How to Find and Keep Your Best Employees – and Surefire Ways to Lose Them

I recently saw a shocking statistic: A third of millennials plan to quit their jobs once the COVID pandemic is no longer an issue. That’s a lot of workers looking for a job. Some may be employees in your small business. How can you keep your best employees? And, just as importantly, is this an opportunity for you to hire some really great new hires?

According to the “Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker” survey conducted in March 2021, a quarter of all employees say they plan to find a new job when things return to normal. But for 25-40 year olds, the number planning to change jobs is much higher: a whopping 34%.

All this while America is struggling with a serious labor shortage. Every employer I know is understaffed and struggling to find people – be it in retail, restaurant, tech, manufacturing, professional services, you name it. That means employees know they are in high demand — and demand more of their needs met.

► Fast food companies pay: Wages rose 10% as restaurants struggle to hire and retain employees, report says

► Exit: Three Chick-fil-A restaurants close dining room due to staff shortages

What can you do, what can you offer, to attract and retain your most valuable employees?

Work life balance. The main reason employees want to leave their current job is to achieve a better work-life balance. Many small business owners – who work tirelessly on their business – just don’t understand this.

Last week, I heard from a boss at a professional services firm who was desperate for more employees, forcing the rest of her employees to work 60-75 hours a week. She didn’t see the problem because she worked more hours herself. But these workers are at home — with partners, parents, roommates — telling them their work hours are crazy. If you want to lose your staff, work them overtime, call them late at night or on weekends. If not, respect their time limits.

remote work. Eighty-seven percent of employees surveyed want to work remotely at least one day a week. Many want to work remotely for more days or permanently. Realistically, housing remote workers is often a challenge for small businesses that have few employees to work in the office, meet customers, and produce goods and services. But if you can find ways to allow some remote work, that’s considered a major employment benefit these days.

► ‘The DNA of work has changed’: Many Americans want to continue working from home after the COVID-19 crisis is over

Flexibility. In a world where COVID is still raging, Day-care will be an ongoing problem for workers with children. Even if their schools or daycare centers are open, there will likely be flare-ups that will require children to stay home at short notice. As an employer, keep in mind that you will have to deal with last-minute changes in work schedules.

► Childcare shortage: Nurseries struggle to retain employees

Enough hours and predictable hours. Over the past few months, I’ve heard many small businesses — especially in service and hospitality businesses — complaining that they’ve raised wages, but still can’t find people to hire.

But many of these entrepreneurs haven’t given employees what they want and really need: full-time jobs with predictable hours. These industries are known for giving employees fewer hours than would entitle them to benefits or predictable hours so they can arrange childcare, get a second job, or go back to school.

Opportunity to grow. Growing up is always difficult in a small business, but employees – especially your best employees – are always looking to improve themselves. Moving up doesn’t just mean pay increases, it also means new challenges, having more authority and responsibility, and learning new skills. Find ways to empower your best employees to grow your business instead of losing them.

► Report: Temporary workers struggle in a ‘permanent underclass dual workforce’

A safe workplace. Covid is on the rise again and the autumn and winter months are likely to see an even greater increase in illness, hospitalizations and death. Many employees have young children or immunocompromised relatives at home, and exposure to Covid in the workplace is a genuine concern. The most important thing employees cited that employers could do to make it easier for them to get back into the office was: ensure all employees are vaccinated. If you don’t want vaccinations, employers can ensure that all unvaccinated staff wear proper masks indoors at all times and have weekly COVID tests.

► Ask HR: Can I ask my employer to require COVID-19 vaccinations?

► No vaccination? Americans support harsh rules, mask mandates to protect the common good

Communication and corporate culture. Employees most likely to change jobs gave their current employer a C grade or lower when it came to maintaining company culture during the pandemic. Company culture was critical before COVID, and it’s even more important now when remote workers aren’t interacting with the boss and co-workers, aren’t having corporate birthday drinks in the break room, or going out for drinks after work.

Competitive Fee. At this point, remember that your employees have many choices for jobs. If they’re a pro, they’re probably being “hunted” on LinkedIn right now. Pay is certainly not the only criterion, but it is the easiest way for an employee to see how much they are valued and to compare positions. Don’t just offer hiring bonuses or other bonuses – give more fixed pay and benefits.

What are you doing in your small business to attract and/or retain employees? I like to hear from you. Just connect with me on Facebook or Twitter @RhondaAbrams.

Rhonda Abrams is a small business expert and a “Top 30 Global Guru” for Startups. Her book “Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategieswas named one of the 100 best business strategy books of all time. Contact Rhonda at; Instagram and Twitter @RhondaAbrams. Sign up for Rhonda’s free small business newsletter at

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Small Businesses: Finding and Retaining Employees?