In these times of economic growth and with the labour market tightening, one of the key priorities that we are hearing from members of the Small Firms Association is the retention of their high performing employees.

Having quality and experienced employees ensures that a business is in a position to defend itself against competitors. With this in mind, employers are often looking into employee management strategies to ensure that they are best placed to retain their top talent.

In the Small Firms Association, we are advising our members to focus on the below six key areas to ensure that employees remain engaged and are less likely to look for employment elsewhere.


1. Investment

In order for employees to feel valued and engaged, it is important that the business is willing to invest in their development. Mangers should hold regular meetings with employees to discuss their performance and also their longer term career plan. The information gleaned from these meetings will make it much easier for managers to arrange training that caters to the needs of the employee and also supports their career goals.

Many businesses will also encourage employees to undertake additional courses of study which are relevant to their role and can offer support such as contributing towards course fees and/or providing study leave etc. If a business has a culture of continuous professional development and is willing to invest in their employees it is likely that employees will remain engaged and committed to the business for the long term.


2. Benefits and Reward

In terms of the benefits package on offer, most businesses believe that this is the main component of employee retention. Although an attractive salary can certainly attract high quality employees it does not ensure that those employees are retained. It is important that the salary on offer is competitive in the industry and also rewards high performing employees through an effective performance appraisal procedure.

However, it is also vital that an employer identifies what their employees consider important to them in terms of the benefits package and this can certainly vary depending on the individual circumstances of the employee i.e. generous leave entitlements may be a high priority to an employee who has a young family.


3. Effective Management

We have all often heard the expression “employees don’t leave jobs; they leave managers”. It is very important that managers are well trained and competent in performing their role. An effective manager should build relationships with employees and reward and acknowledge their accomplishments.

In addition, it can also have a highly detrimental effect if a manager is seen to tolerate poor performance by other employees. This can have a negative impact on morale and can disengage the top performers in a business.


4. Recruitment

When hiring, it is very important that a business has a thorough and effective recruitment process in place to ensure that they are selecting the right candidates. It is important to identify during the selection process what is important to the candidate in a job to ensure that they are the right fit within the company from the outset.


5. Workplace Flexibility

A business is rewarded by employee commitment when they adopt a flexible approach to working. Employers should review roles within their business and seek to identify any areas where more flexibility could be added.

It is often the case that employees work best when they can balance their work responsibilities with their personal life. This can include options such as working from home when applicable, term time, career breaks etc.


6. Communication

A business should aim to be open and transparent with their employees as much as possible. Managers must believe in the importance of communicating with their staff on an ongoing basis and this should be reinforced by the overall business culture. This should start from when an employee joins the business and continue up to when they leave employment.

When an employee resigns, it provides the business with an opportunity to meet with the employee and discuss their reasons for leaving. Since the employee is leaving, they will often be more open and frank in their discussions about the business. This information will be of great benefit to the business as it will give the employer an insight into how the business is perceived and ideas on how to improve an employee’s experience. If there is a common trend as to why employees are leaving the employer will then be in a position to try and remedy this matter.

"The six steps outlined above will ensure that an employee feels valued and is committed to the business"

To conclude, it is essential in any successful talent management strategy that an employer recognises that employees are central to the success of the business. The starting point in this process would be acknowledging that every employee has the potential to add value and the business must be committed to ensuring that this happens. The six steps outlined above will ensure that an employee feels valued and is committed to the business. By adopting this approach, the employer is not only investing in their employees but also investing in the long term success of their business.


Sven Spollen-Behrens is the Director of the Small Firms Association, the trusted partner of small business in Ireland. The SFA provide HR, employment law and business advice to 8,500 members across Ireland. Further information is available at