The five steps small business owners must implement to attract and retain the best talent in 2021

Author: Mike Jones

You don't need a dedicated HR team or corporate budget to attract, retain and motivate the best talent. Regardless of the industry you're in, small business owners can nurture happy high performing teams that run their businesses for them by implementing the following five steps.

In a small business (10ish-50ish employees), attracting and holding on to the right people is vital. When a big business loses someone, it's painful but quite manageable. When a small business loses someone (or has the wrong people), it has a significant knock-on effect on everyone, especially the owner.

Think of your business as a ship; the owner is the skipper, the staff is the crew. If the engineer decides to quit mid-trip, the skipper will get pulled away from driving the ship and into maintaining it. The ship is still moving and still functioning, but it's got no one directing it. This is the struggle small business owners face when they can't source and hold onto the right team.

Getting a business off the ground is tough. Getting hold of and holding on to the right team can also be challenging, but it doesn't have to be.

From running my own small business to working with and talking to hundreds if not thousands of other small business owners, I've identified five key components that can drastically improve staff employee attrition and retention.

1 - Strategy

'A plan of action designed to achieve a long term or overall aim.'

When reading that definition, it seems blindingly obvious that any small business owner should have a 'strategy.' If you've got to a point where you have employees, then you almost certainly do/did have a strategy. You had a vision of what you wanted to achieve in business and set about doing it, which is how you got to where you are.

The problem is, which I can raise my hand to, that after a few years of growing and being stuck in the day-to-day of running a business, we lose sight of our strategy. We don't update it; we don't communicate it.

Does every member of your business know what you want to achieve (your vision) and how you're going to achieve it (mission and values)? Do you know these things? Are they easy to remember and regularly communicated?

If not, your strategy is lacking. How does that impact talent attraction and retention? Would you preferably sign up to and stay on trip A or trip B :

A - 'Ongoing trip, not sure where we're going or how we're getting there, but we're nice people, we could do with some more people to support us on the way, we'll pay you.'

B - 'Action trip, first to discover and summit Mount Victus. We'll be the first to try a combination of walking and climbing. We're all about having fun, working hard, and learning. All materials provided - opportunity to be part of a world-first team.'

For most people, the answer, of course, would be B because there's a clear vision, there's a mission, there are values, and an opportunity to be part of something. That's what humans want more than money. That's what every small business has but often doesn't articulate or communicate.

Having your vision, mission, and values in your head may have worked to get your business off the ground, but once you have a team, if you articulate and communicate it, you'll attract the right people, keep them motivated and hold on to them for longer.

2 - Systems

'Systems create a freedom' is the maxim we hold at Better Happy.

Most of us involved in business will have had the words' systems and processes' thrown at us. Generally speaking, the better the systems and processes in a business, the better the business. Systems increase efficiency, ensure things get done, and free up time.

Humans are complicated beings, but at our core, we're all very similar. Having just a little understanding of what makes people happy gives us great insight into what systems can significantly improve attraction, retention, and performance.

Pretty much all humans want to feel like they belong, that they have meaning and purpose, that they are achieving something, and that they are valued.

If a business owner is trying to do all of this off their own back, it will get very stressful very quickly. Trying to do this for every team member year-round while doing all of the other jobs owning a business creates is extremely difficult.

But putting some basic systems in place to support this will make sure that it happens, smoothly leading to employees feeling happier, more engaged, and more likely to stick around.

The basic systems we recommend and help small business owners implement are:

  • An onboarding strategy

  • A regularly updated org chart

  • OKRs (objectives and key results)

  • Happiness Surveys (health and engagement)

Having these systems in place supports the employee. It dramatically helps the business owner, reduces their stress, and allows the business to attract better talent.