Let’s start with the new hire process, then dive into different types of benefits that are affordable for most small businesses.
Some of us have been in business for so long we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be new. A new employee is likely unfamiliar with everyone else working in the company, they may be new to your industry, and they need to be shown where everything is, including the bathroom. Every time we ask someone to join our business, we are asking a competent adult to immediately subject themselves to a bunch of unknowns while being simultaneously scrutinized for how well they’re catching on. So be patient. Be realistic about your expectations. Help them feel like they are a welcome part of your team.
The new-hire onboarding process might not fall into the traditional category of “Employee Benefit,” and yet employees I’ve interviewed over the years definitely feel that they benefit from clear expectations and communication. With greater certainty comes less anxiety, and that makes a big difference to employees while costing you nothing but your time and consideration.
Pairing them up with a mentor accomplishes a couple of things. First, they’ll have the opportunity to learn from a colleague. Being able to ask questions and interact will enhance their ability to learn. And, colleagues can impart tips and tricks they’ve picked up that might not be covered in the employee handbook. How many of us have figured out software shortcuts, or the best vendors to use, simply through sheer experimentation? You want that knowledge passed down.
Another way you can distinguish yourself from your competitors is being well organized. Creating a clear sequence of training milestones shows a prospective employee that you are thoughtful in your approach to bringing them into your company. Organized standards and clear expectations appeal to high performers.
Once you have recruited top talent and get them on board, you want to keep them. Three in five people say benefits and perks are a priority consideration in their employment. Health, dental, and vision insurances are traditional benefits that remain the most important to employees. In a recent benefits study, 2,000 people were given a list of 17 benefits and asked how heavily they would weigh each one, especially if considering a lower paying position. 88% said that having better health, dental, and vision insurance would affect their decision. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees may qualify for tax credits that can help offset the cost of the premiums. Consult with your financial advisor and insurance agent so you have an informed and affordable strategy.
While you’re consulting with your financial advisor, add opt-in retirement plans to the conversation. If this is something you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t gotten around to it, now’s a good time. In-office perks like snacks and catered lunches may have diminishing value with the number of people working virtually. But, retirement is something that everyone benefits from, and that broadens your appeal as an employer.
It’s also becoming increasingly important to present a wider range of options so that you appeal to a variety of generations. In that same survey of 2,000 people, almost as many people are looking for flexible hours as they are health insurance benefits. This is especially important to recruiting women, who can add valuable communication and collaboration skills to your team. So consider whether it’s possible for your employees to choose non-traditional hours, based on your business model and customer needs. Whenever possible, the focus should be more on the results of their performance rather than on the hours they work.
Another way you can benefit your employees is by investing in their goals. One client of mine offers a smoking cessation program. He pays for 6 months of nicotine patches, and if you’ve still kicked the habit 6 months later you get a $500 bonus. Another client has committed to giving a performance bonus to an employee who is interested in working toward her advanced degree. And yet another client worked with an employee on performance goals to help him earn a bonus to use as a down payment on his first home. I share these examples because every one of these companies has fewer than 30 employees. Even if you have just a handful of employees, I’m confident there are affordable ways to show you are invested in them as people.
There’s one last thing that I encourage business owners to keep in mind. Employees experience health issues, financial insecurity, the demands of caregiving, and a host of other challenges that are simply part of the human experience. Employers certainly aren’t responsible for solving every problem an employee faces. But the more compassion and opportunity you can offer, the more loyalty, creativity, and productivity you’ll experience in return.