How to retain employees in a small business

31 May 2019

As a small business owner, your people are a vital part of your business’ success. You’ve probably spent a long time building up a strong team around you who you trust to help your business achieve its goals and continue to grow. 

So what happens when a key member of your team decides to leave the business? Having spent so long recruiting and then training them, it can be costly for your business to have to hire a replacement. According to one publication, the cost of replacing an employee earning the average UK salary of £27,721 can be up to £12,0001. As well as the monetary cost to the business, it can also put strain on the remaining members of the team as they have to pick up the workload until a replacement is found.

So how can business owners ensure that they’re retaining their top team members?

Training and development

Regular opportunities for training and development can help to keep your team motivated and can show that you’re investing in their future career as well as the skills that they’re bringing to your business. A research study found that one third (33%) of UK employees said they wanted to leave their job due to a lack of opportunity for career progression2.

Despite this, it seems that many employers are still not placing as high an importance on career development and training as employees might like. According to one survey, only half (47%) of organisations run training and development programmes to help build employees’ skills and support career development3.

When employees feel that they’re no longer learning anything new and aren’t progressing in their jobs, they can start to feel stuck. Creating a training and development programme for each employee can be a great way to ensure that they stay motivated and engaged with the business. You could also ensure that line managers are regularly discussing progression with their team and working with them to identify training opportunities that they feel would be beneficial.

Employee benefits package

Employee benefits packages are becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to retain current team members and to attract top quality new recruits to the business. According to a survey conducted by ExecSurvey on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare, 85% of respondents believed it is very or significantly important that staff in their organisation are offered health and wellbeing support initiatives, such as gym memberships, healthy eating schemes or private healthcare cover4

One of the great things about employee benefits packages is that they can be tailored to the wants and needs of your team and your business. You could get your team involved in shaping the package by asking them which benefits they would find the most valuable. Some examples of employee benefits are:

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Encourage regular feedback

Ensuring that there are clear lines of communication between senior management and the wider team can be highly beneficial to overall workplace wellbeing. According to a report from Perkbox, 35% of employees identify a lack of communication as their biggest frustration at work5. Making sure that the team is kept in the loop with business updates and any business challenges can mean that employees are more engaged with the company by having a greater knowledge of the intended direction of the business and its progress. 

You should also encourage your team to provide you with their feedback for how they feel the business is doing and whether there are any processes or tasks that they feel the business could be doing better. If you do act on feedback from your team, ensure that any improvements from this are communicated so employees know that their ideas are highly valued and that senior management takes their feedback seriously.

Work life balance

When employees are unable to switch off from work and are working long hours, it can start to have a negative impact on their personal lives. A survey conducted by the Mental Health Foundation found that6:

  • One third of respondents feel unhappy or very unhappy about the time they devote to work
  • More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work

Ensuring that your team have a positive work life balance can aid in overall workplace wellbeing, which could subsequently improve employee retention. A positive work life balance can be encouraged in your business by:

  • Encouraging your team to make full use of their annual leave allowance and discouraging them from checking their emails while they’re on holiday and at the weekends
  • Avoiding emailing your team outside of normal working hours unless it’s absolutely essential. If you do have to email your team, you can caveat it by saying that you don’t expect them to reply until they’re back in the office
  • As employees often replicate the behaviour of senior management, ensuring that you’re leaving the office at a reasonable time each day can encourage the rest of your team to follow suit
  • Encouraging your team to take their full lunch break and to use it as an opportunity to get outside rather than eating lunch at their desks
  • Creating a break out area in your office can provide employees with a space where they can socialise with other members of the team if they need a break during the working day

How we can help

Small business health insurance can have a number of benefits when it comes to employee retention, including helping employees feel more valued and helping your business stay attractive to both prospective and current employees.

At AXA PPP healthcare, our small business health insurance aims to get you and your team back to work quickly through prompt access to diagnosis and eligible treatment. You and your team will have much greater control and flexibility over your medical appointments. If your GP recommends that you see a specialist, our Fast Track Appointments team can find you an appointment with a specialist at a time and place that works for you. 

Find out more about our small business health insurance, including what we do and don’t cover and get a quote today.

Sources and references

1Accounts and Legal, 2019

2Allen Associates, 2017

3Robert Half, 2018

4Exec Survey on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare. Health and Wellbeing in the UK Workforce, 2018


6Mental Health Foundation

Small business health insurance experts

Start taking care of yourself and your team today and get a quote for our business health insurance. Or, talk to us about how we can help your business reach their wellbeing goals.