Employees For Keeps: Some Best Practice Suggestions for Employee Retention in Small and Family-Run Businesses


Written by Rebecca Jaremko Bromwich

Both economic and cultural factors strongly suggest it is better to hire employees, to the greatest extent possible, “for keeps”.  This is particularly challenging with today’s low unemployment rates. Employee turnover is expensive, imposing monetary costs (as much as $100,000 for a single employee) as well as leading to a “downward spiral” in  worker morale and negatively impacting workplace culture, “fracturing” work teams and preventing them from optimizing their potential. In consequence, employee retention is crucial for the success of small and family-run businesses. Here are some effective strategies to achieve this:

  1. Provide competitive compensation and benefits: Survey the sector to be sure your company offers competitive salaries and benefits packages to attract and retain talented employees. Regularly review this and adjust compensation to ensure it remains competitive within your industry.
  2. Create a positive work environment: Devote resources to fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture. Encourage open communication, teamwork, and mutual respect among employees. Recognize and reward employees’ achievements and contributions.
  3. Provide growth and development opportunities: Offer opportunities for professional growth and advancement within the organization. Provide training programs, workshops, and mentorship opportunities to help employees enhance their skills and knowledge.
  4. Accommodate flexible work: Consider implementing flexible work schedules, remote work options, or alternative work arrangements to accommodate employees’ needs. This flexibility can improve work-life balance and boost employee satisfaction.
  5. Empower employee involvement: Involve employees in decision-making processes and value their input. Empower them to take ownership of their work and provide autonomy whenever possible.
  6. Clear communication and transparency: Maintain open and transparent communication channels. Keep employees informed about company news, goals, and any changes that may impact them. Encourage feedback and address concerns promptly. This fosters a sense of responsibility and increases job satisfaction.
  7. Provide regular feedback: Establish a system for regular performance evaluations and constructive feedback. Provide clear expectations and goals and offer support and guidance to help employees improve their performance.
  8. Foster Wellness: Encourage work-life balance by promoting healthy work practices. Encourage employees to take paid time off, and vacation policies that enable employees to recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Implement wellness initiatives such as gym memberships, wellness challenges, or mental health support programs. Prioritizing employees’ well-being demonstrates care for their overall health and happiness.
  9. Recognize employees with rewards: Recognize and appreciate employees’ efforts and achievements through rewards, bonuses, or other forms of recognition. Acknowledging their contributions boosts morale and motivation.
  10. Foster learning and a growth mindset: Promote a culture of continuous learning and professional development. Encourage employees to attend conferences, workshops, or relevant courses. Support learning initiatives that align with their career goals.
  11. Cultivate teamwork: Organize team-building activities and social events to strengthen bonds among employees. These activities create a sense of camaraderie and improve collaboration within the team.

Remember, every business is unique, so it’s important to tailor these strategies to fit your specific organizational culture and employee needs. The region in which your small and/or family-run business operates is relevant, as noted by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce here. Regularly assess the effectiveness of these initiatives and adjust them accordingly to ensure continuous improvement.

The views and opinions expressed in the blogs and case reporter are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and the Law, the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.