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Despite unemployment levels being at an all-time high, top talent will rarely be without options and – given the challenging economic environment – businesses need buy-in from their key employees more than ever before. Making matters even more complex is the fact that remote working is increasingly becoming more mainstream, which means that companies are now competing for talent on a global scale, which makes staff retention key.

Despite this, many small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners underestimate the value of a good human resources management system, and often believe that they don’t have the time or the necessary resources to invest in one. As a result, these SME owners find themselves falling short when it comes to managing employees’ needs.

Over and above the fundamentals, like being familiar with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) and Labour Relations Act (LRA), here are five tips to retaining top talent during these tumultuous times.

1. Flexibility Is no longer a nice-to-have

While flexible employment arrangements and remote work have been buzz-terms for some time now, the COVID-19 pandemic has really shown that almost any office job can be executed remotely. As an employer in 2021, it is vital to ensure that your employees have the flexibility required to juggle their schedules and thrive in the new normal.

2. Monitor employee progress

Business owners need to pay close attention to their employees’ needs on an ongoing basis, especially top talent who likely need to be continuously stimulated and challenged. At least two formal performance reviews should take place annually – both to ascertain if the employer is happy with the level and quality of work being performed, and if the employee is satisfied with his or her working conditions, job description and role, as well as to discuss further training and development opportunities.

3. Include and appreciate employees

For many employees, reasons to stay in a particular job are not only limited to the pay they receive at the end of each month. Staff need more than a monthly pay cheque – they need to feel valued for their contribution to their company and its bottom line. A big selling point for small businesses is their smaller-size team, which can create a welcoming environment and close-knit culture.

4. Offer non-tangible benefits

This is another area where SMEs have the upper hand on larger organisations. While bigger organisations may be in a position to offer a larger salary and more attractive benefits, an SME can craft and implement their own unique employee value proposition, both with tangible and non-tangible aspects. The tangible benefits entail monthly remuneration and bonuses. Considerations when formulating the non-tangible aspects include the so-called “fringe benefits” such as advanced training opportunities, flexible working hours or the occasional informal team or family-focused social activity.

5. Encourage professional growth and development

In large organisations, one typically finds that the prospect of being exposed to a wider range of duties is limited, as work is often compartmentalised, which can leave employees feeling like there is little room for professional growth. Possibly the biggest advantage that SMEs have is their ability to involve staff in a wider range of responsibilities. While this is necessitated by the size of the business, it paths the way for further professional experience outside the confines of the official job title.

Since everybody is different, retaining quality employees requires personalisation of support provided and as such, business owners should schedule periodical discussions with their employees, where the focus should be on ascertaining the employee’s engagement levels and what is important to them.

About the Author: Ben Bierman

Ben Bierman has been our Managing Director since 2015. He joined our company in 1990 and has risen through the ranks occupying various positions ranging from being a management accountant, Head of Information Technology and Chief Financial Officer. Ben is an avid reader, enjoys classical music and being in the outdoors including for hunting trips. He is our go-to-spokesperson for our SME Confidence Index, SME sector policy and trend matters, and business leadership articles.

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