Salary may not be the deciding factor for a job seeker anymore. Now more than ever, small businesses have an opportunity to compete with big company salaries by offering a competitive benefits package. Ninety-two percent of employees surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management said benefits were vital to their overall satisfaction at work.
So, what benefits matter most? According to the survey and our experts, flexibility and health insurance are two of the leading contenders. Other things to take into consideration include retirement benefits, paid time off and student loan assistance. Attracting and retaining workers should be the primary goal of any organization and employees have answered just what it will take to lure them away from the corner office.
After the pandemic sent most employees into a work-from-home situation, many don’t want to leave. Returning to the office simply isn’t an option, and employees are willing to jump ship if a company forces the issue.
Overwhelmingly our experts agree that the No. 1 benefit people are looking for in a job is flexibility and work-life balance. The good news is flexibility is one area where small businesses can directly compete with larger companies.
A survey report from Gusto, a payroll and HR platform serving over 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses, found that 45% of candidates who had declined their last job offer stated that “flexibility or work-life balance was the most important factor that led to their rejecting the offer.”
Gusto’s principal economist Liz Wilke, who authored the report, also found that 48% of those surveyed noted that the ability to work from home some or all of the time would be a “major or the most important factor” in determining whether they would accept a position.
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Health insurance was also top of mind for owners and employees of small businesses. Robert Donnelly, the finance manager at Marketplace Fairness, said, “The most important benefit that a small business should be able to offer its employees is health insurance.” He states that not only is it essential, but it can be “difficult for employees to find affordable coverage on their own.”
Harlyn Croland, head of business operations and strategy at Betterment at Work, found that employees were also interested in a wellness stipend and an FSA (flexible spending account) or HSA (health savings account). While most companies now offer health insurance, these additional insurance options can help them stand out.
Although there is an array of different types of health insurance that can be offered to employees, as Dennis Shirshikov, strategist at Awning.com, a real estate company for investors, noted, “Often it isn’t the quantity of the benefits but the quality.”
Retirement benefits, such as a 401(k) or sponsored retirement savings plan, are becoming an increasingly critical factor for job applicants. They can also help a company retain talent since an employee is more likely to stay with a company where they have an established account.
Marketplace Fairness’ Donnelly suggests, “another important benefit that small businesses should offer is 401(k) matching.” While not required, many employees are seeking this added bonus. An employee survey at Betterment at Work confirmed this notion, showing that two of the top five “most enticing financial wellness benefits” were a “high-quality 401(k)” and a “401(k) matching program.”
Paid Time Off and Flex Time
Another way small businesses can compete with larger companies is by offering more paid time off (PTO) or flex time. Flexibility is vital, whether it is a summer Friday or encouraging a 9/80 schedule, which is typically eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day and one day off over a two-week period. Many employees are looking for a better work-life balance and are more likely to choose a job that allows them to thrive personally and professionally.
Student Debt Management
A less common but highly sought-after perk would be a company that offers student debt management. According to Croland, this is especially important for employers hoping “to stand out to Millennial and Gen Z workers.”
She adds that “newer generations are entering the workforce with increased expectations around how their employer should support them in tackling student loans.”
Finally, any working parent knows the struggles of trying to manage a successful career and raise children. Companies can set themselves apart by offering child care assistance to their employees. Maria Britton, CEO of Trade Show Labs, explains that this benefit “can really make-or-break where a person ends up working.”
If you can’t afford to offer child care services at your office, you can always consider allowing a parent to work remotely or providing financial assistance to cover these often astronomical costs.
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