Larger firms and unique startups have plenty of resources to invest in their employees. These companies go the extra mile to retain and empower employees, ranging from professional development classes and career coaches to flexible schedules and free catered lunches.

While small businesses have significantly less funding for the development of employees, it is still an advantageous and necessary effort. It helps create a more happy and dedicated staff and reduces your top performers ‘ turnover. If you’re at a loss as to how to begin the process or whether you are intimidated by the potential cost, here’s a few ways to get started:

1- Be Upfront With Personal and Professional Goals

If your budget is small, the investment of employees is more about giving flexibility to your staff than anything else. With this comes the acknowledgement that your professional goals have the potential to be significantly different from their own as the owner of a small business.

This means that if you own a coffee shop or clothing boutique, you’ll probably have employees still in college or working to pay the bills while pursuing their dream career. And that’s all right.

Recognizing this and giving them the flexibility to go to an audition on their lunch break or get in earlier in the day so that they can be home with their kids in the afternoon will not only reduce employee stress but also increase their loyalty to your business.

2- Lower the Barriers to Professional Development

All employers want to work faster and more efficiently with their employees. However what you may not know is that most employees also want this for themselves. This is why it is a two-way street for professional development.

Professional development often comes secondary to the daily grind, especially in start-ups or cash-strapped small businesses. While an employee may enjoy becoming a point of sale system power user or mastering the latest software, there are often just not enough hours in the day.

This is where the employer’s responsibility comes in. If you want to increase your company’s value, the water cooler must be your first stop.

Chat with your staff. Learn what and how they want to learn. Find out how much time they are willing to spend outside of your regular hours of work. If they say no, you’ll have to respect that or be up front about what you’re looking for in a worker.  Click here to read our article on why employee happiness is equal to customer happiness.

3- Support and Encourage Networking

Professional development in everyday projects should be worked on in general. Employers should respect their employees ‘ boundaries and assist in facilitating growth in a manner conducive to both parties.

Networking is an acquired asset. It can be intimidating to learn how to approach a person at a networking or professional event, even if you are an outgoing person. However, networking is one of the best ways to advance your career in today’s professional world. As an employer, it should also be seen as part of your responsibilities of being an effective leader and an outstanding boss to assist your staff in leveraging your network and growing their own.

Maybe you’re wondering how to do this. You are already busy running your company and may sound like a lot to take on the added responsibility of helping your staff. Don’t believe of it as the additional thing you need to do. Instead, consider how you can begin to include your staff in networking possibilities that you are already involved in or are easily accessible.

This can be anything to suggest fresh meet-ups or networking activities from linking with your staff on LinkedIn. Maybe you frequent trade shows to determine what goods you’re going to sell for the coming season, it’s a wonderful time to reward a star worker by inviting them to come along. Introduce them to the process of attending these shows, what they should be looking for and the individuals with whom they should be trying to link.

4- Make Exceptional Work Easy to Accomplish

It can often be as easy to invest in your staff as loosening constraints on where and when work is accomplished. Just because the typical working day was drilled as nine to five in our heads, this paradigm doesn’t work for all staff.

The great news is that you’re the boss! Setting the standard for a healthy work / life balance is up to you. Flexibility does (and should) exist despite some unpopular view. Devote the time and energy to enable the flexibility that your staff need— whether it’s for the family, the burden of a long commute, or regular life activities beyond their control. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s obviously a bit harder to do — you need to keep regular hours and retail businesses on the honour system don’t run well.

5- Acknowledge and Improve Weaknesses

To admit their shortcomings and work towards enhancement is one of the hardest things any employer can do. While this is obviously easier said than done, one of the hardest components of this is that a leader has the ability to acknowledge their mistakes. One thing is to figure out how to solve an issue, but it needs to be acknowledged first.

It is a nice starting point to have an open door policy to enable immediate communication. Even if you are not always conscious of the shortcomings of your company, it is essential to let your staff know you are open to hearing their feedback.

One of the best ways to engage your staff is to be serious about improving working circumstances and your workplace culture. Obviously, problems need to be prioritized accordingly. But there is no problem that is too big or too minute to take on. Seeing the dedication you need to be an outstanding boss is going to take miles to boost morale.