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How to Find and Retain Great Employees

Key Takeaways

  • Having an opportunity to interact with senior management, peers, and customers in an authentic way that’s more routine can boost employee morale.
  • Company culture — as well as making employees feel valued — can have a significant impact on retaining top talent.
  • Offering flexibility and true work-life balance can help make up for any inability to match higher salary offers.

Finding and retaining top talent is a common challenge for small business owners. Balancing tight budgets with skilled talent is no easy task, but striking that balance can ultimately build and protect your bottom line while minimizing expenses involved with replacing staff.

Sarah Hunter, SVP, Human Resources Business Partner at Citizens Bank, explains how small businesses can attract new talent, as well as hold on to valuable employees.

What benefits can small businesses offer talent to compete with larger companies?

Hunter: Working at a small business gives employees more direct interaction with the management team. Having an opportunity to interact with senior management, peers, and your customers in a way that’s more routine can be very impactful for employees as well as your customers. You naturally have a tighter-knit group at a smaller company, and their voices can be heard more easily when sharing concerns, thoughts, questions, and projects. Employees can have a greater impact on driving the company’s direction.

How can company culture impact hiring and retaining?

Hunter: Company culture has a huge impact regardless of the size of the company. It’s always important for colleagues to feel that they’re valued, their thoughts and opinions are heard, and they understand the vision. Culture is a big part of that.

People often stay with a company not because of the pay, but for the relationship they have with their manager and co-workers, or their belief in the company’s mission. Having that strong company culture — whether it’s the product you’re selling or the customer service you provide — is a huge a piece of attracting and retaining top talent.

What other perks can a small business offer top talent?

Hunter: Salary and benefits are certainly very important considerations when deciding where to work, but there are other considerations. In general, people value flexibility, so thinking about work hours and location in a non-traditional sense can be incredibly beneficial. True work-life balance means there’s room for work to spill into what may have been considered traditional off-hours, but also accommodating family needs or other obligations that come during traditional work hours.

Providing paid-time-off that’s competitive is important, but you can think outside the box by implementing short sabbaticals after a year or so of successful employment. Consider providing community work days when everyone in the company does volunteer work for a local charity. These are things that help the culture, help engagement, and help people feel good.

In addition, empowering employees to explore ideas and implement creative ways to solve challenges is a great way to help your business and provide direct ways for employees to contribute to company value.

What gradual steps can a small business owner or senior leader take to build and nurture top talent so they aren’t tempted to leave?

Hunter: One of the most basic things a small business owner can do is make sure they’re having conversations with their team. Understand how your employees feel about the work they’re doing. Are they ready to be challenged to do something new? Do they need to be given the opportunity to stretch themselves? Providing colleagues with a sense of how they’re contributing to the company, where there are opportunities for them to do more, and how the company sees itself investing in the colleague in a non-monetary way — those are really important conversations.

People want to know that they’re seen as part of the team, that they’re not a “replaceable seat.” If you have top talent, or you have someone you think you can develop, check in with these employees and let them know you want to help them reach their potential. This is something that companies of all sizes can do. Let them know you see the contributions they’re making and that they have the potential to do something in addition to what they’re doing now to help them grow in their career path. Ask them: How do you see your career developing? What makes you feel happy about what you do every day? What gets in the way of making you feel happy about what you do every day?

Those conversations work best when they’re informal. It should be about wanting to get to know them as a person so they know they are valued. And I think if you have that rapport with your employees, if they are tempted to look elsewhere or they’re being recruited, they’re more likely to come to you and say, ‘Hey, I got a call yesterday about a job opportunity. I’m not sure what to think about it yet. It’s appealing, but I enjoy what I’m doing here.’ You’ll have a better chance of having that retention conversation with someone who trusts you, and that trust is really important.

More information

We are committed to helping your business reach its potential. Our dedicated business banking professionals can help you find the right product to meet your business’ needs. To learn more about employee benefits, please call 1-800-428-7463, visit us online, or visit your nearest Citizens Bank branch.

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