unrestMany small business owners maintain close relationships with their employees. Depending on the size of a company, the owner may interact with the entire staff on a daily basis. This familiarity can create a synchronized working environment, but small businesses aren’t immune to labor unrest. Whether employee frustration results in low morale, high turnover, or an attempt to unionize, discord in the workplace can create challenges for business owners.

What can you do to maintain a healthy relationship with staff? Here are some tips:

Communicate with Workers

Effective management requires two-way conversations with employees. As a business owner, you should set clear expectations for staff, intervene when necessary, and recognize good work. Engaged employees will also want their voices to be heard. They may have ideas on how to do their jobs in a more efficient way, or know of troublesome situations that need to be addressed. Small business owners that listen and take employee concerns seriously may be able to avoid the tensions that can lead to labor unrest.

Decision-making power should still lie with the business owner and management, but employees who believe their concerns have been considered may have more respect for your policies.

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Shut Down the Rumor Mill

There are few things that can cause more stress for employees than rumors about layoffs and cost-cutting measures. Workers who feel as though their jobs are perpetually on the chopping block may think that their only way of obtaining job security is to quit or join a union. They could also become apathetic about their prospects for advancement, and put less effort into their work. It’s important that staff have an accurate picture of the company’s health. This doesn’t mean you have to share detailed financial statements, but some candor is often appreciated. Quell concerns when you can, and be honest about challenges that could temper growth.

Offer Competitive Pay and Benefits

Each of your employees would probably appreciate a raise. However, there’s a real difference between wanting more money and deserving a higher wage. If your employees are underpaid or face high health-care costs, they may become resentful and look for opportunities to advance elsewhere. They could also try to bargain for higher wages, putting you on the defensive.

When setting wages and making decisions on employee benefits, business owners should take their employees’ perspectives into account. Are wages commensurate with job requirements? Are the benefits in line with those an employee could expect to receive at a competitor? If not, it may be time to overhaul employee compensation packages.

There are various websites that can help you research salaries in both your industry and city. Remember that your competitors aren’t just rivals when it comes to sales and revenue – they can also hire away frustrated employees.

Maintain Adequate Staffing Levels

Responsible business owners want to keep costs under control. However, failing to hire enough employees to operate efficiently can cause stress for staff. Small business owners who work all day without rest should not expect their employees to do the same.

Business owners should keep an eye on their employees’ work-life balance. Continually asking people to stay late or handle tasks outside their purview can cause frustration and burnout. Attempting to increase margins by skimping on staff may seem like a smart short-term strategy, but it can cause trouble down the road.

Your staff can be one of your strongest business assets. Their expertise, internal knowledge, and business relationships can help keep your company growing and thriving. By minimizing the risk associated with losing these assets, you can minimize the likelihood that you’ll have to spend other resources hiring, training, and rebuilding relationships with customers.

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