Five steps to keep your staff from walking out the door

The first Monday in February has become synonymous with non-attendance across the UK, with an estimated 350,000 British workers failing to turn up to work this time last year.

And while many of these were no doubt authentic cases of seasonal bugs, others were disingenuous. According to a poll by The Fine Bedding Company 69% of UK workers are tempted to ‘pull a sickie’ on the first Monday of the month. And while the poll suggests many workers took the day off to simply relax at home (in bed, of course), there’s other research suggesting a large number of employees used the time to attend job interviews.

So if one (or more) of your staff didn’t turn up on Monday, should you be worried that you’re about to lose them? Only you know your staff and unless there’s an existing HR issue there, it’s best to give them the benefit of the doubt that they were genuinely sick. But the issue of itchy feet is still worthy of attention.

After all, when your workforce is small, a single unexpected loss can have a big impact; from low morale and an increased workload for the rest of the team, to lost productivity, as well as the cost of replacing that person quickly.

Some sectors, such as hospitality and retail, are used to coping with a higher staff turnover due to seasonal spikes and a transient workforce (students, for example), but it’s a fact of life that no matter what sector you operate in, employees are unlikely to stay forever. People relocate, their situations change and so do their ambitions. Small businesses can be particularly vulnerable to this issue as it’s difficult to compete with the salaries or benefits packages offered by big corporates – though working for an independent employer has its own perks.

What can you do to keep your business from being a training ground for corporate jobs and encourage staff to stay?

  • Step one: Hire the right people

    • It all starts with a good hire. Early appointments can seem daunting, especially your first few staff members, and it’s no wonder when they are so crucial. There’s a lot to be said for hiring people who have a passion for your sector, business or product – if it’s more than just a paycheck to them, they’re more likely to stick around. It’s important that you try and build a positive culture within your business, and having staff who are enthusiastic is a great first step.
  • Step two: Offer autonomy

    • Small businesses are in a unique position to show staff they’re so much more than a cog in a wheel. Giving people a say in the company’s direction is a real benefit and can help staff feel in control of their future.
    • Your employees have a huge impact on your business, so make them feel important and involve them in whatever decisions you can. The more invested and involved they feel, the more engaged they will be.
    • As a small business owner, you have the benefit of being in charge, while still being close to your customers. But your employees’ observations can be even more valuable as they also have objectivity – it might surprise you how much they know about your business. Show them that they are being listened to and that their ideas make a difference.
  • Step three: Help them grow

    • Training opportunities can help staff feel supported. Prove that their growth is important to you.
    • Training also gives your staff a reason to stick around, and if you set long-term goals and objectives, it signals to them that you are willing to invest in their future. In addition to sector specific training, more general training on topics such as IT and customer service can easily be found online. It’s a good idea to set aside budget for training – even if that just means allocating time for you to plan and deliver something yourself.
  • Step four: Set your expectations

    • Lead by example but remember, your employees won’t have the personal investment in your business that you do. You need to give them a reason to go the extra mile, beyond their wages each month. Being nice goes a long way but it takes more than that to get people truly motivated.
  • Step five: Reward hard work

    • Make sure that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. In such a small team, recognition really matters. Sometimes all it takes is a thank you, though sometimes something a little more tangible like gift vouchers, taking the team out for a meal or drink, or a day off can motivate employees to perform well.
    • If you want loyalty from your staff, you must give it back. Respect their individual needs and do what you can to support them. If appropriate to your business, try and offer as much flexibility as you can in terms of remote working or flexi-time.

Ultimately, people will come and go from your business. All you can do is support and reward them and provide an enjoyable place to work for as long as they stay with you. You’ll soon see the benefits in productivity as well as loyalty.


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