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Find strategies to retain your top performers

The Baltimore Sun

As difficult as it is for a small business to find and train good people, it is even more difficult sometimes to keep them once they become top performers.

Motivated, productive employees can be vital in getting a business off the ground or helping it grow. The No. 1 reason good employees leave is a lack of advancement opportunity. This is the thing that many small businesses cannot offer.

A survey by Robert Half International examined the reasons that"top" employees left the business. Here is what it found:

Limited advancement opportunity: 39 percent.

Unhappy with management: 23 percent.

Lack of recognition: 17 percent.

Inadequate salary/benefits: 11 percent.

Bored: 6 percent.

Lifestyle change, such as moving: 2 percent.

Other/don't know: 2 percent.

The best employees are ambitious and might not stay in a job long if it lacks potential, says Max Messmer of Robert Half.

If promotions are not an option in your business, you still can find ways to reward extra effort. If budgets are tight, consider a flexible schedule or larger workspace. Praise should be frequent and personalized. A simple thank-you note can be an effective motivator.

Take the pulse of employee perceptions in your business. Are the workers happy doing what they do?

Because the best employee probably carries the biggest load and is least likely to complain, consider bringing in temporary help during crunch times as one way to ease the load. Try to make it fun. Boring jobs and boring businesses have more trouble keeping good employees.

Stephen L. Rosenstein is co-chairman of Greater Baltimore SCORE Chapter No. 3. Call 410-962-2233 to speak to a SCORE counselor or visit To send a question to SCORE representatives, e-mail

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