We are fully aware, these days, that many graduates, students, Apprentices and school leavers are not out there looking for a career that is going to give them a ‘job for life’. With that in mind, as an employer, you will still be looking at ways you can attract the best young talent out there for your small business, and you will also be looking at ways you can retain that young talent for as long as possible.
Successful employee engagement is one way that you can boost your staff retention and, as a knock on effect, this will in turn boost your number of quality applicants when the time comes to recruit new staff.
If you are an employer for a small or medium enterprise, you might feel you are at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with larger companies for better staff retention rates. How do you go about holding onto your best young talent when they might have their eye on spreading their wings and moving on to work for larger corporations?
What can you offer that will keep your young team of staff engaged and working towards the successful future of your company for as long as possible? As a small business owner that you might well have set up yourself, of course you are passionate about it. But as your business grows and you seek out the best young employees, how do you go about making sure they are as passionate as you are in making your business succeed?
Before we look at some tips for how small businesses can keep their young talent engaged, let’s first look at what employee engagement is.
What Is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement is key to the success of your small business. If your employees are not engaged, productivity in the workplace will fall and your staff retention will not be as healthy as it should be.
But what exactly is employee engagement and why should it matter to small businesses? First of all, engagement is more than just about having a team of happy employees. Happy employees are just a part of the story. After all, you could have a whole team of happy employees but they might also be working in a culture where they think it is acceptable to sit around chatting all day. They’re happy in this workplace but they are not necessarily engaged.
So, you want happy employees but you also need other cogs in place to create a workplace culture where your team is engaged. Engaged employees are employees who:
- Are fully aware of the purpose of their role and how it contributes to the functioning and the success of the company.
- Who know what is expected of them on a daily basis.
- Who are committed to completing tasks and projects to the best of their ability.
- Who are aware of the importance of the role of other staff members and how different roles within the company relate to each other.
- Who feel motivated to succeed.
- Who feel empowered and valued.
- Who feel respected.
So, as you can no doubt guess from this list, above, have good employee engagement is also reliant on having effective managers and team leaders in place who can both support and communicate well with staff.
What Are The Benefits Of An Engaged Staff?
The benefits of good staff engagement are more than just a motivated, focussed and happy staff. There are also benefits for you as an employer. As addressed above, good staff engagement is a boost to your staff retention and also a boost to your recruitment with regards to the quality of your applicants.
In additiıon to this, good staff engagement will also boost your company’s productivity because everyone knows what is expected of them and they are motivated to do it. Engaged staff are more passionate about the company they are working for. When it comes to company growth and innovative ideas, good staff engagement is a key factor in encouraging a boosting those.
How Can Your Small Business Keep Young Talented Staff Members Engaged?
So, as a small business, what strategies can you employ to keep your young talent engaged and passionate about your company and what it stands for?
Whilst you might not have the luxury of being able to promote staff regularly, there are other strategies you can use that could keep your top talent working for you for a longer period. And the good news is, you don’t need to have a limitless budget to implement these strategies. Most of them are cost effective and require your thoughts and efforts rather than cash.
Communicate Your Values
Do your staff know your values – these are your personal values and the ones of your company. You are no doubt very clear on your values and might assume that your young staff are also aware of them. This is not necessarily the case so make sure they are communicated and, also, make sure you walk the walk.
Your values create your identity and can be the one factor that makes you stand out from the crowd. They can be what makes you individual; both as a company and as an employer.
And example of this could be if you are committed to doing as much as you can to protect the environment. If you try not to use single-use plastics in your home life, for example, transfer this to your business practice, too.
Whatever line of business you are in, this could involve some tough decisions where you may need to take the more expensive option and trade with companies who also hold the same values – it may be a much more cost-effective to use a company that uses single-use plastics but your young employees will be much more engaged if they know you are committed to your values.
In the workplace, too, where possible, make sure you provide employees with food and drink options that don’t force them to use single-use plastics.
Young people, these days, want to work for companies with ethical values that match their own and actions such as this can keep them engaged as they will respect your integrity.
Being a human being as a boss is crucial to staff engagement. And, what’s more, this can actually be easier for you as the employer in a small or medium-sized business. Communicating with staff openly about why you came to a particular decision regarding the business or where you made a mistake regarding a business decision will make your young team respect you more.
In larger companies, staff can sometimes feel disconnected from their bosses due to the sheer size of the company. Especially when it comes to CEOs, they can be, they can be distant, unseen characters. As a small business owner, you can be in constant contact with your team and be transparent about decisions you take.
Whether you are employing students, Apprentices or graduates, all want to progress and effective staff development programmes can both help this progression and keep them engaged. Young people don’t want to arrive at work each day with a feeling that they have no prospects or room for growth.
In larger companies, staff development can often result in promotion through the ranks. As a small business, you might not be in a position to offer such promotions but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an effective staff development programme.
- Keep your young recruits engaged by offering them the opportunity to use their talents across multiple roles. This will give them a broader understanding of how your company works and the importance of each role within the company.
- You can also use the fact that you are a small business to be creative with your staff development. Find out what your graduates and school leavers want from their role rand discuss other ways of helping them to achieve this. Perhaps you have some contacts who might be able to help by offering volunteering or work shadowing opportunities
- If you don’t have the finances just yet for paying for further study can you offer flexible working hours for those who need study leave? Are there any other resources you can provide that will help your staff to further their knowledge and skills?
- Speak with your young recruits and find out what tools they need to do their jobs effectively. Make sure they have the best resources so that they know they are valued.
If you are reading this and thinking your best talent will eventually move on after you have contributed to all of their development then you may well be right. However, it is a win win situation. You will have happy, engaged staff whilst they are with you and when recruitment time comes around again, you should have more young talent keen to work for a company that cares.
Incentives And Rewards
Again, chances are you are not in the same financial position as larger companies who can offer generous staff bonuses for those who reach targets or who go above and beyond the call of duty. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your young staff engaged with other incentives and rewards.
Is there anything you can offer your staff related to your industry? Travel vouchers if you are in the travel industry. Discounted property purchases or rentals if you are in the property industry.
Discuss with your staff the types of rewards they would like to receive if they hit targets or win customers.
An Open-Door Policy
Are you a boss that is present and accessible in the workplace? Being accessible will keep your young recruits engaged because they will feel like they can approach you with any new ideas they may have or any difficulties they might be facing. Even if you are hiring graduates, they still may need guidance in certain areas of their role.
As a small or medium-sized business you might not be large enough to have different departments where you can promote young recruits into leadership roles within their specialism.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t encourage positions of responsibility. Put trust in your young recruits by making them leader on certain projects that will give them the opportunity to build their leadership skills and give them the confidence to make important decisions about what needs to be done and when.
Giving this level of autonomy shows your young team that you trust them and value their judgement – an effective way of keeping them engaged.
If your small business becomes more successful, meaning you need to recruit more staff, this is where you have the opportunity to keep your existing young staff engaged. Rather than employing new people in positions of responsibility, bring in new staff at a junior level so that your existing team can take on leadership roles. This will keep themö engaged as they will feel that their experience and work they have done for your company has been acknowledged and rewarded.
Acknowledge Work-Life Balance
Again, acknowledgement of work-life balance is where you could hold an advantage over some larger companies where staff might need to work to a more rigid routine. Millennials are increasingly looking to work for companies that can offer them some flexibility when it comes to working hours.
If you have an open door policy where staff feel you are approachable, they will feel in a position to be able to ask for opportunities where they can work from home on occasion or take time off for sporting events or other events that are important to them. A smaller team of staff means it should be easier to make sure everyone gets fair treatment when it comes to situations like this.
A good work life balance will keep your younger staff engaged and, if they have worked in other areas of the company, they should be able to cover any absences effectively so productivity shouldn’t suffer.
Obviously, flexible working needs to be managed effectively so that all staff receive fair treatment and they also know what is expected of them. A situation where your team feels one member of staff might be taking advantage can lead to a disengaged staff – the opposite of what you are aiming for.
Meaningful Staff Meetings
Your staff will be more engaged if staff meetings are kept short and to the point. Nobody wants to be stuck in room arranging meetings about meetings and getting nowhere. Have a situation where staff feel they can raise any points for discussion before hand so that you can decide on an order of proceedings and keep the time as brief as possible.
Also, use these meetings to introduce new staff to your existing team. Use the meetings to give out any rewards to the team and celebrate successes. Because you are a small business, these staff meetings can be kept relatively informal where you can order takeaway food to be delivered or where you can arrange for staff members to bring other food treats in.
Encourage Breaks And Holidays
An engaged staff could get carried away with time whilst working on projects and forget to take their breaks. Make sure all your staff take their breaks and holidays. Not only does this increase productivity for you – your team will be fresh and energised – it will also keep your young staff engaged in the long term.
Lots of work places have a culture where staff feel they need to stay at their desk and work through their lunch hour because that’s what the other staff do. Some also forgo holidays because they feel they have too much to do. This leads to burnout and time off for sickness and stress-related illnesses.
Encourage a culture where your team know they need to take their breaks and holidays.
Has your small business got a blog or a newsletter that it sends out to customers or other people working in the sector?
Rather than using up lots of your own time to create the newsletter or create content for the blog, keep your young recruits engaged by encouraging them to create some content.
This could be a piece about a work project that went well, some views on the industry or content about other extracurricular activities that your work team are involved in. If you have Apprentices or students who have done some work experience, for example, they could write about their experiences.
Again, this will foster a culture where your young recruits feel valued and respected in the workplace and will therefore help to keep them engaged.
This is the perhaps the easiest strategy you can use in keeping your young staff engaged in the workplace. Two words: Thank You.
Your small business is your passion and it is your staff who drive it forward and keep it growing.
Saying thank you can be done in lots of different ways. Informal thank yous on a day to day basis are easy to say but you could also thank groups and individuals in front of their peers during staff meetings. These type of thank yous, where some of your team or an individual might have completed a project ahead of time or worked some extra hours to get it finished, for example, could also be rewarded with a gift token or other gestures of appreciation.
It is not an easy task to keep employees engaged in the workplace and surveys often show that many employees don’t feel engaged. Indeed, it can be a difficult balancing act that you might not get right most of the time but if everyone works towards the same goals and appreciates that everyone is making the effort then staff retention and productivity will be increased as well as employee satisfaction.