We're about halfway through 2009 — one of the worst recessions in most of our memories — and everyone's taking stock, from White House to Wall Street. The economy has hit the big guys hard, from the financial powerhouses to the Big Three automakers. So how are we, the small business owners, doing?

The good news is that many of us are still in business and we found a resiliance we didn't know we had. Hopefully many of us used this time to improve our processes, strengthen our businesses, and equally as important, create the type of workplace that will attract the best and the brightest.

In the not-too-distant future, we hopefully will be back to business as usual and even focusing on growth. The organizations that have done a good job of supporting and developing their employees will likely have a loyal, dedicated group of workers to help move them into this next phase. Those that have not, may find themselves replacing key people at the same time they are trying to move their business forward.

So, what does it take to be a "Workplace of Choice?" How can you create a culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest? Here are a few strategies that we have successfully applied to our business and with our clients:

  • Be committed for the long term. A corporate culture isn't something you can turn on and off, based on economic or business climates.
  • Take an interest in your employees. Get to know them, and focus on the whole person — his or her interests outside of work as well as professional goals. Make sure you keep employees interested and engaged with work challenges, and present opportunities for growth and training.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure employees know and understand your company mission and the state of your business — in good times and bad. Communication is a two-way street. Ask questions and listen. Give every employee a chance to contribute ideas, suggestions, etc.
  • Create a team spirit. Create informal get-togethers and celebrations where everyone can get to know each other. Reward the team for group work, and foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation. Model this approach in your interactions with all employees.
  • Create a livable work environment that balances work and life. As appropriate, offer the flexibility of flex-time, telecommuting, and other options. Make sure you aren't overloading employees with work, and look for creative ways to reduce workplace stress.

By creating a "Workplace of Choice," you'll not only retain employees, but you'll also have a better chance of attracting the best and the brightest. I believe, "If you build it, they will come."