Five tips for retaining employees

In a context marked by labor market tensions and competition from large companies, SMEs sometimes need to double their efforts to retain their qualified employees. Expert advice and feedback from a young SME.

Two people slap hands in a professional environment.

"In terms of employee satisfaction, it should be noted that seeking to imitate the best practices of large companies is not necessarily the right method." Erhard Lüthi, Professor Emeritus in Human Resources Management at the University of Applied Sciences of Northwestern Switzerland, emphasizes the importance of developing solutions specifically tailored to the needs and capabilities of one's own company.

The Great Place To Work Institute, which offers quality assessments of working conditions in companies, believes that SMEs should make room for dialogue between different hierarchical levels. "The first step is to listen to your staff and then implement suitable reward mechanisms," says Michael Hermann, senior executive at Great Place To Work.

The institute awards the status of "best workplaces" to dozens of companies every year. In 2022, it notably rewarded Daes. Based in Lancy (GE), the engineering company specializing in numerical simulation has distinguished itself in retaining employees in a field where competition from large companies is particularly fierce. Here are five tips to keep employees in the long term.

1. Be fair

In a small structure, any differential treatment of an employee by executives will be quickly noticed. "Unexplained imbalances in employee salaries, for example, can lead to disengagement from those who feel disadvantaged. This is a basic mistake that should not be made," says Michael Hermann of Great Place To Work. Moreover, "equity, along with recognition, forms the foundation for employee satisfaction with their work."

2. Give meaning to the job

"The employee must perceive the meaning of their work and take pride in it. Some industries whose activities are perceived as problematic struggle to recruit without offering high salaries." At Daes, employees can dedicate part of their time to internal projects. On a company scale, this represents between 15% and 20% of working hours. "The idea is to allow them to work on projects that originate from the staff themselves, not just on external mandates. This helps stimulate their sense of belonging," explains Sylvie Didelle, development director.

3. Grant merit-based bonuses and compensation

"A team that performs well should be rewarded. This can involve allocating a portion of profits as bonuses," says Michael Hermann. However, these rewards should not be confused with traditional bonuses, which the specialist considers counterproductive. "Gratuities that only target individuals rather than a team often fail to reward all those who deserve it."

Daes personalizes the compensation it grants to its employees. "Depending on each individual's situation, we can consider a temporary reduction in working hours, with a salary reassessment," specifies Sylvie Didelle. Professor Erhard Lüthi applauds the approach: "This can allow a young parent to reduce their working hours, and another going through a divorce to increase them." The possibility of telecommuting is also appreciated by employees whose roles allow it. The specialist, however, cautions: "In many sectors, implementing telecommuting remains difficult, if not impossible."

4. Stimulate teamwork

"In terms of workplace well-being, emotions play a crucial role," reminds Michael Hermann. For a small company, it is even more important to create an environment where work is associated with positive emotions." Without having a strict schedule for it, Daes' management strives to organize extraprofessional activities for its employees several times a year. "To strengthen cohesion, we prioritize activities that encourage collaboration among employees, such as rafting," says Cyril Kharoua, CEO of Daes.

5. Consult your employees

For Professor Erhard Lüthi, this is not only an opportunity to gauge overall satisfaction but also to involve employees in decision-making processes. "Employees will feel valued, and their field experience can help find solutions and make more informed decisions." According to Sylvie Didelle, Daes also strives for transparency and encourages exchanges within the company. "Employees are encouraged to give their opinion and participate in decision-making processes."


On the theme

Small gestures, big effects

Creating emotional attachment to the company through small gestures can be very effective in retaining employees. "Regularly offering a personalized gift card for an activity the employee enjoys is an accessible way for even the smallest companies to express gratitude for good performance. It shows that the employee is recognized beyond their professional role," observes Erhard Lüthi.

Last modification 06.12.2023

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