In early 2020, more than four million people quit their jobs and a recent survey indicates that nearly 73% of workers are considering quitting in what’s been deemed “The Great Resignation.”
During COVID many businesses crumbled, so how did small businesses thrive?
For many small businesses with low overhead, COVID gave us the opportunity to do what we were already doing — but better.
I was fortunate my business is designed for remote work, and I had some perspective after surviving a tragic and taxing 2018 and 2019. For a scrappy entrepreneur, COVID delivered me the gift of time and reflection, and — eventually — the pivot.
Small businesses tend to be led by folks who can handle higher risk, implement change quickly, and have the confidence to wing it.
The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 43% of small businesses surveyed got creative about staying open.
Entrepreneurs juggle so much and COVID, albeit a seismic moment, was simply another “thing” to adapt to.
I spent the first three months of COVID supporting a client by blogging about creative restaurant pivots so their clients could adopt methods in their own communities. I spent the better part of the lockdown helping small businesses affordably deploy their PPP loans to keep the brands alive and prepared for a return to “new normal.”
How Pivot-Capable Businesses Kept Employees
Another cool thing? My business was hiring during The Great Resignation.
I mean, my employees might quit because they don’t like working with me (I’m kind of a pain), but they’re not resigning for the reasons other businesses are seeing:
- We can help identify and prevent burnout. As a business owner, I am burning the candle at all ends, and my employees sometimes ride my wave, but I encourage them to do the work they love and trust them to do what’s right for their work-life balance.
- We aren’t rigid. You want to work after midnight? I don’t care. You want to work in the bathtub? Fine. Small business owners often talk about their colleagues and employees like extensions of our families, so when I hear someone tell me they’re “not feeling it,” I encourage them to take care of themselves first.
- Every contribution is valuable. My team steps up, shares ideas, identifies opportunities, listens to me ideate, comes up with recommendations, and generally are creative. We are all contributing to the success of the business.
- We try to build strong, trusting relationships with one another. Creating respecting boundaries built on integrity and professionalism AND empathy and compassion is what keeps employees coming back. My designer could work at a big company, 9-to-5 with sweet benefits, but she is at Blue Bike because she sees me invest in her project development.
- Money isn’t a tool for motivation. I’m radically transparent about what we make. Essentially, we get rich together or we fall apart.
- Our values mean something. This spring, a client found my social profiles and saw that I am a values-driven professional with clear alignment on anti-oppression practices. It’s not a secret! But the manager in charge of the project sent an email attacking my values and fired me for being liberal. I’m not wavering when it comes to my values. My team knows what I stand for and that’s not changing.
Want to Keep Employees? Align Your Business to Your Values
Big business tends to want a well-trained workforce, while smaller businesses look for people who want to learn and grow. Keeping employees requires building structures, policies, and compensation centered on core values.
Value innovation? Look for people who spend their time noodling on their next side hustle. Value money? Teach them how to make it. Value perfection? Create high standards and be consistent in building policies, training, and accountability practices that reward perfection.
Your employees are someone’s family and if you want them to be a part of yours, then teach them, empower them, listen to them, and share with them.
When the entire team is working toward the same visionary future, you can reach the apex of your potential, together.