Every entrepreneur knows the hectic lifestyle that comes along with starting and running a company. But this work schedule affects employees. They don’t enjoy the long hours or the days and nights they must unexpectedly come into the office to handle emergencies. If too many such days come and go without any acknowledgement from employers, they’ll be handing out their resumes all over town. And since employees can make or break a business, it’s imperative to keep the best ones.
“Employees of small businesses are often asked to go way beyond the call of duty,” says Freyvogel, founder of MakingSenseOfYourBusiness.com, a new Web site with business advice for entrepreneurs. “And they usually do it without receiving huge paychecks. But not being able to pay hefty salaries doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a million other ways to create happy, loyal employees.”
Freyvogel provides 12 ways to keep overworked and (perhaps) underpaid employees loyal:
Provide them with much-deserved time off. Time off doesn’t have to translate to the business being understaffed for the day. There are all kinds of ways to give your staff a little break without slowing the business down. Give them Friday afternoons off in the summer. Or give them either the day before or the day after their vacation off to relieve the stress that always accompanies taking off work.
Give them bonuses at critical times. Presumably, you work closely with your employees and know a lot about their lives outside of the work. Act on this knowledge in ways that benefit them exactly when they need it most.
Be flexible. If an employee is having a personal problem, help him create a work schedule that allows him to solve his problems without feeling like he is going to be in trouble with the boss.
Be sensitive about their strengths and weaknesses. Carefully evaluate where your employees do their best work, and ask them what jobs they feel the most comfortable doing. For example, if an employee isn’t a people person, chances are he or she won’t excel working the front of a store. If an employee expresses an interest in getting trained for a different job, then provide the training. If employees feel passionate about their jobs, it increases the chances that they’ll want to keep working for you.
Help them better themselves (and in turn improve your business). Pay employees to take a class that will help them improve on their job skills or on something that interests them—even something unrelated to their current position. Or take an interest in their health. Provide employees with health club memberships or enroll in a business-wide wellness program that everyone will take part in.
Feed them. A free meal every now and then is one of the easiest (and most appreciated) perks an employer can provide. It’s a great way for any employer to say “thank you” after a particularly rough work week or for a job well done. Another great idea for employers is providing a catered meal for any employee who is working late.
Constantly recognize a job well done. Everyone likes to be told they’ve done a good job on something, especially your employees. Never miss an opportunity to give employees the recognition they deserve. And when a client compliments an employee’s work, be sure to pass the glowing review along to the rightful owner!”
Make them feel like owners. Whether it comes from having a voice in major decisions, being able to work directly with clients, or actually owning stock, a sense of employee ownership will go a long way toward instilling loyalty. Nurturing your employees to love your business as much as you do will strengthen your company’s foundation—and your business will be that much more likely to survive setbacks and grow to great heights.
Make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs. Nothing frustrates a high performing employee more than having to struggle to do his job because he doesn’t have the right computer program or because he must make do with faulty equipment.
Pamper them. Show your employees that you know they are working for you and your business can be stressful by providing a free spa treatment every once in awhile—even once a month—if you can afford it. Female employees, especially, will love this perk. If your male employees aren’t particularly interested spa treatments, consider other, more masculine ways to help them unwind—tickets to a sporting event or gift certificates to the local watering hole.
Help them leave if it isn’t the right job for them. Working in a small business isn’t for everyone. If one of your employees is struggling in the environment or simply isn’t happy, talk with the person about whether or not your business is the right place. If you collectively decide that it isn’t, help the person find a more suitable job.
Provide employee attendance incentives. It’s likely that your best employees are high performers who come in even when they’re feeling a bit under the weather, and don’t hesitate to come in on the occasional day off to take care of an emergency. These are the employees who deserve attendance benefits. For example, for every month without an absence, give employees an extra vacation day, a gift certificate, or a bonus of some kind. The reward they received for their perfect attendance will make them happy they worked so hard for you throughout the month.