Employee Retention 101: How to Build a Loyal MSP Business

Mastering the Art of Keeping Your MSP Dream Team

As an MSP owner, your team is the heart and soul of your business.

And when your team faces challenges, so too will your business.

It’s no secret that the MSP space is competitive, but the competition isn’t just about winning clients; it is also about securing and retaining skilled employees.

You may have found yourself in a position recently where your business is expanding or aiming to enhance its competitiveness. And you might have worried that your most valuable members will leave at some point.

Although you have to accept that this is natural and it happens often, there are ways you can prevent this from happening. In this guide, we’ll explore why you may be struggling to retain your MSP employees, what causes a lack of productivity, and what you can do to fix it.


Download Your Free Employee Retention Handbook

Section 1: Culture & Conversations

Asking the Right Questions

Reflect on this: Do you genuinely believe your team is eyeing up the exit door?

You need to ask yourself: “Do I believe my employees are on the brink of departure, and if so, why?” Unveiling this will most likely reveal two main factors:

  • Culture
  • Opportunities within the business

That’s right, money isn’t everything. Ultimately, you need to remember that although money may attract people, it’s the culture and opportunities that will keep them.

The Talk: Building Culture

Want to upgrade your culture? It starts with speaking to the team around you.

Step away from the daily operational chaos and take a moment to connect with your team. Understanding their needs is crucial, and the last thing you want is to make assumptions. After all, you won’t know what your team needs if you don’t ask them.

The Self-Talk: Would I Want to Work Here?

Now that you’ve asked your team, you need to have a conversation with yourself and self-reflect.

Ask yourself the golden question: ‘Would I want to work here?’.

Start with your most junior role, work your way up, and pave success roadmaps for each team member.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll have a clear grasp as to whether changes need to be made within your MSP business.

Is your onboarding process non-existent?

While focusing on your current team is essential, don’t overlook the importance of a success structure for your new hires.

It all starts with an onboarding plan.

Our recommendation is to hold off on sending new hires out to a customer site on the first day, even if they appear to possess extensive experience.

Instead, prioritise a meticulously planned onboarding process. Introduce them to key individuals within your business, and ensure their workspace is equipped with essential tools. Roll out a well-structured training plan, ready to kick off on their very first day.

But most importantly, familiarise them with your values, operations, and services. This approach safeguards not only their success but yours too.

Explore the Why: Employee Departures and Offboarding Insights

When a team member decides it’s time to part ways, there could be multiple reasons behind their decision. If this person has played a valuable role within the team, it’s important not to sever ties.

Engaging in a thoughtful conversation during the offboarding process might open the door for a potential return in the future.

Understanding "Quiet Quitting": A Closer Look

Whilst on the subject of departures, it’s important to note the concept of “quiet quitting”. Despite the name, ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t involve leaving; rather, it revolves around a mindset shift in the workplace.

Quiet quitting can be defined as “doing only what your job demands and nothing more.” In essence, it reflects a scenario where employees fulfil their basic job requirements without engaging in additional or unpaid work.

In today’s work culture, it’s evident that there’s a growing trend of applauding excessive work and, conversely, disapproving of those expressing fatigue.

Setting unrealistic working standards for your team doesn’t enhance their work ethic; instead, it can have detrimental effects.

Rather than imposing expectations, initiate conversations to understand why they might be feeling drained and explore collaborative solutions to alleviate their concerns.

Section 2: Signs of a Miserable MSP Employee

Unveiling Dissatisfaction: The Tell-Tale Signs

In some cases, team members might not readily express their concerns through conversations.

Recognising subtle signs becomes crucial to understanding their satisfaction levels. We identify three key signs of employee dissatisfaction: constant stress, attitude changes, and frequent requests for time off. However, there are a multitude of factors this can encompass.

Here are telltale indicators that your team may be harbouring silent discontent:

  1. Constant Stress and Burnout:
    • Recognising when an employee is knee-deep in tasks, tackling an excessive workload, and exhibiting consistent stress is a clear indication of impending burnout.
    • Proactive Solution: Introduce task diversification by mixing simple and complex projects. This approach injects variety, allowing employees to engage with diverse tasks for different clients.
  1. Attitude Shifts:
    • A change in an employee’s demeanour, from sociable and motivated to withdrawn, less productive, or irritable, signifies potential unhappiness.
    • Strategic Approach: If such changes persist, initiate open conversations to understand the root cause. It might stem from overwork, dissatisfaction with new structures, or misalignment with current goals.
  1. Frequent Time-Off Requests:
    • While occasional time-off requests are normal, a sudden surge in unplanned absences may be indicative of underlying dissatisfaction.
    • Proactive Engagement: Initiate conversations to uncover their concerns and provide support. Timely discussions can prevent prolonged dissatisfaction.

Addressing Disengagement: Additional Warning Signs

Observing the following subtle cues can unveil deeper issues, signalling disengagement and potential struggles in your MSP business:

  • Clock-watching:
    • Consistent attention to the clock may signify a lack of engagement or dissatisfaction.
  • Excessive Breaks:
    • Frequent or extended breaks could be a coping mechanism or an indicator of disengagement.
  • Skipping Group Gatherings:
    • Avoidance of team gatherings may suggest a desire for isolation or discontent with the workplace.
  • Unprofessional Behaviour:
    • Subtle unprofessionalism might manifest as a response to dissatisfaction. Pay attention to changes in behaviour.
  • Distancing:
    • Employees becoming distant and absorbed in personal tasks during work hours could signal disengagement.

Being aware of these signals will enable you to actively foster a positive work environment, address issues promptly, and contribute to the overall well-being and satisfaction of your team. Regular check-ins and open communication are vital to employee retention.

Download Your Free Employee Retention Handbook

Section 3: Employee Retention Strategies

Building a Robust Employee Benefits Program

So we’ve talked about the conversations you need to have with your team, and how to spot if they’re unhappy. But if you’re not facing these challenges yet, think of this as your proactive approach. There’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to making a workplace worth staying for.

It all starts with establishing your benefits; what does your team really want?

Your first thought might be to focus on the monetary aspect, and while that’s undoubtedly crucial, benefits are more important to employees than salary. 

While simple perks like free drinks and food might be appreciated in the short term, they alone don’t ensure lasting employee happiness or retention. It’s not about abandoning these perks, but rather recognising what your team really values such as:

  1. Mileage Reimbursement
  2. Flexible Working (Hours & Location)
  3. Annual Bonuses
  4. Gym Memberships
  5. Insurance Coverage
  6. Employee Lunches & Social Events
  7. Profit-Sharing
  8. Workshops and Training Programs

Offering these benefits to your employees is like saying, “I care about where you’re headed in the company and want to help you succeed in your career”. It’s a way of showing that you are committed to helping them grow in their field, so their skills match what the company needs, not just now, but as things change.

Strategies for Fair Compensation and Retention

As we mentioned, there’s more to employee retention than the pay cheque they receive. But it can’t be forgotten that your team are relying on their pay to fund their lives. And if you are only willing to pay minimum wage, this could have an impact on how long they decide to stay with you.

Although salary budgets may be tight, you can make the most of each payment by implementing the following:

  • Start by setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and craft a commission structure that aligns with achievable targets. For example, consider the salesperson’s perspective – what would be motivating and reasonable for them? Factor in their individual strengths and performance history to tailor the structure effectively.
  • Create a progression structure to outline the steps an individual can take to either advance their career or become eligible for salary increases. By creating this structure, you’re aligning the company’s goals with your employees and increasing the chance of long-term success.
  • Implementing a structured and regular review of your team’s salaries is crucial. Strive to incorporate salary increases whenever possible. For optimal clarity, consider introducing a standardised policy for salary increments. This approach eliminates negotiation uncertainties and provides transparency for both parties.

The Power of Monthly One-to-Ones

One-to-one meetings play a critical part in keeping your team engaged. These sessions go beyond routine check-ins and should be centred around continuous development. Picture a dedicated moment where you and your team step out of the day-to-day operations and focus on open communication and individual growth.

Benefits of One-to-Ones

  • Helps with productivity by developing a roadmap for the future
  • Build relationships, you’ll showcase your trust and confidence in their abilities.
  • Maintains good, open communication. Helping them understand that mistakes are normal
  • Time to focus on your direct report and their work
  • Transform your relationship with your direct reports

How to Conduct Monthly One-to-Ones

  1. Get the right people in the room:
    • Ensure that the one-to-one is conducted with someone who works directly with the individual, preferably the owner of the business or a member of the management team who serves as their direct supervisor.
  2. Set a Clear Structure:
    • While it’s an informal discussion, establish a clear structure for the meeting. This helps maintain focus and ensures that key topics are covered. Pose questions: What went well? What didn’t? What can be done differently?
  3. Flexibility in Conversation:
    • Encourage an open and flexible conversation, allowing team members to discuss both positive aspects and challenges they’ve encountered since the last meeting.
  1. Commitment to the Long Haul:
    • Stress the lasting impact of one-to-one meetings as a commitment to boosting performance and overall team success in the long run and that changes won’t happen overnight.

It's Not As Difficult As You Think

Keeping your team happy isn’t just about the pay cheque. It’s like tending to a garden – you need to put effort into the soil to see those plants thrive.

MSP owners: you need to be investing your time into creating a workplace where your team feels valued. Listen to their concerns, build a positive culture, and have a solid plan to keep them around. When you actively engage with your team, communicate openly, and foster continuous development, it’s a win-win for everyone.

So, ditch the idea that it’s just about the pay cheque. Take the time to create a workplace that people want to stick around in. By doing so, you’re not just retaining employees; you’re ensuring the success and longevity of your MSP business.

Happy employees mean a thriving business – it’s as simple as that!

Download your FREE Employee Retention Handbook

Unlock strategies to retain top talent in your business. You’ll discover expert insights and actionable tips to boost employee satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Learn how to create a positive work culture, cultivate career development opportunities, and implement effective retention strategies.

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