Businesses need to work harder to retain driven staff - The Orca

Businesses need to work harder to retain driven staff


Millennial employees increasingly want to work someplace they think matters – and also lets them have ‘side gigs.’

The number of small businesses in Canada grows every day. From 2003 to 2017, 85 per cent of all new jobs (1.2 million jobs) were created by small- to medium-sized businesses, according to the federal government’s Key Small Business Statistics. The story of a fed up entrepreneur leaving their well-paying but unfulfilling corporate job is becoming a common cliché.

“As the pressure increases on young families, I’ve noticed so many people leave for more flexible work schedules, work from home options and opportunities that will provide an increase to their earnings,” said Culture and People Strategist Nicki Bullock.

Often that comes in the form of a shiny bauble of entrepreneurship. In reality it often means people work harder and longer hours for less pay (especially at the beginning), but the seduction of a small business that you own fully and have complete control of is hard to deny.

The count of businesses operated by self-employed individuals without paid help climbed at a more rapid pace (4.1 per cent) and was the fastest-growing group in the small business sector, according to BC government statistics and these new entrepreneurs are often coming from stable, corporate jobs.

“Retention in this market is critical to overall business success and while there are never any guarantees that you can hold on to a team member, there are things that can be done to increase your odds,” said Bullock.

She recommends that leaders meet with team members one on one regularly to establish trust and get a clearer picture of what is important to them – whether that be monetary compensation, flexible work hours or work from home options.

“Understand your values and build a team culture that allows your team to be part of your ‘why.’ When team members feel that they are a part of something that matters their engagement increases,” said Bullock.

Competitive pay definitely matters but now more than ever, workers – especially those in the millennial demographic – are chasing a broader purpose: they want to be a part of something that matters.

Bullock also suggests incorporating some fun into your work routine:

“We seem to think sometimes that work should always be productive and serious. We lose the opportunity to connect with our teams in ways that allow for all of themselves to show up.”

Striving for both creativity and flexibility at work is driving many young people to pick up a “side hustle” on top of their nine to five. As long as it doesn’t interfere with their job description, Bullock recommends that employers stay open to this kind of arrangement.

Ultimately employees who have an entrepreneurial drive of their own are often some of a business’ best assets. They are self-starters who can think outside of the usual way of doing things, and innovate and pivot quickly.

Employers who want to retain those sharp, valuable minds need to make them feel like they’re part of the company’s broader mission. The day-to day-culture needs to be aligned with their own values and purpose.

If not? The stats show they’ll leave.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at