In my first post in this series titled Big Challenges for Small Business Owners, three important areas for small business success were outlined: people, finances, and time. In the second post titled The Small Business People Puzzle (Part 1), we discussed finding, attracting, selecting, and on-boarding the “right” employees. In this post, let’s address the other key pieces of the people puzzle: training, motivating, and retaining them.

Training new people is particularly challenging for small business owners. Most don’t have the time or expertise in-house to develop effective training materials or the luxury of professional trainers on staff. So, what are some alternatives to fill this void? The most common solution is to charge an employee who has knowledge of the job function(s) with teaching them. This provides the advantage of relatively low costs. It has several disadvantages, including passing on gaps in knowledge and reduced productivity of the assigned “trainer”.

While the informal training approach just outlined may make the most sense when there are few to be trained and turnover is low, this solution can be a poor answer when this is not the case. As with on-boarding, taking the time to develop and document self-paced training materials can provide more consistent performance and reduce ongoing costs if multiple hires are anticipated and turnover will multiply training needs. This more formalized approach might best be accomplished by engaging an outside training development consultant for a temporary period.

Assuming you have training well covered, how do you plan to motivate your new (and existing!) employees to ensure they subscribe to the standards you set and work diligently for your company’s success? This can get tricky because members of different generations are motivated by different factors. Here are two articles worth reading on this topic:

Motivating Gen X, Gen Y Workers (Entrepreneur magazine)

5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Motivate Millennial at Work (Forbes magazine)

Assuming you are doing your best to motivate your people, it’s very important you take action to retain your trained and motivated employees. Failing to retain your good performers can be very costly and inefficient. Some estimate the loss of such an employee to be one to two times their annual compensation.

Some classic elements to ensure retention are outlined in Top 10 Ways to Retain Your Great Employees. The article properly emphasizes that “Key employee retention is critical to the long term health and success of your business.”

Yes, people can be puzzling. But, you can start solving your people puzzles immediately by attending properly to the items outlined in this post and the previous one. I’m not saying these things are easy. But, if you give this process your sincere effort, you can avoid the significant expenses and frustrations that come from failing to “solve” the people puzzle.

Over time, you can build a high performing team that makes managing them a pleasure and contributes notably to your company’s financial success! Take your first steps now down that path to success.

PS: I have developed a chart that shows 20 critical steps in the hiring process. If you would like to receive a copy, so you don’t overlook critical steps, email me at and request my “Hiring Process Flowchart”.