Saturday, October 20, 2012

Retaining Staff in a Small Business

As a small business, you are forever competing with employee benefits offered by larger organisations – not to mention brand prestige, greater opportunities for career progression, travel, bonuses… the list goes on.

There are a few small businesses I know that can teach the larger organisations a thing or two about human nature, nurturing talents and retaining employees.

One of these businesses is a client of mine. They are a growing ISP. Over the past 18 months, I have recruited four IT professionals, bringing their head count to ten employees in total to date.

At a recent meeting with the Director, John, we spoke about the issue of staff retention in a small business. He mentioned that a senior developer had recently been approached by a worldwide search engine to come and work for them. He declined. I was surprised and pressed John on the reasons for why he stayed.

The senior developer is a typical IT geek. He rarely speaks to anyone, wears headphones all day, and probably has a touch of Asperger Syndrome or Autism. But when it comes to programming, which is what he is hired for, he is a gun. John mentioned that if he had ten times this guy, he would already be a multi-millionaire. So what is John’s secret to making them stay? His office is modern and simple. Nothing special. There is no ‘break-out room’ where the staff can play pool, watch TV, listen to music, and relax in ergonomic furniture.

John quite simply understands the needs of his staff. For this senior developer, all he requires is a beer and the ability to play computer games around 4pm each day for half an hour. Then it is back to work. John has another developer who enjoys going to a local take-away for a chicken roll and Pepsi with John once every two weeks. They talk about IT stuff and this makes him happy.

John’s ‘HR strategy’ is listening to the needs of his employees and acting on them.

Without a doubt, there are other factors that come into play to retain staff such as remuneration, working in a challenging and stimulating environment, and workplace culture.  But if business owners like John start practising this type of leadership in the early stages of business to keep good staff, there is no doubt that his business will flourish.

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