Dear Sharon – May 2019

Q. I am a small business owner. I currently have eight people on my team, all of whom work very hard, day in and day out, to grow the firm. My challenge is this – my competitors, which are all considerably larger than I at this point (I’ve only been in business five years) are continuously stealing my people. They know that we train well and that we hire people of good character. They also know they can pay considerably more than I can at this point. It’s killing me! The time it takes to get a new hire up to speed and then have them leave a short time later is hurting my business and I’m losing faith that I can find a way to compete.

A. I feel your pain! Being a small business owner myself, I understand the challenge of retaining employees when you’re growing. So, while I can’t offer you the perfect solution, I can offer you this. Today’s worker is not motivated solely by money. Purpose, mission and engagement are also important. When cashflow is tight, you need to put a special emphasis on this.

Let’s start with engagement. Making your workplace a great place to work helps significantly in retention of employees. Everything from showing frequent appreciation, involving employees in committees for key decisions and silly fun activities, all help to create a “family” – and one that people do not want to leave.

Understanding your higher purpose as an organization is also key. People need to see how your company creates a difference in the world. For example, we at ERG change lives every day by finding people their life’s vocation – and it impacts their families as well. It is really special when we get a “thank you” from a company or candidate where we made a difference. Another fabulous example is Oshkosh Defense. Their “We are honored” video demonstrates how a company that makes large trucks makes a difference every day.

While not an absolute, teammates  want to work in an environment that is meaningful. Start there.

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