There’s been a lot of angst in the past few weeks about the still staggeringly high unemployment rate. Businesses, large or small, are not hiring. But we’re four years into an economic downturn that’s had us all doing more with less, and chances are you and your team are stretched to the max. So even if you’re not ready to hire anyone now, you’re probably hoping to do so soon.
And while you might think it would be easy for any company to snap up employees, in reality, it’s still tough for small businesses—with lower payroll and fewer opportunities for advancement—to compete against big companies that offer benefits and the perception of job security.
So what do you need to do to compete for employees (and to keep the employees you have happy)? A recent study by Unum and Monster.com offers some insights—and has both good news and bad news for small business owners.
First, the good news: The number-one item job candidates look for is a company "that truly cares about the well-being of its employees." Eighty-seven percent of respondents rated caring “very important” in their job hunt, and the percentage was nearly the same for both employed and unemployed respondents.
What else do job seekers care about? Here’s what respondents rated “very important” in the job search:
- A challenging and fulfilling position (84 percent)
- Job security (82 percent)
- An attractive benefits package (74 percent)
Perhaps surprisingly, financial issues ranked much lower on the scale. A high salary was very important to 66 percent of respondents, while bonuses were very important to slightly more than half of respondents.
Unum found similar results in a survey of about 400 human resources decision-makers that it commissioned with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. Respondents in that study said an attractive benefits package and an ethical, transparent culture were more important in attracting and retaining staff than a high starting salary and job security were. In addition, being a company “that cares about employees’ well-being” was twice as likely to be considered “very important” to attracting and retaining staff than a high base salary.
So what’s the bad news? Well, employees—both job-seekers and employed workers—still perceive good employee benefits as very important to choosing and staying at a job. For most small companies, when it comes to offering employee benefits, it’s tough to compete with bigger companies.
However, since benefits are so important to workers, you need to make a concerted effort to offer the best benefits you possibly can: investigate your options for providing health insurance, look into offering 401(k) plans—they are available for even one-person businesses these days. (They’re also one of the most-desired benefits; in fact, the Unum/Monster.com survey found 82 percent of respondents say such plans are a strong indicator a company cares about employees).
There are other benefits you may be able to offer, such as membership in a credit union, discounts on health club memberships, or the ability to purchase low-cost life insurance. Talk to providers in your area about what arrangements are possible, and you may find creative ways to offer perks that your employees care about—and that will show them you care about them.