February 3, 2015

How Small Businesses Can Keep Their Employees

During the recession, employees hunkered down and didn’t look. Now, 51 percent of employed workers are either actively seeking or open to a new job (Jobvite). With new companies like Tesla coming to town, your “A” players will go away unless you can provide a good wage, attractive benefits and a great place to work.

One of the results of the Affordable Care Act has been an emphasis on robust benefit packages that can compete with Fortune 500 companies. The percentage of companies offering 401(k) plans increased 67 percent versus 10 years ago. Now they are expected. You don’t have to break the budget to compete. It does take effort, creativity and a commitment to have fun.

How your small company can offer ‘big company’ benefits 

  • Work with your broker and financial adviser to assess your current benefit package.
  • Be generous with PTO and include contemporary holidays.
  • Use a professional employer organization for better group health benefits at less cost.
  • Do fun big company things on a smaller scale: intramural sports teams, potlucks, half-day casual Fridays, bring a pet to work day, and an upgraded break room with a large flat screen TV and some type of gaming system like XBox360.
  • Inspire creativity by providing passes to art shows, craft fairs, movie screenings, and lectures.
  • Create a wellness program including a massage therapist team to give 15 minute massages for each employee once a month.
  • Offer 100 percent tuition reimbursement.
  • Send a gift basket to the home of your new hires.


Engage employees with simple powerful actions 

You have an advantage. At the big guys’ you are a number. You are a person at a smaller employer. Leverage it.

The old "management by walking around" is one of my daily favorites. My employees truly appreciate it. Research shows the No. 1 reason people leave their job is that they get “beat up” by their manager. Show some kindness and cheerfulness when you arrive at the office.

Involvement in the 21st century 

I know CEOs who monitor employee website use and prohibit social media. That sends a message that employees aren’t trusted. We encourage people to share information about our company’s news on their social media pages. It gives them just another way to engage with the culture and gives us some free promotion.

We’re small and nimble. We may consider adding a benefit that is attracting an A player away, including an increased fitness benefit and HSA contribution this year.

Remember even old dogs can learn new tricks and it’s good business. Engaged companies grow profits as much as three times faster than their competitors do.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

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