Small business employee benefits have emerged as keys to winning the war for talent. Small and midsized business employee benefits can be strategic as the labour market continues to thrive and there is increasing competition for top talent. To recruit and retain skilled, experienced candidates, companies must offer appealing compensation and benefits packages. It’s often assumed that large firms have an advantage over small and midsized ones in this regard. After all, big organizations with ample resources can offer prospective employees higher salaries, along with specialized perks ranging from on-site convenience services to club memberships.
But this doesn’t mean that small to midsized companies can’t attract the best candidates. It’s not always easy to match the quantity and variety of benefits larger competitors offer, but, if you are a smaller employer, you may be able to provide benefits that are even more coveted by prospective new hires. By paying close attention to which perks motivate today’s workers most, you can design benefits packages that are tailor-made for your employee base.
Going beyond the bucks
There is truth in the adage, “Money isn’t everything.” Yes, salary is an important aspect of overall compensation, but it’s just one factor. Workers also place importance on non-monetary benefits. In fact, in a survey commissioned by Robert Half International, one in three chief financial officers polled said flexible hours and telecommuting options appeal more to prospective employees than does money.
In designing recruitment and retention strategies, companies should take into account the high value workers place on ensuring their professional responsibilities do not adversely affect their personal lives. The ability to balance work and family demands was cited as the number one career concern by 32 percent of working adults in a poll by Robert Half International. This work-life balance ranked above job security and earning a competitive salary.
As employees increasingly have more responsibilities outside the workplace, they will continue to seek opportunities at firms offering benefits that allow them to strike a healthy work/life balance. These include flexible scheduling, job sharing, extended-leave days and permanent part-time arrangements. Many workers belong to the “sandwich generation” and are simultaneously caring for young children and aging parents, for example. To attract and retain these professionals, as well as single parents, savvy companies are offering both childcare and eldercare benefits.
Satisfying senior workers
It is becoming more prevalent for people to choose to stay in the workforce well beyond the traditional retirement age. Many older workers remain employed not only because they need continued income, but also because they still enjoy their jobs and are able to make valuable contributions in the workplace, due to their extensive professional experience and knowledge.
Older professionals typically have different priorities and concerns than have their younger counterparts. To attract and retain senior workers, companies should consider offering additional time off, flextime and part-time assignments. Many older professionals also find retirement-transition programs attractive. Such arrangements allow employees to gradually enter retirement according to a phased schedule, easing the shift for both employer and employee.
Given that workers at various points on the age spectrum have vastly different priorities, companies may want to take a “cafeteria” approach to benefits, rather than following the standard “one size fits all” model. Cafeteria programs present an array of benefits and allow employees to choose the options or levels of coverage that best match their needs. Small and midsized firms that are willing to customize benefits packages to meet the unique requirements of new hires may see the most success in their recruitment efforts.
Investing in the “whole” employee
Employees are drawn to and remain with companies they feel are concerned about their well-being. Benefits that enable staff to pursue self-improvement — such as health club or gym memberships, professional training and development programs, tuition reimbursement, or time off to participate in civic or charitable activities — are very popular among workers and relatively inexpensive for organizations to implement. Such programs are important because they are enticing and relevant to an increasingly diverse workforce. This is a key concept for companies to keep in mind when creating benefits packages: To be most effective, benefits must be updated in response to changing times and the eclectic needs of employees.
Emphasizing corporate culture
Perhaps the chief benefit small and midsized firms are able to offer prospective staff is a corporate culture that is less structured and more relaxed than those of larger firms. In addition, employees of smaller organizations frequently have the opportunity to wear multiple hats and play key roles in the development of the business. Such an atmosphere can be powerfully attractive to job candidates who favour an entrepreneurial work environment.
The benefits discussed above are not of value to employees only. Content and motivated workers typically have low absentee rates, increased loyalty to the firm and high productivity levels. These factors are quantifiable and directly impact the bottom line. And that’s a benefit any company can appreciate.
Robert Half International was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Its financial staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 350 staffing locations throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and offers online job search services on its divisional websites, all of which can be accessed at www.rhi.com.employee retention