Employee Retention Strategies for SMEs

Employee Retention Strategies for SMEs

How can busy SME owners ensure they're doing everything they can to retain valued staff? Jade Jordan of Maxmillion shares five strategies to boost employee morale and retention rates.

By Jade Jordan

The number of people in employment in the UK has hit a record high and wage growth is at its greatest for 10 years. As a result, candidates have more power than ever. They can be more selective about accepting job offers, which leaves many businesses struggling to fill vacancies. The knock-on effect of this also means that your valuable employees just became even more valuable.

Why do employees leave?

A 2018 study by Total Jobs revealed that 68% of employees have changed jobs due to lack of learning and development opportunities. It's also evident from the study that maintaining a healthy work / life balance is crucial for employees. 

Overall, this study suggests that many UK business owners simply don’t feel they have the time to invest in supporting their employees. If you run an SME, company culture and staff retention can seem like low priorities. It’s likely that you can’t afford the tools to offer a comprehensive employee benefit scheme. However, there are many cost-effective ways to retain your employees, as we explore below. 

1. Career development

In order to ensure your employees have the opportunity to develop, you need to give them time to do it. A good benchmark to aim for is to allocate 15 hours a month for employees to purely focus on their development. This can be split into three five-hour blocks, or five three-hour blocks, or just two whole working days. Go for whatever suits your business and staff best. Development could include listening to Ted Talks or podcasts covering topics of interest, learning a new skill through an online course, or even through holding workshops run by different departments on specialist topics each week. 

It's also important that you work with your staff to create a personal development plan so that the time is spent effectively. Aligning these personal goals to your business goals is advantageous. Ensure that your employees have the support and tools they need to develop, even if this means getting external help or training. Offering career training and development would keep many of your ambitious employees from leaving their current position. 

2. Flexibility

It's common knowledge that flexible working can foster employee engagement and boost loyalty. In fact, a recent Deloitte study on millennials revealed highly flexible working arrangements enhance employee loyalty. Not only do millennials appreciate not being tied to strict hours or locations, they also value the trust their employers demonstrate in granting that flexibility. As many as 55% of those taking part in the study say there is now more flexibility in where and when they work compared to three years ago, which means that as the years go on, flexible working may well become the norm. 

If you want to implement flexible working within your SME, there are many ways you can go about doing this, such as offering flexi-time, allowing your employees to work remotely once a week, or even offering more holiday allowance. The key is to show that you are accommodating whilst ensuring that your organisation is equipped to handle the change.

3. The management team

One single manager’s behaviour will affect a whole team of people - it’s as simple as that. Ensuring your management can effectively communicate, motivate and lead their teams will result in a positive knock-on effect to multiple employees. It's also important to plan regular internal or external training so that team leaders practice a management style that best serves their team and the business overall. 

4. Wellbeing

Mental health and wellbeing have become an important focus for employers since it was revealed that the cost of a single unhappy employee per year is £16,000. Employees can often experience mental health problems if they are overworked, not getting enough personal time, or if they are experiencing high stress levels at work.

It’s important to check in on your employees to ensure both their work and personal lives are not affecting their mental health. Many employers offer yoga and meditation workshops to help encourage wellness within their organisation. Flexible working times and working from home can also help employees through limiting stress. 

5. The complete package

In addition to the above, it may be worth considering adding some extra perks to the benefits package as your business grows. This is crucial to achieving long-term employee retention, as your long-standing employees will see that you're actively adding more benefits to the roster as years go on. 

Benefits that you may consider:

Overall, employee retention is not only good for your business and its growth - it’s also good for employee growth and success. Looking after your employees and doing your best to retain them is an effective way to safeguard productivity, cost, growth and the overall stability of your business.

As a result, you’ll have happy employees that actually enjoy working for you and your company. This will mean that you've built a loyal workforce who are invested in your business. 

About the Author

Jade Jordan works for Maximillion, a team-building and events management business with over 25 years of experience. Responsible for boosting morale and motivation in over 5000 corporate events, they’ve learnt a thing or two about how to achieve happy employees.