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Maggie Harlow

A Sign Pro’s Guide to Keeping Employees

By appreciating pay, benefits and work life from your employees’ perspective, you can create a “keeping” culture.

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IT’S A TOUGH RECRUITING market for small business owners. Most have seen their share of employees leave for a wide variety of reasons: work-from-home flexibility, less stressful jobs, promises of better opportunities and, of course, higher pay. While this phenomenon may be temporary, it’s also highly probable that expectations of employees have changed. And, as with everything in our economy, we’re in a cycle, and the advantage will swing back toward employers again sometime in the future.

But for now, to hold on to your good employees, are you ready to try to shift your culture? Looking for somewhere to start? Here are a few ideas that could spark some steps toward creating a company with a culture of “keeping” your star players.

Check your attitude toward employees seeking “more.” Are you finding yourself resentful and angry because employees you know (or even just imagine) are looking for something more than they already have? Be careful; this negative attitude can seep into your everyday interactions and poison your work atmosphere. Don’t forget that everyone has the freedom to pursue happiness and what’s best for them. Embracing that reality can open the door to fruitful and candid conversations about job satisfaction.

Reality-check your market and react accordingly! If you haven’t raised your prices in the last six months, or even three months, it might be time to do it (again). Giving your star players increases doesn’t mean it has to come out of your pocket. Take a look around your market and price check your competitors. You probably have room to increase pricing, offer increases to your best team members and still earn your share of profit.

Be creative with bonuses. Setting goals for your team can fuel growth, and resulting bonuses compensate them for the more effective efforts. A bonus doesn’t have to last indefinitely, so try a bonus system for the next six months and see how it works. A well-designed bonus program pays for itself through results and employees enjoy added income.

Are you connecting to your team? Lots of research shows the most common reasons for employees to leave concerns feeling appreciated and knowing their work matters. Pay matters — make no mistake — but are you engaging your employees in their work and making the meaning in their work evident? Authentic connection with your employees can both help you retain your team as well as improve their happiness at work.

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Hate the idea that work should be “fun?” I get it — sometimes I resist the calls for company parties or games that simply distract from the hard work of getting the job done! Try the method of S.S.T.G. — Start Small, Then Grow. Try one thing, like a luncheon potluck. Delegate it to a trusted member of your team, give them a modest budget and whatever limits you may want, then attend and enjoy. You might find out it lifts spirits, fuels teamwork and you end up getting more out of your employees.

When I started my company back in 2003, one of my guiding principles was, “I’m going to spend more time with these people than I do with my family. Why not make those hours as enjoyable as I can?”

Doing things “the way you always have” may not be the right recipe for the changed work world of 2021, 2022 and beyond.

Maggie Harlow is the CEO of Signarama Downtown Louisville (Louisville, KY), one of the largest and most prestigious locations for the global sign franchise. Contact Maggie at [email protected]

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