Having engaged and dedicated employees is essential for the success of any small business team. The key to building such a team is having the right recruitment and retention strategies in place.

At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s America’s Top Small Business Summit: Ready. Set. Scale., CO— Editor in Chief Jeanette Mulvey interviewed two 2023 finalists for America’s Top Small Business about how to find and keep employees who love what they do. Read on for insights from Will Chen, Founder and CEO of P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle & You, and Dan Newman, Founder, CEO, and Principal Auctioneer of Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, on finding the right employee fit, setting your team up for success, and investing in your employees’ development as a retention strategy.

[Read More: Missed the Summit? Watch the replay here.]

Transparency can help small businesses find the right fit

For small businesses looking to expand their teams, employee fit isn’t just ideal—it’s essential.

“Our employees are the lifeblood of our organization,” Newman explained. “Finding the right folks that see the value and the different types of assets that we’re selling, and take care of them with care, is critical.”

Taking the time to ask the right questions and being open and honest about the job scope can help small business owners find the right fit, or identify red flags early on. Doing so can prevent companies from hiring a candidate and then later discovering they are experiencing job burnout or don’t enjoy working for a small team or business.

“I always tell people that small business is not for everyone,” said Chen. “You need to be prepared [for] times where you have to do things that are … outside your work scope. For us, it's really about setting the expectation right and being transparent about what small business is about.”

[Read More: 6 Smart and Inexpensive Ways Small Businesses Can Attract Top Talent]

Our employees are the lifeblood of our organization. Finding the right folks that see the value and the different types of assets that we’re selling, and take care of them with care, is critical.

Dan Newman, Founder, CEO, and Principal Auctioneer, Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals

Provide employees with tools and opportunities to succeed

Once business owners have hired the right employees for the job, their next task is to keep those employees engaged in their work. Keeping employees involved as well as providing them with the opportunity to provide feedback are great ways to begin.

“From ideation to test of concept to sampling the iterative rounds of trying to improve the product, we actually involve … [our] small team,” said Chen. “It’s … easy for us to get everyone passionate and continue to feel the compassion for the products.”

Another crucial aspect of employee retention is providing teams with the tools they need to succeed.

For Newman’s company, that means leveraging advancements in technology to improve the experience for customers and employees alike. For instance, Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals equips employees with a mobile phone auction app to take pictures and upload them to help track the company's inventory.

“We have really leaned very heavily into as much technology as we can,” Newman said. “[We are] the first auction services company in our marketplace to offer a mobile bidding app that folks could download directly from the Play Store or the Apple iTunes Store. [They can also] go straight to our website [for] a mobile-responsive [experience] that is easy, streamlined, engaging, and ultimately fun.”

[Read More: 7 Technologies That Can Help You Run Your Business From Anywhere]

Incentives and training can increase employee involvement and investment

Another critical aspect of employee retention is offering benefits, incentives, and ongoing training. In addition to traditional workplace benefits such as paid time off, paid holidays, flexible work schedules, and 401(k) plans, small businesses can also aid in certifications and encourage training for employee evolution, career development, and achievement.

“We try to invest in our employees as much as possible … whether it is earning a designation or a certification or training,” said Newman. “The more we can help [our employees] be the best that they can be within the industry, the longer it's going to pay dividends for our company. If we don't take care of our employees, there's no way they can take care of our clients.”

[Read More: America's Top Small Business Awards Gala 2023]

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