of service. Give everyone their birthday as a freebie day off. Close the office the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Consider summer hours, with an early closing on Fridays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. You won’t believe how much this means to people.

6. Don’t underestimate the little things: Small gestures towards making your employees lives better count for a lot. Invest in decent coffee for the break room. Bring in bagels on Monday morning. Pass around bottles of beer on a Friday afternoon. Let them bring their kids to work once in awhile. Or their dogs.

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