Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

How to retain your best people

SMEs acutely understand the importance of retaining their best talent. But without having large pots to dip into for handsome pay rises, how can they hold onto employees that may be tempted to look elsewhere? According to Brett Hill, managing director at The Health Insurance Group, there is plenty that SMEs can offer without stumping up extra. It’s about making the most of what you have already got.

Is salary king?

Whilst salary remains as the key driver in employees staying in a role, or moving onto another, it is not the standalone factor that it once was. In fact, while 45% of professionals said pay would be a key factor in encouraging them to stay in an organisation – 55% of worker’s decisions are also influenced by other factors such as cultural fit, career progression and benefits.

SMEs need to remind their employees about why it is a great place to work. By celebrating promotions within the company, making it known that career progression is possible, and highlighting cultural benefits – such as communicating the success of a recent charity bake sale or recent company five-a-side win – it can bring to the fore why it is a great place to work.

The benefits of benefits

Benefits not only play an important role in attracting talent, with research finding that 85% of professionals consider what health and wellbeing policies are available to them before applying for a job, but they can act as a great retention tool too.

Three quarters of employees said they would stay with an employer that offered a good benefits package and SMEs need to highlight their benefits effectively. What may have appealed during the interview process, may not have translated into take-up once in role. SMEs should regularly highlight the benefits available to employees, using different and targeted forms of communication, to aid take-up, engagement and retention in the workplace.

Comms makeover

Is the same old company newsletter being wheeled out, without a consideration of whether employees are really engaging in the content? Communications need regular refreshing to keep the audience engaged and no truer is this than with employee benefits. SMEs that can revitalise their communications could benefit from greater engagement in employee benefits. Presenting quick facts about benefits, such as how much cash plans could save an employee money on things like dentistry and shopping each year, can grab the attention of the reader more effectively. Similarly, SMEs can invite benefits professionals in, to explain to employees face-to-face what is on offer. Invigorating communications could make the difference between a wavering employee applying to a different company or realising the benefits they have and deciding to stay.

The apathy trap

Research by YouGov found that even when incentivised, one in five people still failed to switch their banking current account due to the perceived hassle of doing so. And the same can be said for employee benefits. SMEs can fall into the apathy trap, not reviewing their benefits package – its value for money or appropriateness for their workforce demographic – as it’s perceived to be too much hassle. However, engaging with specialist providers and advisers can help SMEs ensure they are getting the most cost-effective and tailored package for their workforce. For SMEs that are competing to keep their talent, they can’t afford not to offer employees the best packages they can within their budgets.

Added extras

There are many added-value benefits within existing benefits products that SMEs simply aren’t aware of and therefore aren’t making the best use of them. Businesses that offer private medical insurance, for example, can sometimes have access to additional benefits included, such as discounted gym membership and travel insurance. By thoroughly researching what is included in benefits packages, it can be another string to an SMEs’ bow in retaining their best people by offering more than initially realised.

The generation game

Finally, it is worthwhile looking at the different generations in the workplace and understanding what drives them – targeting benefits and communications effectively to aid retention. If an SME has a particularly young age demographic, for example, then this health and financially conscious generation may value discounted gym membership and shopping vouchers. Similarly, older generations tend to value healthcare benefits – such as money off dentistry and optical treatments.

The most effective way to understand what employees want though, is to find out directly. And SMEs are in a great position to do this as they are much more nimble than larger companies. Quite simply, it’s a good idea to ask staff, either through a survey or during meetings, and what kind of benefits and comms they prefer. Benefits and communications will then be relevant and help engagement.

SMEs can provide a plethora of reasons as to why talent should continue their careers with them, but without providing sweeteners and communicating benefits effectively – employees could be tempted to go elsewhere. But with a few small changes and a bit of refreshing, SMEs can revitalise their retention strategy and keep their best people.