How to Keep Your Best Employees


As the owner of a small business, you don’t have limitless resources to bring in new talent, making retention even more important. Wondering how to keep employees from looking elsewhere?

1. Get the compensation right.
Your goal should be to provide a salary, based on parameters that you can explain to a key employee, so that he or she feels fairly compensated. So how do you get the range right? You can find United States salary data in a number of places, including and Additional good sources for market rate salaries include other business owners in your area, owners of temp agencies and your local or state chamber of commerce.
You might also consider providing an executive benefit plan, which can add life insurance, disability income insurance, or supplemental retirement benefits for a key employee.

2. Think past the paycheck.
Owners of small businesses have the option to offer a number of cost-effective, but meaningful, perks that make a top employee feel valued. These can include taking him or her out to lunch, providing a gift certificate to a local restaurant, a value added service like employee travel assistance, extra vacation days, or even a flexible schedule that allows working from home.

3. “Invest” in your good people.
Let a valued staffer feel that his or her career can grow as the business does. “Where does the employee see him- or herself in three to five years? What areas of the business would he or she like to learn more about?”2 says EMyth certified business coach, Jennifer Martin, of Zest Business Consulting in San Francisco. “Then, set them up for success.” Pay for work-related seminars, courses, or conferences; think of projects within other parts of the company that the employee can “stretch” for.

4. Create a positive employee culture.
Big companies do this by creating elaborate statements and programs; owners of small businesses can achieve their ends by everyday actions:

  • Share your vision, goals, and expectations.
  • Give every employee a chance to be respectfully heard.
  • Check in frequently on how projects or tasks are going.
  • Notice employee contributions and encourage others to do so.
  • Have quarterly employee town hall meetings where everyone can discuss the business.

All these actions will help foster a culture of camaraderie and pride. “One of the greatest incentives a business owner can provide is the chance to belong to a first-rate team, and an outstanding organization,”3 says business speaker and author Barry Maher. “One of my clients is the United States Army. Why do people perform so heroically in battle? Of course they love their country. But when you ask them about it, the answer you get is often the same one you get from championship sports teams: They did it for their teammates, because they didn’t want to let them down. And they felt like they were part of something special.”

1 Small Business Economic Trends, National Federation of Independent Business, October 2017
2 How to Keep Your Best Employees, Mutual of Omaha, June 2016
3 How to Keep Your Best Employees, Mutual of Omaha, June 2016

Item #332001

Related Articles


Advice Every Small Business Owner Should Hear

There’s nothing easy about running a small business. But you’re not alone in the challenges that owning a small business brings. Entrepreneurs often feel higher levels of uncertainty, anxiety and responsibility from the everyday stressors of running a business.1 We’ve been working to help businesses succeed for more than 70 years, so we’ve narrowed down some of the most important pieces of small business advice to keep in […]

Read Article


What is National Small Business Week?

National Small Business Week is a week hosted by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that’s dedicated to highlighting the impact of small businesses, their owners and their employees. Small businesses are responsible for 2 out of every 3 new jobs in the U.S. annually,1 making them a key piece of the U.S. economy. 2018’s National […]

Read Article


Exit Planning: 3 Realistic Steps to Get You Started

You know you should do it. You’ve been meaning to get to it. It would protect your family in the event of your death, help ensure a comfortable retirement, allow others to begin to prepare to take over the business, and much more. But the fact is, you don’t have a clear succession or exit […]

Read Article