As the labor shortage continues, small business owners are still struggling to fill open positions.
Meanwhile, companies have reacted by incentivizing job-seekers with extra benefits and perks.
Here are 5 key benefit categories to successfully attract and retain employees.
This article is part of Talent Insider, a series containing expert advice to help small business owners tackle a range of hiring challenges.
As the labor shortage continues to surge, many small business owners are still struggling to fill open positions.
As a result of both COVID-19 and the risk of a recession, workers have put an emphasis on increased salaries, work-life balance, and more empathy from their employers. Meanwhile, companies have reacted by incentivizing job-seekers with hiring bonuses, extra benefits, and office (or home office) perks.
Insider spoke with Paula Allen—the global leader and senior vice-president of research and total wellbeing at Lifeworks, a company providing health and wellness support to businesses and employees around the world—about the benefits and perks workers want most right now.
Lifeworks conducts monthly surveys to understand worker experiences, mindsets, and struggles, and found that when employers establish support systems for their staff, happiness, belonging, and productivity all increase.
Allen suggests small business owners implement support in five key benefit categories to successfully attract and retain employees.
1. Employee & Family Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are programs offered to provide a wide-range of benefits addressing circumstances that might adversely affect employees’ work and health, according to the IRS. From financial assistance to therapy, EAPs allow employees to choose from a plethora of resources depending on what they find most necessary.
The benefit for business owners? Not only do EAPs offer extended benefits– acting as an incentive to attract employees– but EAPs are also completely tax deductible.
Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, provide a range of benefits aimed at circumstances that may adversely affect employees’ work and health. From financial assistance to therapy, EAPs allow employees to choose from a plethora of resources depending on what they find most necessary.
Not only do EAPs offer extended benefits—acting as an incentive to attract employees—but EAPs are also completely tax deductible.
2. Childcare and family planning
Whole life insurance is a tool for financial planning, not a substitute for savings.
Ippei Naoi/Getty Images
Parents, and in particular women, were among the most affected individuals during the pandemic, according to Lifework’s monthly surveys. As offices reopen, childcare guidance and support can become even more vital for working parents, Allen said.
“It’s become more complex than people might think,” said Allen. “The supports that we have are just more fragile right now.”
Additionally, following the Dobbs Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, many employers quickly sought ways to offer their staff family planning services and reproductive support.
For example, Molly George—the cofounder of Texas-based PR firm Kickstand—said she added reproductive health care to her company’s family planning grants program in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. The grants can be used by employees to cover or offset some of the expenses related to fertility services, reproductive treatments, adoption fees, and foster expenses, she added.
3. Mental health resources
Virtual or in-person therapy sessions, career growth counseling, and substance-abuse services are among the mental health resources employers should offer, Allen said.
Throughout COVID-19, “many people started developing behaviors that have long-term impacts that have actually increased the risk level of the population: such as substance use,” she said.
Additionally, burnout continues to be a prominent issue among workers, said Dr. Alexandra Jacowitz, cofounder and therapist at Park Slope Therapy. She’s seen an increase in clients seeking help for burnout and attributes the rise to a growing awareness of the condition along with the added stress of the pandemic.
“Since 2020 began, the amount of people coming for burnout has certainly increased,” she added.
While addressing external factors in an employee’s life is vital, so is giving an individual the option to seek help for issues within the workplace, said Ken Gorfinkle, psychologist and owner of Common Sense Therapy.
“Executive coaches, psychologists, or mental health experts can help people navigate difficulties with coworkers, bosses, supervisors,” he added.
4. Financial services
Kiyoshi Hijiki/Getty Images
Financial health is often intertwined with mental and physical wellbeing, Gorfinkle said. “People are often hardcore concerned about supporting a lifestyle and their economic circumstances,” he added.
Financial coaches, savings plans, and investment services ensure employees feel stable and supported, both Allen and Gorfinkle agreed.
5. Flexibility in schedule
Allen recommends business owners implement flexible schedules so their employees can manage family conflicts, take mental health days, or find a work-life balance. This can take the form of a 4-day week, later start time, or unlimited PTO, he added. However, the first step is to determine what works best for the company and its employees.
On the most basic level, business owners should focus on the hierarchy of needs in addressing employee concerns, she said. Ensuring employees feel like they belong, have a continuum of support, and have internal and external resources in case something goes wrong is the most efficient way to ease employee discontent.
“It’s important that everybody, regardless of their level of needs, has the kind of support that they need,” she continued. “Everybody needs to understand that they’re valued.”