Small businesses understand the importance of customer retention better than anyone. But do you have a blindspot when it comes to retaining your employees?

Employee retention strategies might sound out of your league (and budget). You might think they’re all about hefty bonuses and other monetary rewards that you can’t afford to offer your team members. But employee retention is about so much more than expensive perks. Businesses of any size can, and should, take steps to foster loyalty throughout their team. And we’ve got some affordable ideas to help you get started.

What we’ll cover:

What is employee retention?

Simply put, employee retention is the ability of a business to keep its employees on board. But on a deeper level, retention is about employee engagement.

Think of employee retention as a verb, not a noun. To ensure your team is one that lasts, it’s important to work actively to motivate and engage each member so they feel a genuine sense of belonging.

The high cost of employee turnover

MYTH: As a small business owner, you can’t afford to focus on employee retention strategies right now.

FACT: As a small business owner, you can’t afford to ignore employee retention.

You might remember from Business 101 that landing a new client is more costly than keeping an existing customer. The same is true when it comes to your employees. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), it can cost 6–9 months’ salary to replace an employee if they leave.

That’s real time and money spent on job postings, interviews, and onboarding instead of day-to-day operations—and don’t forget the projects that screech to a halt while you try to fill positions.

Add to this the close supervision and assistance new employees need and the increased potential for on-the-job errors as they learn, and you can see where the money goes.

Luckily, there are some easy, affordable ways to get out in front of employee attrition issues and build a team that is happy, healthy, and in it for the long haul.

How to know if these retention techniques are working: Fewer employees will be looking for the exit, and you’ll see more positive results in your employee experience surveys. And as you’re about to learn, investing in employee retention strategies comes with a lot of other “fringe benefits” for both your team and your business.

7 low-cost ways to improve employee retention

1. Start at the beginning.

“This isn’t what I signed up for!” is a great tagline for the exasperated sidekick in an action movie—but it’s not something you want an employee thinking when a new project hits their desk. Unmet expectations can have a costly impact on retention, productivity, creativity, and collaboration.

Pro-tip:

Learn more about productivity metrics and how to measure them.

The best employee retention strategies start before a new hire is even in the door, with job postings and conversations that clearly outline the scope and nature of the available position. Be clear about your office culture and potential for growth, so candidates can make an informed decision and trust in their choice to work for you.

And do your homework! A candidate’s resume is full of vital retention information if you know how to read it. You’re likely to have better luck with someone who has put in solid time at one company instead of jumping from job to job every three months.

When a new recruit is on board, take the time upfront to train them well. A comprehensive orientation and onboarding process will save you from basic on-the-job errors and other productivity slowdowns in the future. Plus, it will give your new hires the confidence they need to feel at home and empowered in your organization.

The fringe benefits: You’ll spend less time undoing mistakes by newcomers… and finding their replacements when they realize the job isn’t for them.

2. Engage your introverts.

Are you only hearing the first and loudest voices in the room? Chances are you might be overlooking your introverted employees… and pushing them out the door.

If you have employees in your office who rarely speak up in your regular meetings, that doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. They’re probably introverts, which means they process internally and recharge their batteries by spending time alone. This is in contrast to extroverts, who process their thoughts and feelings more out loud and get energy from being with others.

Most offices today are set up to reward and recognize extroverts, but Forbes.com has proclaimed introverts the “quiet powerhouses” of the workplace. So how can you tap into this natural resource?

Engaging introverts at work is actually both easy and affordable:

  • Give them more time to jot down questions and ideas by sharing agendas and presentations ahead of big meetings, so they feel more comfortable speaking up. Use centralized file-sharing tools to allow employees to go back and review these items on their own time while formulating feedback.
  • Avoid back-to-back meetings whenever possible. Give everyone a chance to recharge so they can bring their best to each conversation.
  • Use technology. Introverts typically would rather type than talk. Encourage the sharing of ideas in writing via email or a team messaging app like RingCentral, which allows folks to chat in real time from any device, whenever inspiration strikes, and feel seen:

RingCentral team messaging app

The fringe benefits: You’ll see more engagement and input from your quietest employees, which could result in brand-new insights that propel your business forward.

3. Break down the silos.

We’ve all seen it: the endless email thread that could’ve been avoided altogether, if only the right people had been in the room. Cross-team collaboration is essential in a small business where there’s no time, or budget, to do things twice. Plus, workplace happiness decreases for 75% of employees when communications technologies hinder productivity.

The best way to keep these collaborations on track (and employees happy!) is to empower your team with information. Use good communication tools and share your team knowledge in a way that’s easy for everyone to access. The recent boom in productivity software means you can find an affordable online workspace for your business that will pay for itself in no time.

Again, cloud-based software like RingCentral will come in handy here. Try to find a tool that gives you team-based messaging, real-time file sharing, and task management all in one place for optimal efficiency, so your employees will feel empowered and capable: two keys to a job well done and improved retention rates.

assignging a task in RingCentral mobile app

In RingCentral’s mobile app, you can assign a task to someone right within your group or one-on-one conversation thread.

 

The fringe benefits: You’ll have improved turnaround time on complex projects and less confusion between teams, along with seamless customer service thanks to supervisors being able to help out on calls instead of putting clients on hold. All this makes for happy customers, because they’ll get faster results and fewer mistakes!

4. Nurture psychological safety.

Science has spoken: employees who feel a strong sense of psychological safety are more engaged, productive, and loyal to their company, according to Harvard Business School’s Professor Amy C. Edmonson. “Psychological safety” sounds daunting, but what it really means is inclusion, something that’s easier to nurture within your organization than you might think.

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Set the tone for inclusion. Create a sense of belonging by setting the example. Bake the importance of psychological safety into your onboarding process by implementing online courses in inclusion and unconscious bias. And be sure to take these courses yourself!
  • Give everyone a voice. In addition to the strategies for introverts listed above, employee engagement surveys are another great way to take the pulse of your organization. Be sure to include a few questions geared toward psychological safety, like: “Do you feel comfortable bringing your whole self to work?” and “Do you feel your voice and input are valued?” Ask the same questions year over year (or however often you plan to survey) to get the clearest data. Surveying your team doesn’t have to be time or cost prohibitive, thanks to helpful tools like Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey that track and compile the responses for you.
  • Rinse and repeat. Inclusion and belonging aren’t just boxes you check; they are ongoing processes that enrich your team, encourage loyalty, and improve morale. Make inclusion part of your strategic plan, with regular check-ins and evaluation. You can even appoint and train an “Inclusion Ambassador,” someone on your team who has shown interest and can spend a small amount of time reading up on the topic and sharing information with their colleagues. Psychological safety and professional development in one!

The fringe benefits: Increased focus on psychological safety should result in greater productivity and participation, especially in folks from underrepresented communities who bring valuable thought diversity to the table.

5. Create opportunities for professional growth.

Investing in your team is a net positive for everyone, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. It can be as simple as offering stretch projects to standout employees or the chance to lead a small team on a new office initiative.

You can also go the extra mile and foot the bill on low-cost benefits like online courses through Brainstation or Coursera, local conferences in their field, or even a subscription to the professional publication of their choosing:

Brainstation dashboard

It’s also important to share how growth happens in your organization. Transparency on advancement opportunities is a huge strength when it comes to employee retention. Create a simple flow-chart or timeline of the promotion process: the steps it takes, when the process begins each year, and the individuals involved in decision making.

This makes it easier for your team to advocate for themselves and their direct reports. Clarity goes both ways: make employee career plans part of your annual review process, so you know how best to support each team member in their pursuits.

The fringe benefits: You’ll see more employees taking advantage of professional development opportunities you offer and putting that knowledge to work solving problems on the job.

6. Celebrate a job well done.

There’s a proven connection between employee recognition and greater retention rates. It makes sense: people stay where they feel valued and appreciated.

And the best approach to employee recognition? It just might be a creative one. Think about ways to get your whole team involved in showing appreciation for one another. Maybe your employees would respond to a “Bravo Box” in the break room, where folks can submit compliments to be read out at staff meetings, or a quarterly thank-you lunch.

The easier it is to participate, the more showing appreciation will become second nature. Some teaming software comes ready to integrate with employee-recognition tools like 15Five and Kudos—saying thanks becomes as easy as click, type, send:

15Five peer recognition

Peer recognition outlets are important, but don’t forget to implement some more formal, leadership-driven appreciation! A nicely printed certificate and heartfelt acknowledgement from the boss can go a long way toward keeping your best and brightest.

The fringe benefits: You’ll get consistent participation in the employee recognition ideas you implement and more positive responses about feeling recognized and appreciated on employee surveys.

Pro-tip:

Learn more about collaborative leadership.

7. Stay competitive: focus on work-life balance.

For Millennials and Gen Zers, the present and future of our workforce, work is “not about jumping up titles, but moving into better work environments.” This focus on work-life balance is where small businesses can really compete with the bigger names in the game at recruiting and keeping great talent.

What you can’t afford in bonuses, make up for in a commitment to employee wellness and other non-monetary perks. Say “yes” to modified workweek schedules, like four 10-hour days. Say “no” to emails after 5:00 p.m. Work with parents of young children on flexible schedules, and open the door to telecommuting with the help of all-inclusive, cloud-based tools that keep everyone in the loop.

The fringe benefits: A commitment to work/life balance won’t only encourage retention; it’ll attract an even wider net of talent to your door, folks who have incredible skill sets but can’t be in the office every weekday from 9 to 5.

Employee retention strategies are good for business, and they don’t have to burst your budget. With a little creative thinking and the help of affordable employee engagement apps, you can build a loyal team that will take your success to the next level. And along the way, the work you do to retain employees will attract better talent, boost overall morale, and improve your customer experience.

Employee retention strategies don’t have to break the bank

RingCentral offers affordable, one-stop-shop communication and productivity tools that allow your team to connect and collaborate like never before. Check out a demo to learn more about how it works: