Q: I am a distressed employer. I run a pharmaceutical business and have three employees. All the three come from very poor backgrounds and I trained them myself. Last year, a competitor opened a business close to mine and word is that he is planning to poach two of my employees, who he has offered better pay. What do I do?
You could start by understanding the needs of your employees. If they have worked for you for a number of years, they may be concerned about a number of things, from career growth to terms of employment, hours of work, benefits and salary.
Instead of pulling the benevolent card, talking of how much you have helped three people from a poor background, who ought to be grateful for their jobs and free training, get to understand what they lack and see how best to meet their needs.
You will be surprised to learn that their demands might not just be about more money but about challenging work.
Depending on the feedback you receive, there are good work practices you could start adopting to enhance motivation and retention. Despite the small number you employ, be sure to have workplace guidelines on key practices that are necessary in guiding your small community.
Provide clarity on roles to be performed by each person to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them and how their success is evaluated and rewarded. When decisions need to be made, be sure everyone is clear on how far they can go and when they need to check with you. This is not about control, so empower them to work as flexibly as possible and only recheck decisions that carry higher risks. Employees like to feel valued and appreciated, so appreciate their work when need be through regular feedback. Also provide them with suitable tools and good and safe facilities.
You need to be realistic and understand that if your business is not expanding or growing, your employees will be frustrated about doing repeat tasks overtime and will definitely seek growth elsewhere, so do know that at some point you will lose them either way, hence you need to prepare for this by training others who can easily step in when that time comes.
And really, you should not limit their aspirations or feel frustrated that they have gained more skills and desire to move on, instead see this as an opportunity to train and uplift others.
Also, avoid falling in the trap of keeping highly skilled and costly employees to do standard tasks that can be performed at half the cost by a highly motivated team.