What is it that keeps you coming back to the same restaurant, store, or even website over and over again? 

Is it the customer service? The quality? The atmosphere?

Think about that same question, but as it relates to your employees coming back to work day after day.

brendanBrendan Cooke, General Director of Opera Delaware (and PrimePay client), has a lot of reasons to keep going back to work every day. Aside from being surrounded by incredible talent, Cooke has a bit of history with the opera game.

“I bought tickets to my first opera at 19 to impress a girl. I don't remember her name, but I remember every detail about that production. I ended up pursuing a career as a singer for about 20 years, and I met my wife through the course of doing that,” he candidly explained.

Tack on a couple of prestigious degrees in music, founding the Baltimore Concert Opera, and a true passion for the art - it’s no secret why Cooke is poised for success in his current role handling all the artistic and executive decisions for the company.

“This has been the biggest blessing, where I can play a role in trying to create that environment where the artists can do their best, and I think it's helpful that I understand their challenges,” he explained.

Those challenges? Sleeping in strange places and living out of suitcases for weeks like the performers do probably aren’t the same challenges your employees face. But creating a thriving environment should be top of mind for every small business owner or manager.

Here’s what Cooke had to say about why helping your employees avoid burnout is crucial, especially for a nonprofit organization, and ways to achieve high retention.

Start by hiring the right people.

First and foremost, you’re never going to be able to retain amazing talent for your small business if you don’t hire the right people in the first place.

As Karen Cimorelli-Moor, PrimePay’s EVP of learning, talent, and leadership development, recently said – there’s a war on talent and it’s about to get more fierce. Her three tips for finding the right employees for your small business are to:

  • Truly identify your niche.
  • Promote yourself.
  • Make good on your promises.

And sometimes it just takes a little luck. One of the staff members at Opera Delaware used to be a performer with the company a few years back. Another full-time employee came to the company as a referral from a trusted colleague.   

“Our Operations Manager ended up being a referral from somebody else that I was trying to hire who was already committed to another position. I said, ‘Do you know anybody just like you?’ And she said, ‘Well, yes, actually.’ And the rest is history,” said Cooke.

The employees you already have can often be the best resource you have for obtaining new talent, so it’s important not to overlook them.

Find staff members who are more invested than just a paycheck.

operaThe nonprofit world is in an interesting position when it comes to employees. While it’d be great to be able to compensate them as much as possible, the budget doesn’t always lend itself to allowing that. However, the quality of employees can be immensely stronger. Cooke explains.

“Our employees are all very passionate about the work that we do. I think that’s probably a challenge for many nonprofits, is that you may not have the same resources for staff that the for-profit world has, but you do have the added benefit that you’re bringing in people who are passionate about the work. That’s obviously critical, especially when we’re trying to get people to come to the theater,” he said.  

Cooke went on to intelligibly convince me to come experience an opera, so it’s safe to say he practices what he preaches.

Why it’s important to avoid burnout.

You ask a lot out of your employees. With so few of them, you have to stretch their capabilities as far as possible. But according to Harvard Business Review, one in five highly engaged employees is at risk of burnout.

What is burnout, exactly? It’s basically a mental state of mind when you lose motivation and focus, which leads to feelings of stress and even depression. That’s a scary thought when you envision your employees getting to that level.

Some factors that could lead to burnout include:

  • Unclear or impossible job requirements.
  • High-stress environment with little to no downtime.
  • Heavy consequences for failure.
  • Poor communication.

Burned out employees won’t stick around. In order to retain your best talent, read the tips in the next section.

Ways to increase employee retention.

operaYour staff is your biggest resource and your key to success. It’s important that you never miss an opportunity to let your team know how much you value them.

A great bit of news to keep in mind is that it doesn’t take a huge budget to show your employees that you care.

The Society for Human Resources Management lists some great (free) ideas:

  • Encourage employees to take mental health days and to use up their vacation time.
  • Be proactive and approachable.
  • Even out the workload amongst your employees. This includes monitoring their schedules.
  • Ask employees for real, valuable feedback and input.
  • Build relationships and encourage friendships.

Above all else, proper communication is critical on both ends.

“I certainly couldn’t do this kind of work alone without my team’s support, energy, and advice,” said Cooke.

And it’s paying off. Opera Delaware is attracting more and more visitors, and receiving national and international press for their work.

There’s more where that came from! To learn more about Opera Delaware and its upcoming events, click here.

Not a PrimePay client yet? Want to take the burden of payroll, taxes, and HR off your plate? Opera Delaware did too.

“I’d rate my experience with PrimePay at a 10 so far. The fact that I don't think about payroll very often I think is the highest compliment, that it's not something that we're having to deal with, you know?”

Click here to learn more about our all-inclusive payroll, tax, and HR bundle…and get back to business.