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How to keep your staff

How to keep your staff
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Losing a valued employee can have an adverse effect on a business, especially those in specialist, niche areas, where it's hard to recruit and find skilled employees. Not only does it mean that you have to put the business on hold while you recruit, there's also the time lost to you as a business owner while you recruit, and there's the cost of running recruitment adverts. According to a February 2012 survey by the British Chambers of commerce over 40 percent of companies estimate the cost of recruiting a new employee is more than £2000, and in more than half (53 percent) of the businesses surveyed, the business owner is the person responsible for recruitment.

The simple way to reduce the effect of losing staff is to keep staff for longer, you stand to save a lot of time and money and in the process you'll also be creating a loyal and happy workforce.

Delegating, listening and encouraging

Too many business owners refuse to pass on responsibilities and this can have a negative effect on your employees. Delegation is one way of building trust in the workforce. Don't micro-manage your employees, instead allow them to use their own initiative and they in turn will feel empowered to make decisions and meet their goals.

Listening and encouraging people and giving credit where it's due are also key elements of good communication. This includes avoiding excessive criticism or blame, but finding out what the root problem is and addressing it, and perhaps introducing training as required. Training staff and investing in expanding and improving their skills maybe expensive but it helps them to understand that you value them and that you want them to be the best at what they do.

There's no I in team

Another important skill worth developing is team work. Business owners are used to doing things and making decisions on their own, for many business owners the ability to do what you want, when you want, was one of the main driving forces behind starting a business. Creating teams is one way of reinforcing loyalty. For example, if an employee works as part of team, that they feel happy and comfortable with, then the decision to move will be harder to make than if they work on their own.

Additionally people like working in teams and believe that they're more effective in teams. A Vodafone survey from January 2012 showed employees where clear about the negative impacts of not working effectively as a team. The most serious of these were delayed decision-making (named by 31 percent), unhappy customers through poor response (29 percent), missing targets because of lack of timely input from colleagues (28 percent), and making the wrong decisions because of lack of access to the right people and information (28 percent).

Creating teams involves understanding the different personalities in the team, and it involves helping them to work together, it also involves working in close proximity to the rest of your staff, you can create teams if you sit in a separate office all day. You need to get out and about and you need to be part of the team.

Creating staff incentives and perks

Though they may carry a financial cost, staff initiative schemes can also be highly effective. A well thought-out system of incentives and perks can help to retain staff in the long term. They can also be used to recognise good work and initiative, and encourage staff members and teams to compete for the prize.

Perks and awards often carry tax breaks for the business. These include occupational pensions, health insurance, season tickets and social events such as Christmas parties. Subsidies for training might also be available, as well as membership of social clubs or a gym. All of these can help the workforce to feel valued, while giving them a more enjoyable working experience.

Rewards can also take other forms, for example there are many local and national award schemes for best business teams and best employees/ Why not enter your teams or your best employee in for an award? Even if they don't win, it still shows that you care enough to regard them as valuable, both to you and the business.

Flexible working

Flexible working is one of the key things that new employees are looking for. According to a 2010 study by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, flexible working was more than twice as important to staff than more traditional benefits such as performance-related bonuses. In the survey flexible working was rated as the most important benefit by 47 percent of respondents, whilst bonuses came in second with 19 percent.

Just because you offer flexible working doesn't mean that you're losing staff or work time, there are plenty of technologies such as smartphones, cloud technologies, laptops, tablets, remote email etc that allow staff to work from home or on the move and there's plenty of data to show that staff working from home are actually more effective because there are fewer interruptions and it's easier to concentrate away from the office.

Make the office a home from home

Finally, getting the working environment right can really help things, particularly if employees are going to spend long hours in the office. An attractively decorated office, kitchen and rest areas can improve morale massively. Features that can help here include colourful and leafy plants, beautiful paintings and interesting lighting.

You may also want to create a business culture where people work hard and play hard. If this is the case, it could be worth investing in a decent pool table or a games console and flat screen, or a relaxing area with beanbags and sofas. Your staff will never want to go home.