Small businesses face an uphill climb when it comes to finding and retaining top performing talent. Experienced and talented workers often tend to aim for jobs with high rates of pay, excellent employee benefits, and job security with a clear path for advancement. Unfortunately, all of these are difficult for startups and small businesses to provide, particularly compared to what larger competitors can offer.


Retention is essential

Startups often find themselves working with relatively young and inexperienced employees, because these tend to be the most affordable to hire. This means that small business owners are often forced to spend a lot of resources training new workers and helping them to develop the experience they need to be successful. Unfortunately, they then often can’t offer the pay and employee benefits needed to retain the most competent and ambitious of those workers, who will often simply leave to find a more lucrative job once they’ve gained the experience they need.

Even if small businesses had the funds, they generally don’t have the team size and depth of talent to continue operating effectively if key employees were to simply go on vacation for a few weeks at a time. As a result, it’s very common to lose your best employees just as they develop to the point where they’re most valuable to your business. In light of this, entrepreneurs and small business owners need to come up with other solutions to help them reward and retain valuable employees.

Offer equity

To keep quality employees around, business owners need to ensure that they feel valued, and that they become invested in the business’ success. The simplest way to do this is to ensure that they’re literally invested. By giving key employees equity, the success of the business becomes much more personally valuable to them. While a larger competitor might offer competitive bonuses, helping to make your business a success could revolutionise their career.

Best of all, the reward is proportional to your business’ success, and doesn’t cut into your working capital. Your employees’ equity will be worth whatever your business collectively makes it worth. This promotes greater loyalty to your business without any upfront cost.

Provide flexible working arrangements

Many businesses now allow flexible working arrangements to some degree or another, but large traditional corporations still lag behind. This is an advantage for small businesses. Allowing some employees to work irregular hours, or to work remotely at need, can empower them significantly. The ability to schedule work around other tasks, to travel, or to simply stay home for a day if the weather or traffic aren’t cooperative that day is invaluable. It allows some workers to save hours of commuting time every week, while enabling others to better manage family lives or to manage other responsibilities.

What’s important about flexible working is that it allows workers to build personal routines that work for them on their own terms. Leaving to take on another job at a company without this kind of benefit would cost them time and opportunity that they otherwise get to keep for themselves. Even if your business can’t offer the most competitive salary in the industry, that time comes with its own value.

Time and mentoring

Entrepreneurs traditionally work with younger and less experienced employees than larger and better established businesses, and something that‘s difficult to come by for younger employees in any profession is quality mentors. Success in any field requires a wide range of skills, a sizeable professional network, and a respected advocate. Small business owners are forced to develop a very wide range of competencies, and to build a large network, making them uniquely well suited to helping their younger employees to establish themselves. By taking the most promising employees under your wing directly, you can offer them something that they may not be able to find anywhere else.

Top level leaders in large businesses tend to work with each other, and with middle managers, effectively separating themselves from the average worker. Small business owners, on the other hand, often work very closely with employees at every level of their organisation.

By helping to show employees their greater role in your industry, by providing them with guidance, and by networking them with other relevant professionals, you can make them more effective and more loyal to your business. As a further consideration, it makes them more valuable to your business as employees, and as professional contacts in the event that they do eventually move on to another employer. Ultimately, taking these steps to reward and retain top quality talent allows business owners to build more competent teams, to reduce employee turnover, and to build a greater sense of loyalty in the workplace.