Let’s face it. Free fruit, a pool table in the corner and 20 days holiday listed as “perks” are no longer going to cut it. The benefits you offer your staff could be make or break when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent.
When you’re a small business, you might have a limited budget for staff perks but if you only offer the bare minimum, it’s unlikely to do you any favours.
A good package of benefits helps your employees to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. In turn, this can reduce employee engagement. Benefits form part of the overall reward package – employees who don’t feel adequately rewarded for their hard work are unlikely to want to stay.
So, what benefits should you be looking at implementing for 2024 as a small business? Employees are looking for meaningful benefits that add value to their lives. It’s important to bear that in mind.
Let’s look at a few options for your employee perks…
This feels like something we’ve been banging on about for a while, but flexible working options are now a non-negotiable for many employees – particularly millennials and gen Z.
Flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home. Although pretty much everyone who is offered working from home as a benefit says it’s the most important benefit for improving happiness and productivity, we know that it’s not possible for all employees to be offered remote work.
Flexible start and finish times and compressed working weeks can make a difference to many people who are looking for a better work-life balance and those with caring responsibilities.
Flexible work can result in higher job satisfaction and enable those who could struggle to work from an office from 9-5, such as those with disabilities, neurodiversity or with children, to access work more easily.
Health and wellbeing
Providing employees with private health insurance is not just for the big players. Even small companies can offer this benefit (Grace does) and it can be a real bonus when candidates are weighing up potential employers as it helps you to be competitive. If that’s something you would struggle to afford, you could look into health cash plans for your employees. These can be more affordable but are still an appealing benefit for your staff.
A dental plan would be particularly popular amongst employees as it’s increasingly difficult to find an NHS dentist. Annual health MOTs could also be an option.
And let’s not forget mental health. Could you pay for a subscription to a wellness app such as Headspace? Or hold health and wellbeing workshops in the office, such as yoga classes, sleep workshop, stress management, etc? Things like this help to improve overall wellbeing, boost positivity and resilience, and reduce the risk of employee burnout.
Wellbeing isn’t only physical and mental. Many employees are concerned about their longtime financial wellbeing. Offering access to resources or training to help support colleagues would be beneficial. This article on Nerd Wallet lists a number of budgeting apps. Paying for a subscription to one of these apps could be a meaningful benefit for your employees.
Go further than what you’re legally obliged to do
You might only need to give 28 days of holiday, including bank holidays, but only giving the bare minimum leaves you less competitive in the market. A survey by PeopleHR found that in 2023, the average entitlement to annual leave was 34 days, including bank holidays.
Can you offer a set number of paid sick days? Everyone is feeling the pinch and there’s nothing worse than having to come into work – spreading your germs – when you’re not well enough because you can’t afford to take the time off to recuperate. SSP only kicks in after three consecutive sick days and the amount you get doesn’t match even minimum wage. Offering paid sick leave will discourage presenteeism and show your commitment to employee health and wellbeing.
Learning and development
Subsidising or covering the costs entirely for learning and development gives employees a reason to stay with your company. You don’t want them to see a glass ceiling to their career and start to look elsewhere. You could cover ad hoc expenses such as conferences, or training courses. Or something that many organisations choose to do, is to allocate each employee an annual development budget for them to spend as they wish. This could help them to cover professional subscriptions or membership fees, books, etc. It’s arguably the fairest way to use your L&D budget so that it’s not the people who shout the loudest who get things paid for.
What have we done at Grace?
With such a small team, it’s vital the benefits are just that. They need to benefit the people in the business. Being a small company, we can’t compete with some of the big brands but it’s still important that we can both attract and retain talent. We want to be seen as an employer of choice, regardless of size.
I know with 50% of the team having young children that flexible working is a hugely important benefit to them. So, we opened up working hours to accommodate school drop-offs and pick-ups. Our two-day WFH policy also means they’re saving on after-school clubs and commuting costs on those days.
The health cash plan gives me the confidence that the team members are having their annual check-ups – dental, optical, etc. – and looking after themselves. Especially working on screens all day – we’ve got to take care of those tired eyes.
If you knew the team, you’d know a cycle to work scheme would not be taken advantage of. So that’s not something we’ve signed up to.
What we have done is upped the annual leave entitlement and added on the Xmas/NY break as bonus days off, rather than requesting they hold three days back from their allowance. In total they get 28 days NOT including bank holidays. My team love a holiday just as much as I do. It was an easy decision – the difference some time off makes to productivity.
To sum up...
As we head into 2024, small businesses need to rethink employee benefits for talent attraction and retention. Traditional perks no longer cut it.
- Prioritise flexibility in work arrangements and health packages.
- Exceed legal obligations for leave and sick days and invest in learning and development to signal a commitment to employee growth.
Importantly, when coming up with your benefit strategy for 2024, speak to your current employees and find out what they would find the most valuable. Asking your team’s opinions, and acting on them, shows that you care what they have to say. There’s also no point spending budget on something that no one gives a rats a**s about.
Having an attractive bundle of benefits is going to help you to stand out in a competitive job market and attract and retain the talent you need to propel your business to success.