Retaining Key Employees

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Posted by Jennifer Smith on

Think about the key employees in your business. The ones who understand how everything works: employee roles, client preferences, supply chain, cash flow, compliance, etc. When they take a well-deserved vacation, you FEEL it and so does everyone else. They might be in sales, support, administration, or leadership and they have institutional knowledge that isn’t easily replaced.

So now that you have these key people in mind, here are five ways you can retain them:

  1. Foster an Ownership Mentality: It takes time to develop good employees who think like owners. Be willing to share what is going well, what the business is struggling with, and let them in on the discussion. Good mentors don’t just impart knowledge, they let people into their inner circle and let them participate in decision making.
  2. Responsibility: Let them do things that really matter. A good key employee is willing to do the boring stuff if they also get to be challenged with the fun stuff when it comes up. Let them stretch themselves professionally, invest in their growth, and let them know that you trust them to do their best.
  3. Be Open to Ideas: A key employee probably observes more than you think. They hear what everyone else is saying and they usually have a better pulse on the culture of your business than you do as the owner. Make sure they feel comfortable coming to you with new ideas, criticism, and whatever else they think you need to know.
  4. Flexibility: Find ways to be flexible with your key employees and they won’t take advantage of your kindness and understanding. If their kid has a party at school, encourage them to go. Mother in law in the hospital? Give them an extended lunch to check on her. If working from home is feasible during bad weather, let them make that call.
  5. Appreciation: Find ways to say thank you.  It could be going out for lunch, picking up their favorite snack, sending them to a workshop, or telling them when something that they did made a big difference and just saying thank you. If you appreciate your key people, make sure they know it.

Key EmployeesIn fact, one of the first questions that a buyer will ask is if the key employees are willing to stay. And if a family member happens to be a key employee, make sure you are cross training with non-family members well in advance of selling. Family members can make buyers nervous because they don’t know where their loyalties will be after the sale.

I hope this has been helpful in thinking about your own business. If you’d like to talk about this and other perspectives on selling, contact us.