By Karen Fogarty

Attracting and retaining a specifically skilled workforce is a priority for any business. After all, the success of an organisation is down to the main asset, people. A talented team can be hard to recruit and even harder to retain. Head hunting has been made easier with the advent of LinkedIn and with improved communications and increased commuter options, there are more opportunities for experienced individuals. Small business owners have to be creative in order to retain specific skills and talent within their organisation and compete with employee benefits provided by larger companies. Benefits do not necessarily need to be monetary incentives, employees can be supported in many other ways to help ensure their retention. Here are some options.

1. Flexible Working

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is high on most employees’ priority lists. Sometimes workloads can overwhelm but ensuring your teams remain as stress free as possible will keep them working to optimum. Offering flexible working can help reduce pressure as this can fit in with family life from looking after elderly parents to being able to drop children off at school before work. The benefit of flexi-time is usually seen as a high value perk that acknowledges people have a life outside of the office. Where business allows, early closing on a Friday is another way to reward your team after a hard week. Most will agree there is nothing greater than being able to start the weekend early!

2. Extended Lunch Breaks

These days lunch breaks have almost become extinct although it has become apparent that a break away from the desk helps clear the head and improve performance. Offering the opportunity for extended breaks, like flexible work hours, allows for the employee to go to appointments without the issue of taking extra time off. This can also allow for exercise in the fresh air therefore ensuring the workforce remain healthy and relaxed.

3. Being Child- and Dog-Friendly

This can mean many things such as allowing children and dogs to come into the office, offering flexibility and understanding when it comes to trips to the vet or doctor to taking time off to tend to a sick child or pet. You will gain from having less stressed employees and as a result you will create a team willing to go the extra mile.

4. Inclusion

If your employees feel like they are part of a team and that their opinion counts, their levels of job satisfaction will rise. Great communication, regular meetings or a company newsletter can help keep staff informed and connected to the organisation they work for. As your team are your best PR tool, keeping them involved and listening to their opinion is vital to retaining a happy, loyal workforce.

5. Become Social

Meeting socially after hours can help improve team spirit and moral. Getting to know your staff over a drink or a meal can help you understand how they tick and in turn help you become a better manager. Creating a social club or arranging company parties or family days helps an organisation bond and is an excellent way to reward a hardworking, loyal workforce.

6. Acknowledgement of Achievement

Often there are one or two individuals that always go the extra mile to work hard on a particular project. It’s important to recognise this achievement. This can be done in many ways such as starting an Employee of the Month award and buying everyone lunch as a celebration, or paying for them to have a special lunch or dinner with a loved one. Whatever way you feel is appropriate to your business, acknowledgement of hard work is always appreciated.

Regardless of the benefits that you offer, you will find that flexibility, recognition, acknowledgement, rewards and inclusion will bond a highly skilled workforce and encourage more loyalty than a pay rise could. Money is important, but if your staff knows they work for a caring, flexible organisation that communicates well, that makes them feel like an individual with a life outside of the office rather than just a worker bee, they will remain happy and loyal, less tempted by the large corporate.