Small businesses make up 99.9% of U.S. employer firms, according to the Small Business Administration. And as new jobs are created and employees get hired, it has become increasingly important to consider an aspect of the hiring process that goes beyond onboarding and training: workforce well-being.
Guardian, an employee benefits provider, recently released the 2018 Small Business Benefits Study and reported that “the well-being of 60 million Americans is linked to small businesses”—those businesses that act as employers, that is. Typically, well-being is classified under the benefits umbrella and is broken down into three categories: financial (salary, retirement, and 401(k) plans), physical (health, among other forms of insurance), and emotional (job security and enjoying what you do).
The Guardian study also reported half of all workers say their employer cares about their overall well-being. This number is important since employees who perceive their employer cares are more likely to stay with a company for at least 10 years compared to those employees who don’t, according to the study.
So how can small business owners remedy the situation for employees who may feel like their well-being does not matter to their company? The truth is there is no quick fix. Ordering catered lunches or issuing free gym memberships won’t fix what’s ailing these employees. If anything, this will only drive them further out the door because they won’t feel like solutions are being personalized to their specific situations. Small businesses that want to emphasize well-being need to take the following steps to create the change employees want to see.
Re-examine and re-evaluate existing benefits
Sometimes a house is built on a foundation that was hastily slapped together. The owners of the house have a choice: They can spend years trying to right what wasn’t stable to begin with or move out. What most people don’t do is tear down the house entirely because starting over is an expensive and time consuming approach. However, once the old model is gone, a new, better model can be built that benefits the owners and doesn’t depreciate in value.
The same can be said for small businesses and their existing benefits. Take a look at the benefits you currently offer employees. Do these benefits foster a culture of well-being? Are some dated or unnecessary, given the roles and duties of your workers? The Guardian study notes that within the next five years, 49% of small businesses plan to expand wellness initiatives and 46% will provide flexible scheduling and telecommuting options.
Creating a culture of well-being may ultimately mean tearing down an existing structure and building a new one in its place; however, before you move to strike any benefits or add new ones, talk to your employees about what’s going on. Explain that you’re working to change the overall company culture to one that better embraces their well-being. Ask them what kinds of benefits they need (instead of guessing), and then see what you can do to accommodate their requests.
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Study how millennial entrepreneurs run their businesses
Recently, I wrote about the unease millennial workers have towards businesses. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey reports that millennial workers are gradually losing faith in companies that put money first, lack flexibility, and are not prepared for the future of the workplace.
For many millennials, this has led to career pivots into entrepreneurship. In fact, according to the Millennial Small Business Owner Survey from Wells Fargo, 82% of millennial small business owners cite wanting to control their future as a top reason for starting a business.
However, the buck doesn’t stop there. Guardian’s study notes millennial entrepreneurs are more focused than older business owners on the financial and emotional well-being of their employees. Only 51% of baby boomers who own a business say their company creates a culture of well-being; on the flip side, 66% of millennial-owned small businesses emphasize well-being throughout their culture.
Does tearing down an existing culture that doesn’t focus on well-being sound like it’s too much for your business? Try taking a few cues from how millennials run businesses. The way entrepreneurs change the focus of their benefits strategy may tie in more with the company’s values and mission, which leads me to my final point in this post.
Everyone needs to care more
At the end of the day, employees don’t stay with companies that pay them the most money, give them tons of time off, or have the biggest TVs in their break rooms. According to the Guardian study, 55% of workers say they will stay with a business for 10 years or longer if they feel their employer cares about their overall well-being.
Loyalty is rooted in care: Great employers want their workers to have a solid work/life balance. But when employees feel like their company doesn’t care, they won’t feel compelled to do their best work; eventually, they’ll mentally check out altogether or quit, and the company will be left scrambling. Want to know the secret to avoiding this scenario? While it may not be applicable to all businesses, a lot of employee dissatisfaction can be prevented if employers make it a point to genuinely care from the beginning.
The good news is this mindset is shifting. The Guardian study reports 50% of small business workers in 2018 strongly agree their employer cares about their well-being, a 9% jump from 2015, and an exciting increase. And while it may seem like companies are moving slowly to build better cultures of well-being, they are indeed moving—and in the right direction.
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