Happy, Healthy and Helpful: Six Tips for Employee Retention

Hold on to your best people with these quick strategies for small-business employee retention.

Employee retention is a tricky thing for small-business owners. After all, there’s always someone out there with deeper pockets.

So how can you get your best employees to stay put? Read on for some quick tips on building a workplace that’s happy, healthy and helpful for everyone involved.


A growing body of literature suggests freedom is the key to morale. People want to feel appreciated and trusted, and nobody likes to be micromanaged. One easy way to loosen the reins is to allow your people some time to work on “passion projects” (e.g., initiatives of an intensely personal interest). Another is to give them more leeway in their time management: flex time, a results-oriented work environment (ROWE) or telecommuting.


A good way to encourage happiness is to have your employees take ownership of the brand with you. Whether this means profit-sharing or simply giving credit and glory where they’re due, the point is the same: small-business employees want to feel like they’re in the foxhole with you. Few forces are more powerful than a shared sense of destiny, so consider implementing group bonuses pegged to performance milestones.

Healthy Workplace

Employee retention also requires a healthy workplace, making your employees’ day-to-day experience safe and enjoyable. Think natural lighting, ergonomic workstations and well-ventilated air. Many small businesses resist making changes like these because of the expense, but investing in a healthier workplace is investing in employee retention.

Health Care

A healthy workplace also means providing quality health care. Providing employee health insurance is a proven boon to your bottom line: just under half of small businesses recently reported their companies would be more productive if they provided health care across the board. Beware, however: the ground is constantly shifting under these small-business laws, so it’s wise to consult a lawyer about the latest credits available in your state.


Employees are also more likely to stick around if they feel they’re being heard. Take a look at how feedback is handled in your business. Are comments and suggestions offered with respect? Do your people typically end the day feeling belittled, or empowered? Have you deployed a system like Yammer or Basecamp that handles notes, comments and open tickets in a clear way? Many employees would gladly take a pay cut to work somewhere they feel appreciated, rather than earning a few extra dollars but being treated poorly.


A final way to make your business into a helpful place: mentorship. Employees work harder and stay longer if they believe there’s a credible chance for advancement down the line. You can help foster an environment where productivity thrives by reaching out to talented people and offering your skills, wisdom and advice. Even distributing tickets to a seminar or dinner can mean a lot to the up-and-comers on your team.

Keep the Best People

Your employees are your business, and losing even one integral employee can deeply upset the balance. Strive to create a workplace that places a premium on the three Hs — happy, healthy and helpful — and you should be able to hold on to the cream of the crop as long as your business grows.

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