Whether you’re new to owning a small business — or you’ve been rocking Main Street since Reagan was president — there are a few challenges all business owners are bound to encounter while their doors are open. Employee retention happens to be one of them.

Maybe you’ve been lucky and have had dedicated employees that have stuck with you through the good and the bad. But more than likely, especially if you own a retail store or a quick service restaurant, you’ve probably experienced high turnover at times. So how do you get the best and the brightest of employees to stay with you? Check out our 6 employee retention techniques. Because you already know: You’re business is only as good as the people who run it.

1. Give Yourself Time, Hire the Best

This might seem like an obvious, but when your grand opening is less than a month away, or you’re pressed to hire seasonal employees, you might hear yourself saying: “Sure, they’ll be fine.” But in reality, you’re not sure your new hires are the perfect fit for the job.

How can we put this? Go. With. Your. Gut! Be sure about the people you’re hiring. You need to know that your employees are not only qualified but that they’ll gel well with your new (or already existing) business.

So how does one do this? Interview. Interview. Interview. Sure, a resume might tell you the bullet points of what a person wants you to know about them, but what do they tell you about their personality or drive to succeed? Sifting through resumes and knowing the correct questions to answer during an interview is more an art than a science. So if it’s your first time and not feeling 100 percent confident, ask your business partner (or a fellow merchant) for some advice. Simple tweaks on how you interview a candidate can make a big difference.

a small business employee serving food to customers

2. Acknowledge Employees’ Goals

Acknowledging the professional (and sometimes personal) goals of your employees is crucial to a smoothly-run business. If you’re a coffee shop owner or own a retail clothing boutique, it’s likely that you have employees who are still in college or working to pay the bills while they pursue the career of their dreams. And that’s ok.

But how do you get these employees to stick around long enough so that you’re not constantly retraining new staff? By acknowledging the obvious — that owning a coffee shop is your dream, but making lattes is not their life-long goal — can encourage an open and honest environment that your employees will appreciate.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect less than 100 percent dedication from your employees. But if one of your staff needs to switch shifts once in a while to run to a casting call, let them know that’s ok. An employee with a job that helps them reach their goals is an employee who is more likely to stick around. That is until they make it big on Broadway.

3. Open Door Policy, Always

Even if you don’t have a physical office, make an effort to maintain an “open door” policy. Encouraging employees to voice their suggestions and concerns will foster an environment where employees feel not only appreciated but also valued.

When employees are not only allowed, but encouraged, to speak with their supervisors about any concerns or suggestion they might have, they feel not only valued but appreciated. Appreciated employees are happy employees and happy employees stay longer at their jobs. Enough said.

employees standing in a distillery

4. Allow for Work/Life Balance

Despite some unpopular opinion, work/life balance does exist. Well, at least it should. As a small business owner or store manager, it’s up to you to allow for it and set this standard throughout the workplace. That means not only getting to know what is important to your employees (i.e. allowing them to take the time they need) but also setting an example and taking the personal time you need. If one of your employees constantly sees you missing your kid’s soccer games to stay late and finish up payroll, they are going to feel less confident in asking to leave an hour early to take their child to the dentist. Ultimately, they will be less likely to weather any small business storms you might encounter. Remember, this goes beyond just family obligations. It includes religious holidays, personal time, and whatever else you and your employees deem important.

SEE ALSO: Send Your Staff Home: How Unlimited Time Off Will Help You Keep Your Best Employees

5. Get to Know Your Employees

This might seem obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how many employers completely miss the boat on this one. The degree to which you get to know your staff will vary depending on your work environment. If you’re a tight-knit team of three, you’re inherently going to know more about each of your employees than if you run a staff of 15. Regardless, getting to know little things about each and every employee will make working with each other more pleasant, and dare I say…fun?

If you have a larger staff or having awkward one-on-one coffees with each and every employee seems daunting, we totally get it. Take a bit of the burden off yourself and grab a cup of Joe with a few employees at a time. Trust us, they’ll prefer it this way. You’re still their boss and meeting one on one with you might feel intimidating. They’ll appreciate the added comradery.

6. Don’t Just Teach, Be Taught

Yes, we know you’re the boss. But no one knows everything all of the time. If you did a good job hiring your employees, hopefully, you’ve hired a few that have an expertise you’re lacking. So utilize these skills and learn from that employee. There’s nothing wrong with asking an employee to take the lead on a project.

Maybe you own a clothing boutique and have struggled with your window displays. But, didn’t you just hire a cashier with an MFA in fashion design? They’d probably do a great job at designing this year’s holiday window. So let them do it! They’ll not only enjoy the added responsibility but will appreciate the acknowledgement of their skills. And like we said above, appreciated employees are happy employees.


Though we’ve just mentioned 6 individual employee retention techniques, they all revolved around two common themes: appreciation and respect. Above all else, if you keep these points in mind, you’re guaranteed to build a lasting and reliable staff.

About the Author

Sara Sugar is ShopKeep point of sale’s in-house Content Marketing Specialist. Sara uses her distinguished journalism background to boil down topics like POS system technology, payments, and payment security for small business owners.