Benefits can help your small business attract — and keep — smart, talented, and reliable employees. But many entrepreneurs worry that offering substantial perks can cut into their relatively modest earnings.
“It’s a nasty choice: Offer juicy benefits and forgo profits, or cut back on bennies and risk losing your best employees,” notes Forbes.com’s Maureen Farrell, who asked experts in the field to define a well-balanced benefits package for small businesses. “The general consensus: To attract talent and compete effectively, entrepreneurs should offer health insurance, some life and disability insurance, and probably a retirement savings plan.”
But why stop there? Here are some additional ways you can increase the pull of your benefits package without bleeding your company dry.
1. Add wellness and HRA programs to your health benefits. Many employers offer health insurance, ranging from providing HMO or PPO coverage to help covering dental work and prescription drug costs. You can make your health care benefits significantly more attractive by adding wellness and reimbursement components.
Wellness offerings tend to reduce an employer’s health insurance expenses because they encourage and incentivize employees to take better care of themselves. Consider starting a program that helps staff members quit smoking, improve their diet and nutrition, increase their physical fitness, or seek counseling on ways to boost their overall well-being.
Another appealing benefit your company can offer is a Health Reimbursement Account. HRAs have no required minimums or maximums, and let business owners provide each employee with additional money (pre-tax for the employer, separate from and in addition to regular salary for the employee) to reimburse the employee for eligible health care expenses.
2. Add investment advice to your retirement package. Most employees recognize the importance of saving for their retirement. The trend currently favors defined contribution plans and 401(k) savings accounts. Some employers match each employee’s contributions, too, but this isn’t necessary.
Your small business can rise above the rest by supplementing these benefits with inexpensive but important extras, such as professional investment advice and assistance. Today, these services can be delivered online or in person and augmented by retirement readiness information and counseling.
3. Extend flex-time to telecommuting and compressed schedules. More than 85 percent of all U.S. companies now allow employees to sidestep the standard five-day, 40-hour workweek and put in their time more flexibly. Flex-time programs typically specify certain hours or days when every employee must be at the office and allow them to put in their remaining time whenever they’d like.
Beyond offering flex-time, you could offer employees the option of compressed schedules. Most commonly, this allows employees to log their standard 40 hours by working 10 hours a day for four days (or 13 hours a day for three days). This essentially results in longer weekends, which is a huge plus for some people, and helps the employer by making the job attractive to larger numbers of qualified people.
Telecommuting offers additional flexibility to your employees. By allowing staff to work some days or hours at or near home, without physically traveling to your business’s premises, you may have greater leverage in wooing top talent.
Only about 3.1 million employees consider themselves fulltime telecommuters, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Nevertheless, eliminating just one day’s round-trip commute from each workweek can make a job more attractive and satisfying.
4. Support cross-training and professional development. Many employers recognize the advantages of helping employees pay for professional memberships, off-site conferences, training opportunities, or specialty certifications.
To one-up other companies, offer reimbursement for a wider range of skills, for comprehensive cross-training, and even for mentorship programs. These relatively inexpensive benefits allow your employees to pursue their interests and feel more satisfied in their careers while making themselves even more valuable to your business.