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3 Simple, Yet Powerful Ways to Retain Your Best People

3 minutes Read

By Gene Marks

retain-best-peopleUnemployment is down and the job market is tighter.  A few years ago, when there was a recession, employers could have their pick of talented people looking for jobs. A worker even felt lucky to have his job. Now it’s the other way around – good, available people are rare and the people that have jobs are looking around for better opportunities. As an employer, it’s now become a challenge to retain your best people.

Lots of experts have lots of advice for retaining good people. I have some, too. As a business owner. Mine is based from experience. I have about ten people working for me in my company. Many of them have been with me for years. I can’t offer the kind of benefits and perks that a big company can. But I’ve learned a few things about keeping my best people happy. And three simple, yet powerful ways to keep them happy at their jobs.

1. I pay them above average. I pay my people well. I ask around, do research, find out what others in similar positions make and then pay about 10 percent more. And you get what you pay for. People who get paid more feel obligated to put in that much more effort. When your people look around (and everyone looks around, it’s human nature), they realize just how much better their compensation is at my company and it makes them appreciate me and their job that much more. I want to minimize the chances that a good person will leave, and one thing that’s under my control is how much I pay him or her. If a person is not performing well, then I feel less inhibited to tell them, knowing that he or she is earning above the average and above average work is expected.

2. I allow maximum flexibility. My people are pretty much able to go and come as they please. We have work hours between 8AM and 6PM but my business is a service business which means that we’re pretty much on call during all waking hours if a client needs help. I manage by results. As long as my people are getting their jobs done and their clients are happy, then I really don’t care if they’re doing it at 3 a.m. from Hong Kong. I equip them with enough communications and collaboration tools so that I can find them whenever I need them. In return for not being micromanaged, they’re expected to be available, within reason. And this has worked. Because we’re so small, I have a consistent but liberal vacation policy and sometimes reward good work with extra days off. I like it when my people go on vacation and spend more time with their families because life is about working to live, not living to work. In return, I believe that most of my people feel like they are treated like adults. They are not micromanaged. How they choose to spend their days and do their jobs is not questioned…as long as they get the job done well.

3. I talk to them…a lot. One of the benefits of running a small company is that I can see and talk to my people all the time. And I do. I am always, oftentimes without warning and to their dismay, calling, texting or emailing my people and chatting about clients and projects or their lives. I’m interested in their off-time and their families. I get together with them as a group and individually, usually on pre-set dates or around client projects. I want to hear their feedback and suggestions because I don’t have all the answers and need input from other smart adults. I give compliments. And I share complaints. If a client is happy with an employee, he or she will know it. If a client is unhappy, he or she will know that, too. We’re adults and should be treated as such – we can all take criticism and we all want to hear feedback. It’s just simple respect to be straight with each other.

I’m not saying that these are the silver bullets to retaining good people. And I’ve certainly made my mistakes and lost good people in the past. But I’ve managed to rely on my instinct and my common sense to do what I felt is right. And it seems that it’s working.


Small business influencer Gene Marks is a guest blogger for CAN Capital. He is a celebrated author, columnist and small business owner.

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images/