One of the biggest challenges small business owners face in today’s world is the difficulty in finding and retaining quality employees. A recent survey by CNBC highlights the issue: 52% of small business owners in 2022 feel that it’s harder to find employees now than one year ago—a time that was thought to be the height of the “Great Resignation.”
Small businesses are vital to the economy of New Mexico. In fact, 99% of businesses in the state are considered small businesses, and they employ more than half—54.4%—of all employees in the state. If you own one of the more than 150,000 small businesses in New Mexico, you’ve probably had your share of hiring woes over the last few years. As a trusted partner of businesses throughout New Mexico, we’ve seen the recent struggles of small companies firsthand, and know the importance of finding the right workers to keep your business successful. That’s why we’re focusing this post on useful tips for how to gain an edge on your competition when it comes to hiring and retaining employees.
But before we delve in, we first need to address an important question:
Why Do Employees Leave?
Though employees move on from jobs for a variety of reasons, there are some common behaviors that employers with the largest turnover have in common. Some top causes of employee turnover include inflexible work arrangements, working under unempathetic bosses, feelings of disengagement, feeling undervalued and overstressed, having little room for advancement, and general burnout. Fortunately, the things that entice employees to jobs are the same practices that can both get them to stay and help you recruit new, quality candidates: meaningful benefits, potential for growth, a sense of purpose, and, especially after the pandemic, flexible work arrangements.
What You Can Do to Find and Keep Quality Employees
Here are ten valuable things you as an employer can do to entice employees to work for your business, and keep those employees longer:
1. Fine Tune Your Hiring & Onboarding Processes
If you’re having trouble finding the right people for your business, you may want to start from square one and reevaluate your current hiring process to determine if it is using all the tools and steps necessary to recruit the ideal candidates. Almost every job site offers suggestions for finding good employees, but best practices will vary widely across industries. Monster.com offers advice for hiring hourly employees and Indeed has some great general ideas that are useful in learning how to hire employees for small businesses. When you’re not sure, remember that you can reach out to an affiliated trade organization for ideas and suggestions, too.
Once you find the right hire, be sure that your onboarding process ensures a successful transition, not only teaching them the nuances of their job, but also where to access employee resources and useful information and introducing them to the work culture. Good training is a major contributing factor to how long an employee stays in their position, but onboarding shouldn’t just happen over the course of a few days. As Forbes explains, the best onboarding programs keep engaging and seeking opportunities to train a new hire throughout their first year. They write, “A successful onboarding strategy will reduce attrition and increase employee engagement, both of which impact your customers’ satisfaction as well as your bottom line.”
2. Offer Competitive Compensation
Wages have been stagnant for quite some time despite rises in productivity and company earnings. Since the pandemic, wages are starting to rise again—almost to the levels of the most productive periods in American history. But if the pay you offer isn’t keeping up with the “The Great Wage Catch-Up,” you’re probably going to have trouble retaining and attracting employees. If you want to hire skilled workers, you must be prepared to pay them what they are worth. Glassdoor’s Salary Calculator is a great place to get an idea of industry averages. Keep in mind, however, if you are looking to recruit the best employees, you might have to go above these figures—or offer other meaningful benefits to compensate.
3. Don’t Skimp on PTO
Offering a competitive level of paid time off is one of the most affordable ways of attracting employees to small businesses. That’s because, despite the concern that when you offer more vacation, you’ll be getting less employee time for your dollar, adequate time off actually leads to higher productivity—a fact employers over the pond have known for years. As Harvard Business Review explains, “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.” So how much time off should you offer? According to the article, during the periods of highest productivity in the US, employees had an average of 20.9 days of vacation.
4. Have a Supportive Family Leave Program
Women are vital components of every workforce. Yet in today’s work climate, they still aren’t incentivized to stay at their jobs after having a child, often forced to use vacation time to cover missed work, and many having to make the choice between returning to work before they are ready (or not returning to work at all!). These reasons are why a robust family leave package is key to retaining employees, especially those in their prime working years. But not only female employees will appreciate this benefit. A study by the University of Edinburgh found that when fathers felt their employers supported them through their workplace policies, they were more likely to stay at their jobs longer, and were, not surprisingly, more dedicated to their work.
5. Have a Good Health Benefits Package
Health benefits are expensive. In fact, employers pay nearly $4,000 per year to cover a single employee, on average. But going with the cheapest healthcare options for your employees might have undesirable consequences. It’s no secret that employees generally despise High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP), where the bulk of their health costs are shifted to them to save employers money and may use this as part of their decision to accept or decline a position. In fact, a recent survey found that 56% percent of U.S. employees with employer-sponsored health benefits claimed that their health benefits were a “key factor in deciding to stay at their current job,” while 46% cited health insurance as a “deciding factor or a positive influence” behind choosing their job. If you aren’t able to offer a full insurance plan for your employee, consider giving them a portion of your savings back in the form of a sizable HSA contribution, to take the edge off those out-of-pocket health costs.
Other ways to improve a health benefits package include offering dental, vision, and telemedicine benefits. These offerings tend to be more affordable, while earning appreciation from your employee. Today’s employees also value wellness programs, which have the added bonus of increasing productivity and reducing sick days. Wellness programs can include free or reduced-cost gym memberships and fitness incentives, educational programs, and health screenings.
6. Offer Solid Retirement Benefits
Pension plans used to be the most effective way that employers retained their employees—often for decades. 401(k)s don’t really stand in for the more beneficial pension plan, which decreases their value as a perk by employees. As the Economic Policy Institute argues, “Though many workers are now enrolled in 401(k) plans, these have proven to be a poor substitute, as the typical household approaching retirement has less than two years’ worth of income saved in these accounts.”
While 401(k)s might save money, they aren’t always successful at making employees stay—so it’s important to do what you can to make them an attractive benefit to your current and potential employees. One way to attract employees is to not hold off on matching contributions for more than a year, a common but detrimental cost-saving practice. Potential employees weigh your contributions as a benefit, but if they don’t kick in for several years, they won’t consider them part of the package. Finally, consider that the average employer match is only 4.5%. Going above this won’t cost you much more and will help attract and retain a quality workforce.
7. Provide and Encourage Education
To keep employees engaged in their jobs, as well as up-to-date in their fields, don’t undervalue the importance of providing educational opportunities. When you invest in your employees’ growth you are making them feel valued, which is an important part of fighting demoralization, and the resulting employee turnover. Linkedin Learning found that “94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers.” Consider sending your employees to a suitable conference, take a training course online, or reimburse them for a new certification.
8. Be Flexible
Life post-pandemic is much different than it was before. Employees and employers alike learned how to be flexible with work schedules and locations due to stay-at-home mandates and COVID-19 safety precautions. In many ways, this flexibility proved to have huge benefits for workers, who were able to carve out time during normal work hours to take care of basic needs like doctor appointments, while being more present for their families. The Catalyst report, “Remote-Work Options Can Boost Productivity and Curb Burnout” shows the clear benefits of having a flexible work environment: along with a 26% decrease in reported burnout, employees are 30% less likely to look for another job in the next year and are significantly more likely to report being engaged, innovative, included, and committed to their work.
A flexible work environment will look different at every place of employment based on the employees’ ability to perform their job from home and the needs of the company. Allowing for some work-from-home and some office days might make sense if your workers would benefit from more in-person interactions. For jobs which cannot be performed from home, you might try offering floating PTO expressly for personal and family needs or allowing for added flexibility with working hours to handle day-to-day challenges. The guiding principle is simple: offer flexibility when you can.
9. Outline Career Advancement Opportunities
Employees often leave their jobs for opportunities outside of their current employment that advance their careers or increase their income. Some do this intentionally, utilizing a practice called ‘job hopping.’ Others do it because they feel there is no room to grow in their current position and are seeking new chances for career development. As an employer, you can get ahead of this by providing clear pathways for advancement at your company. Have a clear hierarchy of job titles that makes it easy to follow the stages of advancement. As your employees grow and are ready to take on greater responsibilities, outline what they need to achieve or accomplish to get to the next level. And make sure to offer competitive wages to your current employees, based on their years of experience.
10. Recognize Your Employees’ Accomplishments
All the benefits and flexibility in the world can mean little to an employee who feels unappreciated. Beyond compensation, taking the time to recognize your staff for their accomplishments is affordable, easy, and can go a long way. In addition to maintaining a habit of regular praise for your employees’ efforts, creating an official employee recognition program where employees and their managers can nominate others for helping each other out, being a team player, and going above and beyond their official duties is a great way to systemically support and encourage your employees. You can also consider using an employee reward platform, like the ones suggested here, which allow you to do things like honor work anniversaries, send gifts, and even create easy-to-follow bonus systems to recognize a job well done.
We Can Support Your Small Business
At Del Norte Credit Union, we work every day with local businesses throughout New Mexico to not only help them stay viable in the face of challenges, but provide the right level of support to help them grow. Looking for a small business loan in New Mexico? We can help! In addition to our low-cost business checking accounts and savings accounts, we offer a variety of products for small businesses to finance their day-to-day operations and expenditures from small business loans, to loans for vehicles and equipment and business credit cards for everyday purchases. Additionally, our suite of business banking services offers ACH, remote deposit capture, and direct deposit features to help manage finances, and we work with partners to provide additional employer services like payroll, invoicing, and bookkeeping. We’d love to partner with your business for all its financing needs. Reach out to us today to find out how our services can work for your small business!