Three Ways Small Businesses Recruit and Retain Talent

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Jhe pandemic has triggered myriad changes in society and the workplace, from hybrid work styles to a rise in remote collaboration technologies. Perhaps even more notable is a transformation in the mindsets and mindsets of workers. Many are reassessing their career goals and some are leaving workplaces that no longer meet their needs.

Clearly what has been dubbed the Great Resignation is in full effect: according to the Ministry of Labor, in November 2021, the number of people quitting their jobs reached a record 4.5 million. For the first time, the power dynamic between employers and employees is changing. Employers no longer hold all the power and leaders in all sectors are wondering how to attract and retain talent. For those reassessing their talent needs and company culture in 2022, these three strategies will help them not only survive the big quit, but also help them build an employee-focused company that can retain top talent and grow. thrive in the long term.

1. Invest in upskilling and professional development.

Successful employees enjoy being in an environment where they are challenged and given the opportunity to grow professionally. With an increasingly competitive labor market, companies need to ensure their most valuable employees have learning and development opportunities. As the founder and CEO of a tech startup, I’m always keen to provide training to help people learn new technical skills, including the basics of computer programming. Developing basic programming skills is a great way for employees to increase their productivity and comfort with software. It offers them the ability to automate repetitive parts of their work, helps them interact better with our technical customers, and improves collaboration with their technical peers.

It is equally important to provide the framework in which people can coach each other. For example, our apprenticeship program for our engineering team has been a great way to hire talented early-career engineers while giving more experienced team members the opportunity to coach and mentor.

It does not require a huge investment. Some of the best upskilling and development opportunities are free and can increase productivity and impact. In addition to providing employees with fun and valuable resources for learning and development, it is also essential to allow employees to apply their new skills. One of the best ways to encourage this is to instill a value of “smart risk taking”. It is important that employees feel comfortable proposing and working on new initiatives, even if there is a risk of failure. When we celebrate both successes and failures, employees will be more comfortable applying their new skills and contributing more to the success of the company.

2. Make sure employees are rewarded as the business grows.

Especially in early-stage companies, employees enjoy being part of a company’s growth. Employers should make equity a meaningful part of each person’s overall compensation. And, as employees progress in their role or tenure, it’s essential to give them opportunities to gain additional equity.

While a growing number of companies include equity in employee compensation, many do so in an inconsistent way that can confuse employees or force them to make difficult financial decisions. For example, most companies that grant stock options to employees also require employees to exercise the options soon after leaving the company. The exercise of illiquid options can be very costly for employees and impact their ability to leverage the equity they have earned for their contributions to the business. To mitigate this at my company, we are among a growing number of startups that have a 10-year exercise window for employees who have been with the company for at least two years.

It’s also critical for a company to set clear expectations for employees about its plans and how those plans may affect equity value. MailChimp recently came under fire for failing to provide equity to employees and telling them they had no intention of being acquired. When MailChimp finally agreed to a $12 billion acquisition by Intuit, employees were understandably frustrated and felt misled. Growing companies that aren’t working on an acquisition or an IPO can consider profit sharing as another way to reward employees for their contributions.

3. Remember that rewards aren’t just monetary.

Many companies don’t sufficiently recognize employees for outstanding performance, even though a 2018 study identified that 44% of respondents who planned to leave their jobs identified a lack of recognition as the reason. With workplace changes caused by the pandemic, it has become even more essential to recognize employees for their contributions.

What has worked well for me and my team is our dedication to celebrating our team’s work on a daily basis. Employees are encouraged to recognize the contributions of their peers in a company-wide Slack channel. We make a point of celebrating significant accomplishments and work anniversaries at weekly All-Hands meetings, and managers provide positive recognition as an essential part of their role.

Just as positive recognition is an essential reward, we also consider constructive feedback from individual managers as a reward. Clear, early feedback helps employees feel good about their positive contributions and provides them with knowledge and support for their career development.

Some of our most experienced employees at OneSignal started out in junior roles and have been with us from just a dozen employees to now over 100. Looking back on our journey, it’s clear that creating a collaborative environment that includes recognition, meaningful employee ownership in the company through stock options and a variety of professional development opportunities are key to recruiting and retain talent in an increasingly competitive environment.

George Deglin is founder and CEO of OneSignal, a customer engagement company that empowers users at over one million businesses to grow and retain their audience.

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