Tired of losing people to corporates and their expensive perks? Focus on empowerment to build employee engagement and retain top talent on a tight budget.

Most small to medium enterprises (SMEs) focus on keeping the doors open and staff employed, and plan to channel resources into growth, rather than staff perks. The types of benefits offered by corporates – gym memberships, company cars, business-class travel, subsidised canteen – are simply unrealistic.

If you can’t offer staff as much as you might want to financially speaking, does that mean you’ll never attract and empower great people? Of course not!

All of those perks are simply the icing on the cake – they aren’t the be-all and end-all of a great place to work. There are plenty of things that you can offer that will make your company appealing and retain great people. Flexible work schedules is one. A small, supportive team and free snacks are others. But to satisfy and truly empower your staff, you’ll need to go deeper than that.

A Salesforce poll targeting small businesses asked what they do to increase staff engagement. Overwhelmingly, respondents said empowering their employees to make key decisions within the business was the best way to retain that talent.

With that in mind, we drummed up a few tips on how to ensure your top talent remains empowered (while snacking on free M&Ms and working from home, of course).

Give them a say

Nothing empowers employees more than giving them full permission to talk about what’s working and what is not – including their opinions about you.

Not only does this make it clear that their opinions count, but it makes them directly responsible for shaping workflows and team structure – in the event the team does hit a rough patch, people are more likely to take an active role in fixing problems.

Don’t take all the lead roles

If you have an employee who can do something better than you can, make them the go-to person on your team for that particular skill. Having a diverse team of recognised experts is one of the great secrets to success. More importantly, this is an opportunity to show people how their future with the organisation might look - they won’t always be stuck in the same role.

Back off

Nothing will deflate your most driven and talented workers more than your micromanagement of their projects. Even if their process isn’t the same as your process, you need to show your employees that you know they can accomplish things without your meddling.

Push them

Don’t let your talented employees get comfortable with what they know. Identify the gaps in their knowledge or skills, and give them assignments that will keep them growing and learning.

Embrace their ideas 

Plenty of bosses will ask their teams for fresh ideas, then will reject them or simply not act on them. That’s the exact opposite of empowering.

Schedule brainstorming sessions to inspire new and creative suggestions and ideas. Commit to using at least one or two of those suggestions, no matter how outlandish they might seem. If all the ideas are outlandish, maybe just run with the low-risk ones – otherwise, separate the wheat from the chaff by putting it to a vote.

Salesforce Research surveyed more than 3800 sales, service, and marketing leaders from small businesses around the world, revealing six benchmarks for customer success. Find out more, and see where your business sits in our ebook Benchmarks for Small Business Growth.