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Hang on to Your Assets: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Retain Top Talent
Small Business

Hang on to Your Assets: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Retain Top Talent

Small businesses and startups have a lot to offer their employees that larger companies do not. Here's what they can do to retain top talent.

Anyone who works for a small business or startup generally operates beyond capacity, a pain that could be alleviated by hiring the perfect Mary Poppins. No doubt you realize the importance of making good hires — but what you may not have considered is the hefty expense of training new employees and the challenge of retaining those talented employees once onboarded. So how can you ensure your hiring efforts pay off with long-term employees? 

With the unemployment rate now at its lowest point since 1969, there’s an unprecedented competition for great talent, which means small businesses and startups have to offer benefits and access that larger companies do not — and it’s imperative to get a handle on the hiring process early on. Here are five things to consider. 

1. Offer flexibility

Small businesses and startups may not be able to compete on the basis of salary, but that’s okay. What they can’t offer in cash, they can make up for in job flexibility. What does that look like? For starters, you could allow employees to work from home as needed, offer flexible sick/vacation policies, and conduct meetings online to reduce travel. Take a page from this leader’s playbook: Trust your employees to get their work done well and on time, but leave the how, when, and where up to them. 

2. Create an inclusive culture

A welcoming, inclusive culture is key to attracting and retaining great talent. Why? Because a positive work environment fosters goodwill and innovation that’s contagious. According to Robert Half, 35% of American workers wouldn’t even accept a job if they didn’t buy into the corporate culture, and Hire Level says an inclusive workplace leads to happier employees, increased production, and greater diversity. An added benefit? Happier employees usually lead to happier customers. So go on — foster equality and reward hard work. Try some of these tips on how to establish the right culture for your growing business.

3. Give them broad experience

Research says small business leaders are responsible for an average of 4.2 roles in their companies. While that’s got to be overwhelming at times, you can also use it as a benefit in terms of attracting and retaining employees. Help employees grow their skill sets and reach their leadership potential by offering experiences and exposure they might not get at a larger company. Maybe they’re selling in the morning, marketing in the afternoon, and adding in some product strategy or customer service as needed. This allows employees to identify what they’re passionate about for the long term, and the opportunity for a broader resume might just be what it takes to lure them in. 

4. Operate with trust and transparency

It can be difficult to keep employees invested at large companies — but at startups, every employee can feel the daily impact of their work. That’s huge! So encourage them to feel like they’re a part of the success by operating with trust and transparency. Offer employees access to data and reports, use an open communication policy, and give them a voice in the day-to-day decisions. A smaller team means everyone has access to the guts of the business, and that intimate visibility can be a big plus when it comes to retaining great talent. 

5. Help build their connections and community

Small businesses usually can’t afford expensive conferences and training opportunities, but you don’t have to have a huge training budget to build a community. Look for free seminars, use your connections to help employees grow their own networks, and invite them to attend local networking events. Set aside time each month for free online training courses and webinars. There are plenty of opportunities for professional development these days as long as you’re eyes-wide-open.

The power of people: how small businesses retain talent

As humans, we want flexible, supportive work environments. We want to feel heard and included. We want opportunities to learn and grow. So if your small business wants to attract and retain top talent, you’ve got to be the kind of business that understands the power of people. Give the people what they want, and they’ll reward you by doing the same. 

Salesforce Essentials helps you find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can grow faster than ever. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions by following us on TwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram.


As senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce, Marie Rosecrans focuses on empowering small and medium businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow. Before joining Salesforce in 2008, she held positions in customer support, professional services, product marketing, and program management at Oracle, Peoplesoft, Evolve, and Primavera. Marie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband, teen, and tween.

More by Marie

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