Why do your employees stay? This was a question I asked myself time and time again.
As a small business owner, I was paranoid.
I was paranoid that I would lose my employees to some larger company who would offer them more money, or a cooler title, or some perk that I just couldn’t compete with.
It’s a scary thought, right?
I mean, you spend hours training your team. Getting them to work at optimum capacity. Producing work that meets your standards. This kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight. And to think, they can leave you tomorrow for a reason beyond your control.
This Changed Everything…
One day, I decided I was tired of being afraid.
I mustered up all the courage I had and interviewed my team one by one and asked them one question:
Why do you enjoy working here?
At first, I thought the answers I received were exclusive to me and my business. But after talking with some entrepreneur friends, I found out that these answers were very much on par with what they discovered too.
Below is a list of the 5 most common answers to the question:
Why do you work for my small business?
1. Creative freedom
As the founder of a marketing agency, I used to work with some creative people.
These are designers or developers or marketers looking to push the envelope in their field. They want to experiment with the latest tech, and implement it in their work.
They want to turn existing designs on their head and challenge what’s possible. And the cool thing is, a lot of them are so talented, that they can do it.
But, they’ve spent their entire careers forced to work within the proverbial box. In fact, they’ve been beaten by the box before being stuffed inside of it.
I discovered that my employees CRAVED the creative freedom that I gave them.
For great employees, the status quo quickly gets stale. These are people who want to try new things.
By simply creating a culture where you let them experiment and push their talents as far as they can go, you’ll quickly cultivate a working environment that people want to be a part of.
2. Get in on the ground floor of your vision
Some people are built to start things.
They love the risk/reward.
How many times do you see people proudly say “I was the number 7 employee at company X”.
These are people who look forward to those first few precarious months (or years) in which they get to shape the future of the company.
They get to build the flagship product or service that millions of people will eventually use.
It’s a status symbol.
What I also discovered is that my employees wanted to stand behind the vision I had for the company.
They wanted to help bring that vision into the world.
In the early days of Google “Organizing the world’s information” was a problem that talented people wanted to solve.
By having a strong vision of what it is that you want to achieve with your business, you’ll be able to attract talented employees who want to get in on the ground floor.
3. Make an impact
When I graduated from college with an engineering degree, many of my classmates went to work at large companies.
At first, they loved it.
It was a nice steady job with a steady paycheck.
But as time went on, the work they were doing became unfulfilling.
My classmates would spend their days working on a very small part of a very large project that wouldn’t see the light of day for years.
They would never get to see customers interact with their code.
Many of my classmates found this to be demoralizing.
In a small business every single employee gets to make an impact… on the customer and on the bottom line.
A website designer can see the the beautiful websites they’ve completed.
A software developer can watch users interact with his code and use the tool he just created.
And a marketer can watch a campaign they’ve lead help a business generate more leads.
In a small business, every single person needs to be prepared to make an impact. And the employees who stick around for the long hall embrace the challenge.
4. People like you
Who knew that the people who worked for me actually liked me?
It’s not that I was surprised that they liked me, but I was surprised that it was one of the reasons that they wanted to stay.
It turns out, people want to work for a boss that they like.
Sometimes in the small business and startup world, we forget that there are bosses out there that are complete A-holes.
These managers stomp all over their subordinates just to further their career.
But as I found out, being well liked can cover up for a lot of mistakes I made.
No, I wasn’t the best boss.
I didn’t always get it right.
But I always had the well being of my employees at heart.
If someone spent a couple of weeks working harder than normal to meet a Friday deadline, I would give them off on Monday.
Or if someone tried something new and failed, I would recognize the effort with a gift certificate to a nice restaurant.
Like you, I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend. But I still tried to show my appreciation as best as I could.
And in return, my team rewarded me with their loyalty.
Let’s face it.
Money is important.
No one is going to work for free.
But the reason I put it at number 5 on this list is because it’s not nearly as important as I would have thought it would be.
Here’s what I mean:
What I discovered, and what so many of my entrepreneur friends discovered, is that if you have the best interest of your employees at heart…
If you are a likeable manager…
If you give them the creative freedom they crave…
If you allow them to make an impact on the success of your customers and your business…
Then they won’t constantly seek a new job opportunity with every company who offers a 10% salary increase.
As long as you pay your staff a salary competitive with the market, then I have found money isn’t as important as the intangibles your employees receive when they work for you.
The thought of losing a great employee after you’ve spent so much time training them is scary.
I’ve been there.
I can’t tell you the amount of sleepless nights I spent wondering if my business would survive if a key member of the team left.
I remember how nervous I was when I first asked them:
“Why do you enjoy working here?”
My fear was they would tell me this is simply a way station to bigger and better opportunities.
They knew I needed them as much (if not more) than they needed me.
But by creating a work environment that people wanted to join, I was able to cultivate a sense of loyalty amongst my employees.
I’d be lying if I told you that everyone stayed.
That simply isn’t the case.
But I was able to build a great company with the team members who wanted to be there.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.