Skill shortages are here to stay for SMEs. Retain your team with these 4 tips.

The last 2 years have been an inconsistent slog for businesses. Now, one of the biggest issues facing SMEs is a shortage of skilled workers. It’s why I wrote recently that not taking your staff for granted should be a key focus in 2022

Unfortunately, skill shortages are forecast to stay like this for quite a while. I thought now might be a good time to share some more in-depth advice on retaining and caring for your team. After all, they’re the most valuable part of your business, and you want them to stick around!

1. Listening to your team is the first step – and the most important.

Worried that some of your team members might be unhappy, but not sure what to fix? The simplest and best approach is always just to ask. Now is the perfect time of year to sit down with your whole team and hear their perspective on issues big and small. 

Where are things going? What could be improved? Is there a new approach we could take to an unsolved problem? You may be surprised by the sharpness of some of the insights you get in return. 

Not only does this exercise have the potential to drive real change in your business, but it will contribute to creating an environment where your team feels heard and valued. We do this every year here at Rees Group, and I’d recommend it to pretty much everybody.

2. Iron out your flexible working arrangements. You need to have a baseline policy.

It’s clear that flexible working arrangements are the future. But if you want to avoid your business sliding into chaos because of them, then you need to have a baseline policy that you can stick to. This consistency will benefit both the productivity of your business and the mental health of your team. 

Every business is going to have a different approach that works for them. For instance, a lot of SMEs will do 1-2 days WFH then 3-4 in the office. The important thing is that you have a clear policy that outlines your approach. While some employees may also require individual arrangements, this baseline policy can prevent a lot of tension and confusion. This is especially true if you’re currently hiring.

If you do decide on a highly remote team, you may want to consider implementing some kind of non-negotiable accountability system. We’ve found that things like sudden cancellations, a lack of productivity or no-shows at morning meetings become a big problem over time. Nip it in the bud by using a screen capture system. 

Another thing we’d recommend is having 1–2 fixed days at the start of the week where everyone comes in. It’s a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your team on the same page.

3. Your team may have come for the money, but they’ll stay for the culture and the personal development.

There’s so much more to our relationship with our jobs than just money.  Workplace culture, work/life balance and personal development tend to be what your team actually wants from their job. The best way to stop your team from leaving for greener pastures is to focus on building a positive workplace culture.

Read More: Why investing in your team creates a stronger, better business.

Training and personal development should be the other big area to focus on. Your team needs to feel as if they’re always learning and growing in order to stay effective. It encourages longevity, whereas a bored or unengaged team member may suddenly quit.

Not sure whether your workplace culture makes the grade? Surprisingly, the best test of your workplace culture may actually be your former employees. If people continue to stay in touch long after they leave your company, that’s how you know you’re doing the right thing. 

4. ‘Hire slow, fire quickly’ is still as true as it ever was. 

Many SMEs may also be currently facing pressure to hire new employees as quickly as possible, desperate to fill short and long-term staffing gaps caused by sudden departures or office-wide illness outbreaks. However, I’d caution against acting too hastily. 

As my old mentor was fond of telling me again and again, you need to hire slowly and fire quickly. Take the time to make sure you’re hiring a good match for your company and not just rushing to fill a seat.  At the end of the day, you’re better off not having a person at all than having the wrong person – seriously. 

Consider getting outside help to ensure you’re finding the perfect fit. For instance, we work with personality profiling company Taly every time we hire. They combine cutting edge data-science with psychological insights to make sure we’re targeting and hiring people who will genuinely fit in with our company values. 

Combining these 4 tips is the key to successfully retaining your team.

These are the four things to remember- hire smart, listen to your team, be consistent with flexibility and foster a healthy workplace culture – you’ll be on track to ride out this difficult period and hold on to your valuable team members through thick and thin. 

Remember, your team is not just a collection of expendable workers, and it never should be. Your business would not exist without this team of talented people working hard at their jobs, and their knowledge, experience and skills are incredibly valuable to the success of your SME.  

You need to invest in that value and then protect that investment, by creating the best environment that you can for your team to thrive within your company. You’ll be sure to reap the rewards.

Need help implementing these strategies within your business? Get in touch with one of our talented business advisors for a confidential chat. They’ve got the experience and the hands-on knowledge to ensure you’re making the most of your team. 

The information in this article is of a general nature. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own financial position, objectives and requirements and seek financial advice before making any financial decisions.

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