Home Thinking Aloud 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Retain Great Talent

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Retain Great Talent


by Matt Abbott, general manager of The Sourcery

The pandemic has left several small businesses under-employed. As a result, retaining great employees has become crucial for companies. Small businesses are not equipped with endless resources to draw from, which makes it hard to compete with the benefits packages that their larger competitors can offer.

The secret to success for these companies lies in the combination of a robust benefits package, honest communication, flexibility, and providing growth opportunities built into the layers of success because retaining outstanding talent is much more than simply providing realistic compensation. 

1. Promote real transparency.

Small businesses and startups must assume everyone in the organization is working toward a common goal for the business to succeed, and honest communication is the only way to achieve that goal. Smaller organizations have the opportunity to create more transparency with the limited number of people, and keeping employees apprised of the inner workings of the company, even sensitive issues, such as budgets, can build trust between upper management and their employees.. 

Individual compensations or subjects that contain proprietary information should be kept private, but discussing financial statements and strategy plans with your team is one tactic for building strong relationships. Transparency is possible when everyone in the organization has an idea of what the business structure looks like, they know where company money is being spent, what is expected of each person, and what they are collectively trying to accomplish as a unit.

2. Get feedback.

Though full transparency isn’t just an open-door policy, there has to be a structure of internal communication for feedback. Even at The Sourcery, there may be some ambiguity each day, but we make it a point to have those structured check-ins. Every Thursday, we’ve had an all-hands meeting, which talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then once a month, we do our financials. This shows our bank account with all the data from every quarter, so we take it to another level of honesty and open communication. 

This makes employees feel involved and allows leaders to get individual perspectives on larger business goals too. Allowing them to voice new ideas and give opinions aids in avoiding groupthink, and it does not always require an organization-wide team meeting either. There is an abundance of options to choose from — surveys, suggestion boxes, and one-on-one sessions — to open this door as well. 

Asking questions about essential matters, such as benefits packages cannot be ignored either, because sometimes leaders could be missing the mark on what their employees want. It is impossible to have a completely satisfied team without fully understanding what their needs are. This supports a positive company culture and forces leaders to be honest about their shortcomings too. 

3. Provide growth opportunities.

Leaders should want their employees to say, “I’ve just never had this experience with another company before,” and they should recruit talent interested in growing with the company. Sometimes smaller organizations can overlook the potential to promote internally, where they can take already established team members and develop their leadership ability for the future. 

If there are no opportunities for employees to learn from and develop professionally, they may not see value in staying with the company. Mentor programs, regular service training, and offering new titles, roles, and responsibilities are just a few ways to continue to encourage growth and leadership skills. There has to be a concrete base of people to rely on other than top management for any business to be successful, and everyone needs to believe that they’re part of the story and history of the company while advancing its mission. 

4. Offer flexibility.

The rise of the Delta variation continues to cause a delay in returning to the office, and many businesses are transitioning to having a fully remote staff. Small businesses have to recognize the importance of location flexibility since the top talent will surely want a flexible schedule based on hours and location. 

If a smaller company requires all staff to work from one specific location, some people may get curious about other opportunities if there is no room for change. Rigid rules are a sure way to make people feel stifled, and employers have to avoid this issue before it surfaces to keep their great employees. Even smaller acts of flexibility can help, like providing freedom in the scope of tasks and daily work, which helps to keep their work engaging and versatile. 

5. Take benefits seriously.

Even though small businesses may not have the funding to support a perfect benefits plan, they must remember that their employees are people, not just workers. Most leaders have recognized the importance of a substantial benefit plan, but with remote work on the rise, employees will have more employment options and small businesses have to identify a way to stand out.

Start with an attractive PTO package that clearly lays out the policies. For example, I worked for a company that followed a “take which you need” plan, which unfortunately turned into a mess. Some people developed a  mindset of “that’s my time,” and they took it, whereas others felt they shouldn’t take vacation, or didn’t know when they could. This relates to the need for feedback and ongoing communication because employers can waste time and money offering incentives that don’t directly benefit their employees.

Employers have to continuously adjust their benefit plans to align with the wants and needs of employees. If someone takes a job simply because of compensation, they’re most likely not invested in the organization and do not have a long-term vision with the company. The people who jump from job to job are not having their needs met, so employers have to recognize and accommodate that in their recruiting strategy. For small businesses to retain great talent, there has to be a combination of the above factors that make talented employees want to work and grow within their organization. 


Matt Abbott is the general manager of The Sourcery, a Bay-area recruiting firm specializing in tech start-ups. He has 20 years of experience in the recruiting field-building dynamic sales and recruiting engines for Fortune-1000 companies and private, specialized staffing organizations.



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