This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
Editor’s note: Shayla Burtin is the sister of Deputy Editor Dwayne Burtin, who played no role in the selection or editing of this story.
Shayla Burtin was feeling burnt out.
She had been working in human resources for 20 years and after experiencing another layoff, she knew she wanted a job with more security.
In 2017, she launched her own business, Yes, I Can Help You, which she took full time in 2019. The business helps small businesses and entrepreneurs with the administrative side of their operations.
“I help them transform their business operations so their business can run without them,” she said. “They can have the freedom and flexibility that they desired when they got started.”
Currently, she has two long-term clients but works with entrepreneurs on a short-term basis. As an entrepreneur herself, Burtin knows what her clients are going through.
“A lot of the issues and problems they’re discovering, I’ve also had to deal with and had to figure out a solution to,” Burtin said. “I’m able to help them based off the things that I’ve learned and the mistakes that I’ve made.”
Burtin’s work with clients varies. One topic she often covers is how to retain employees. All companies experience turnover — some more than others due to low pay, burnout and more, she said.
“I’ve always noticed that there’s a bit of a disconnect between the employees and the management staff,” she said. “The leadership are focused on growing the business and bringing in money and taking care of any customers, but your employees are the ones working with your customers. If you don’t take care of your employee, then they’re not going to take care of your customers.”
It’s not all about the pay
Some of her clients believe they lose employees because the pay isn’t high enough, Burtin said.
“Showing appreciation and recognizing your team members is really big,” she said. “People want to know they’re doing a good job and sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘thank you.’ ”
Let employees know how their work contributed to the company, recognize them publicly or give them a gift, Burtin said. She recommended reading “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White.
“Somebody may want a verbal recognition. Someone else may want a monetary gift. Someone else may want face time with the CEO,” she said. “The biggest thing you can do is ask them what they want, because they won’t be shy to tell you what they want.”
Jéneen Perkins is the founder and CEO of Éclat Enterprises, a small accounting firm in Butler that provides accounting and tax services. Perkins met Burtin through a networking group on Facebook in 2019.
With Burtin’s help, Perkins created an employee handbook, received a 360 degree review from her team and more. She also read the “Five Languages” book and implemented some of the lessons she learned in her workplace.
During the pandemic, Perkins sent her employees lunch through Uber Eats, another time she gave them spring baskets, and once she shared Audible credits with them. At least twice a month, she makes a concerted effort to tell them words of affirmation and repeat the compliments she’s heard from clients.
“It’s just a matter of trying to switch it up and showing how you appreciate them,” she said. “I’m trying to do things that I remember that I loved when I was an employee for somebody else as well as trying to do some of the things in this book.”
Take the time to hire
“Increasing or retaining your employees starts with the hiring process,” Burtin said.
Business owners sometimes hire the first person to fill the position. Take the time to pick the right person — someone who enjoys the work they’re doing, she said.
This process includes having a formal interview process and posting the job in multiple places to diversify the candidate pool.
Once the right person is hired, the period that comes after is equally important, Burtin said.
A new employee still has other opportunities and can leave, she said. The manager should take the time to go over expectations, introduce them to the team, take them to lunch and so on. In short, make a good impression.
Offer employee development
In one instance, Burtin was helping to hire for a position and many of the candidates expressed the desire for opportunities to learn new skills and take on additional work.
Training the people already on staff and promoting them is a win-win for the business, Burtin said.
Some business owners have trust issues, she noted, adding that they think the person they hire is going to steal their secrets and start their own company or they don’t think the employee will work as hard as they will.
“The business owner is going to give 200%. They eat, sleep and drink their business,” she said. “But the people that you hire, if they like you, if they like the work you do and they believe in your vision, they will champion your business.”
Encourage employees to take initiative, she said, and they will be invested in the business.
“Trust that your team wants to do good work; sometimes they’ll make a mistake and that’s OK,” she said. “Mistakes are going to happen. Be careful how you respond to those mistakes.”
Under Burtin’s guidance, Perkins has tried to delegate more to her team instead of taking everything on herself. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t, Perkins said, but it’s about trust.
Perkins said that when she notices an employee’s work is slipping, she first checks in to see if they are overwhelmed. She’ll also look over the instructions she gave and make sure everything is clear.
“I tell them all the time: We’re in the continuous-improvement business, not necessarily the accounting business” Perkins said. “Sometimes we make mistakes, but the good thing about working for me is I always take the hit.”
It’s important to work with employees to discuss their needs, Burtin said. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of companies began working remotely, and some employees prefer it, she said. Working together, employers and employees can figure out a work model that fits both of their needs.
Employees want to work, but they want their personal lives, too, Burtin said. She recommended that both the employee and employer take a vacation, adding that managers should lead by example.
“I feel that when you take time away, you actually become more productive,” she said. “When you’re working under so much stress, you aren’t working at your full capacity. When you take that time away, you’re refreshed, you have more energy and when you come back, you’ll have a clearer mind.”
In the end, it all goes back to establishing a good relationship, Burtin said. Treat employees well, show them opportunities to make decisions, give them space to take initiative and in turn, employers will have business that flourishes.