The work-culture shock created by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a surge of employees who have either quit or are seriously considering quitting their jobs. The tight labor market means small and medium-size businesses must do all they can to compete for the best employees. What makes the difference in hiring and retention? The benefits package.
Access to a good benefits package is increasingly important to employees, according to Bill Bradish, founder of Bradish Associates. As a result, competition for workers is driving more companies to offer health insurance and other benefits. A good package helps set a business apart from the crowd and attract the best talent.
“It’s not just health insurance — dental insurance scores very high among the benefits that prospective employees are looking for, with vision insurance gaining,” said Bradish, reflecting on what is happening with fellow business owners and clients. Additionally, offering retirement plans such as a 401(k) is gaining more traction in the eyes of prospective employees. “It’s what gives you the edge in a really competitive environment to find quality people.” Other popular benefits include flexible work hours, working from home, covering continuing education costs, as well as offering life insurance and short-term and long-term disability insurance.
Attracting good workers
In Bill Bradish’s experience, the best employees are those who not only have the skillset needed but are also compassionate people. It’s a winning combination for intraoffice relationships and positive company culture, overall productivity, and customer service. And because a talented and caring person typically has more options available than less qualified people, “a business needs something extra to act as a lever to draw them to your firm,” said Bradish. For example, “if everyone is paying $21 per hour, you need to offer a little sizzle, a little addition to the hourly rate to attract those candidates.” Benefits can provide that sizzle.
Jonathan Anderson, owner of, and clinician at Steeple Counseling in Arlington Heights, Ill., believes in the necessity of providing benefits. When forming his practice in 2018 as a young professional, he knew his own family needed benefits. It just made sense to also include his employees, who have similar needs.
Aside from feeling it was simply the right thing to do, Anderson wanted to empower his staff with “the ability to give their full attention and energy to their work.” Offering health insurance benefits allows fellow clinicians to commit to doing full-time work at Steeple instead of worrying about having to find work elsewhere to secure benefits for their families. Although providing health insurance benefits is not the norm in his field, according to Anderson, he believes it is worth it for the sake of the work they do. “I actually think it helps us do better work because we’re able to be fully committed.”
Retaining good workers
Employee retention is another important reason to provide benefits. Losing an employee complicates everything, contributing to extra workload for those left behind, leading to productivity loss, and adding expenses to recruit and train a replacement. That’s why businesses of all sizes find benefits very important to retain employees.
In addition to health insurance, Steeple offers flexible work schedules and covers the cost of training for all employees. “We really focus on training, equipping people. Everyone gets free access to weekly training and consultation,” said Anderson. For example, unlike other counseling practices, Steeple covers all costs for the state-required supervision of newer clinicians.
Providing benefits also reassures employees that a company is financially stable, according to Bill Bradish. This in turn promotes employee confidence and encourages longevity. “If a company isn’t offering benefits, employees wonder — and I think it’s always in the back of their minds — is this really a company that I can stay with, and grow with?”
Contributing to a good company culture
Offering a competitive benefits package is also consistent with a caring company culture. For Anderson, “health insurance has always been a necessity. People need this, so there’s no second thought.” So far, providing benefits has yielded committed employees and better team cohesion at Steeple. “The longer employees stay around, the better we get at working together, and the better work we do together as a team. I think it’s important to have a competitive package so they will stay.”
By offering employee benefits such as health insurance, companies are increasing their odds of hiring and retaining good and dependable workers. Exceptional people are drawn to places with healthy cultures committed to supporting and developing their workers. Small and medium-size businesses can often add extra elements for less money than anticipated, including life insurance, or disability insurance, for starters. Something as simple as flexible work hours can also be effective, as demonstrated at Steeple.
Anderson believes the advantages of providing benefits outweigh the costs. “We’re building something, and we’ve just provided the stabilizers that can allow a foundation to build on, for longevity.”
As growing numbers of employers are realizing, a competitive benefits package offers a clear advantage. Benefits not only make those businesses more attractive to the most qualified candidates, they also help to keep good employees around for a long time. And that is good for everyone.