Q: I own and operate a small bakery in Central Oregon. I am very fortunate to have a good core team of employees now, but to scale the business I need to hire and it can be very difficult to find and retain good employees. What are some strategies and resources that will help?

A: Thank you for the question! Retention and recruitment are common struggles for small businesses.

Since you have already created a strong team, keep doing what makes you successful. How? Ask your

team what’s working. What would you like to see and do next? Also, consider this advice:

1) Connect, engage and empathize: In a recent survey, 96% of employees shared that a leader that

listens and responds with empathy keeps them motivated and engaged. Work alongside your team. Check in with each person regularly and have an open door for emerging needs.

2) Be flexible. Employees are seeking balance. Can you allow team members to cooperatively set their own schedules, work flex schedules and take advantage of work-sharing and/or remote work options?

3) Focus on efficiency: Employees are eager for business owners to embrace new technology for productivity and to create a positive impact. Tech and apps can optimize workflow and accomplish routine tasks, leaving everyone more time to focus on the creative parts of the work they love.

4) Appreciate. Say “thank you, well done” all year long. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to stay motivated to do a good job longer.

5) Create a positive business culture. An excellent business culture helps with recruitment, too. Sure, you can use job boards and social media postings but what will set you apart is asking your high-performing teammates to help recruit your next hires. People with similar styles and ethics “stick together,” so your good employees are likely to connect with and socialize with skilled and ethical friends, family members, school or work acquaintances that you need on your team.

Central Oregon Community College has a Small Business Development Center that offers free, confidential professional business advising and a variety of low-cost courses to help entrepreneurs through the business lifecycle: cocc.edu/sbdc.