Over time, most small businesses alter strategies or business models to meet changes within the company or the marketplace.  Unfortunately, many businesses fail to equip their employees with the skills they need to be effective within the new regime. In most cases, however, it is more cost-effective for a small business to retain its existing employees than to hire new ones.

Here are four tips to help your small business develop and retain your existing employees.

Assess Soft Skills

Determine whether or not your employees possess the “soft skills” needed to adapt to future changes. Soft skills are the intangible attributes that make employees valuable under virtually any circumstance. They include things like loyalty, creativity, trustworthiness, leadership and communications skills and a strong work ethic. These are the qualities that transcend specific job descriptions and duties. Employees who possess these soft skills typically have what it takes to adapt and contribute to the success of your business.

Career Path Planning

You also need to assess each employee’s desire to grow within your organization.  This is especially important for companies as they move past the startup stage.  Ironically, employees who were instrumental in helping your startup business reach a certain level of success can also prevent it from moving to the next level of maturity. It’s a good idea to ask your employees where they see themselves fitting into the company as it grows.  Offer to help your employees attain their goals by providing the necessary training and mentoring or suggest alternative roles for them to fill.

Remember, however, that career path planning needs to be a collaborative endeavor between all parties.  Attempting to groom a complacent employee for future opportunities can be a frustrating drain of your resources.

Identify Hidden Talents

It’s not uncommon for an employee who has underperformed in one role to excel in another capacity. Depending on the corporate culture of your business, you might consider cross-training exercises or personality assessments as ways to help identify your employees’ hidden talents.  Encourage open communication through appropriate channels as a means of identifying your employee’s true potential to grow and contribute to your organization.

Make Long-Term Hiring Decisions

Before making any hiring decision, consider where you see your company a year, three years or five years down the road and how the new hire might fit into the picture.  Hiring individuals with the desire and potential to grow along with the business is a win-win situation that can lead to lower turnover, greater job satisfaction and increased productivity for your business.

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