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Bridging The Growing Divide Between Employers And Their Valued Employees: Here’s How To Do It Right


“The Great Resignation” impacted thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes. Now, as the momentum behind job hopping and fast quitting slows, small business owners may feel some relief. However, now isn’t the time to hit the brakes on efforts that support employees both at and outside of work; as the turnover churn winds down, now is a strategic time to consider what steps you are taking to retain your workforce in the long run.   

Small business leaders should consider how they are delivering on employee care, which can help safeguard talent. In addition to pay and compensation, employee care includes five key pillars: wellness programs and benefits, flexibility and work-life balance, social and supportive culture, career development and training, and purposeful work.     

Interestingly, according to MetLife’s deep-dive into small business trends there are significant gaps between employer perception and employee satisfaction across all pillars of employee care. Let’s look at these differences in perceptions and how small business owners can bridge the divide.

Wellness Programs And Benefits

Employee wellness and employee mental health has risen to the top of the priority list for many small businesses. Indeed, 70% of small businesses report that employee mental health is a primary focus for them. On the other hand, only 46% of small business employees are satisfied with their employer’s efforts to deliver care through wellness programs and benefits. As such, employers should consider providing employees with resources like one-on-one mental health and wellbeing check ins, discussions and/or webinars about mental health or stress management, wellness activities, and more.

As the lowest reported percentage of satisfaction across the five pillars of care, it’s table stakes that employers recognize their role in employee well-being, as well as the meaningful value that resources, like benefits, can provide. Indeed, benefits can help deliver on employee care, and in turn, improve loyalty, satisfaction, and happiness. As highlighted in MetLife’s research, small business employees are interested in a range of benefits, such as dental insurance (64%) and vision care insurance or discount program (61%), to name a few. By providing employees with the right mix of benefits that support their unique needs and your benefits budget, you can position your organization to support your hard-working talent year-round.  

Flexibility And Work-Life Balance

While 81% of employers believe that employees are satisfied with their organization’s flexibility and work-life balance, only 59% of employees say they are. Access to paid leave is one way for employers to provide their workforce with more flexibility. Currently, one in four small businesses offer paid time off. Not only does time away from work promote a healthy work-life balance, but 76% of employees who have access to this benefit intend to remain at their employer in 12 months’ time, demonstrating the win-win nature of this offering. 

Social And Supportive Culture

Small businesses are well-positioned to create a positive workplace culture due to the size of their organization and, therefore, their close-knit environment. To deliver on this pillar of care, employers should consider ways to create a more collaborative atmosphere by seeking and implementing employee perspectives related to their day-to-day employee experience. For example, try implementing listening mechanisms that actively and continuously solicit employee feedback to promote a more collaborative workplace atmosphere.

Career Development And Training

Career development is a powerful retention tool; research shows that 61% of employees point to upskilling opportunities as an important factor behind staying or leaving their role. As such, employers should consider ways to support skill enhancement and career advancement, which can improve employee performance, while also bolstering talent retention. Consider that opportunities to learn and grow can improve employee satisfaction, which currently stands at 53%, according to MetLife data. 

Purposeful Work

Did you know that small business employees are 23% more likely than employees at larger organizations to list purposeful work as the most important aspect of employee care? Small businesses often have a link to purposeful work, whether you are a local manufacturer providing supplies for improvement projects in the community, or a small business retailer supporting local craftspeople. By leaning into this workplace culture-based aspect of care, purposeful work will retain its standing as the pillar of care with the smallest gap (17%) between employee satisfaction and employer perception. 

As 78% of employees say their employer has a responsibility to demonstrate care, it’s critical for small business employers to identify if and how they are doing just that. Particularly as gaps persist across each of the above five pillars of care, it’s clear that small business employers have an opportunity to provide employees with benefits, resources, and opportunities that improve feelings of care. While your workforce’s expectations across these pillars of care may vary, comparing your organization to the broader landscape can provide valuable insights and give your small business a competitive edge. 

By Cynthia Smith 

As Senior Vice President of Regional Business at MetLife, Cynthia Smith plays a leading role in helping small businesses find the right mix of benefits to help attract and retain top talent.




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