By Rieva Lesonsky

You’re not worried about your employees leaving you–not even when the economy picks up and big companies start hiring. Your workers love your company and they’re loyal and true…right?

That may have been true a year or two ago, but I’m sorry to say you can’t be sure it’s the case now. Several recent studies have shown that companies’ intentions to hire are higher than they’ve been since the recession began. I’m talking about both big and small firms, which means it’s not just Mega-Conglomerate International that could be stealing your employees—it’s your nearest competitor down the street.

So how can you help ensure your employees stay put when the economic tide rises and jobs become easier to find? Here are three tips.

  1. Think money. Let’s face it, the almighty dollar is a big factor in whether your employees come or go. The PayScale 2012 Compensation Best Practices report found 44 percent of companies gave employees raises last year, and 93 percent plan to do so this year. Before you panic, keep in mind a straight salary or hourly raise isn’t your only option here. Many companies are using pay-for-performance, such as bonuses or profit-sharing, to reward employees only when certain goals are achieved.
  2. Show your appreciation. Employees want to know they’re valued, and sometimes this can mean more than money. When you run a small company, there’s no excuse for not spending some time with your employees every day. Compliment them—publicly–when they’ve done a good job, ask about their lives and generally show you’re glad they’re part of your team. A personal relationship with the boss is a big plus for most people and can make the difference in keeping them happy.
  3. Provide opportunities for advancement. Whenever possible, promote from within. Don’t have openings right now? You can still help employees stretch their wings—and learn new skills—by cross-training them with co-workers, starting a mentorship program where employees teach each other new skills or senior workers mentor novices, and signing them up for conferences, webinars and educational opportunities offered by your industry association. Employees don’t want to feel they’re stagnating. Give them the chance to learn something new, and your business benefits, too.