Employee benefits aren’t just for large corporates

Richard Stewart is the co-founder and CEO of Untangl explains how smaller businesses can offer just as much to their employees.

Offering good employee benefits doesn’t need to be costly or complex. You may not be able to match big business when it comes to salaries or a wealth of perks – but there’s no reason you can’t be in a strong position to compete for talent with the combined appeal of essential benefits and the buzz of being part of a small enterprise.

The problem has been a market geared towards the big employers, working through a network of sometimes expensive professional advisers and intermediaries. For small firms it’s a nightmarish web of admin, time and cost commitments. But new technologies based around simple cloud-based apps mean small firms no longer need to be excluded.

How do you decide what benefits are right for you and where do you buy them? The one benefit you have to offer, under the new regulations, is a pension. And the arrival over the next two years of pension automatic enrolment means the risk of penalties and fines for employers that get this wrong, who don’t have the solid systems to rely on.

Small firms have the same duty of care as large employers to look after employee wellbeing, both physical and mental – an issue that Government is increasingly taking an interest in. A recent study by Westfield Health found that more than a third (38 per cent) of UK employees say their working environment has a negative impact on their mental health and one in two employees felt that their workplace did not manage mental health issues well.

Putting in place access to employee support, like telephone and face-to-face counsellors, to help deal with stress and also other services like physiotherapists, demonstrates awareness and practical support for employees – and helps reduce absence levels.

You also need to be smart about focusing on the benefits that matter. Forget ‘perks’ – like fancy free lunches, the ping-pong table and the fun team outings – and focus on the long-term benefits. Long-term members of the team are looking for robust benefits, training and development, flexible work hours, health care, pensions and the opportunity for more time off.

See also: 7 simple and cost-effective ways to improve employee health

The committed staff with an eye on the future with your firm are also looking for solid parental benefits, paid maternity and paternity leave, childcare programmes. Increasingly, employees value transparency. If the business can’t afford to offer every kind of benefit right now, it’s better to be open about his and set out your aims for the future.

More owners need to be exploring the potential of digital services to deliver on the core benefits. When it comes to deploying and managing cloud apps there are huge variations in take up among businesses and sectors. Okta’s Businesses@Work report shows that compared to US companies, the UK is slower to adopt cloud apps, with only 22 per cent of businesses using HR apps, as opposed to 57 per cent in the US.

You may not have the financial clout of a large business, but as research into employee motivation and engagement regularly shows, money in itself isn’t a great motivator. Some smart thinking about benefits and how to access them, and small firms have a real advantage in securing the best people.

Richard Stewart is the co-founder and CEO of Untangl.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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Employee Engagement