SMEs are struggling to attract employees, with more job vacancies than unemployed for the first time since records began. So, what can SMEs do to attract and retain employees in a candidate driven market?
A combination of post-Brexit worker rules, older workers retiring during the pandemic and a rise in long term sickness has seen the workforce in the UK reduced by 500,000 people, resulting in a chronic shortage of labour.
Couple this with spiralling inflation and a cost of living crisis we see employees demanding more, leaving many SMEs unable to match wage expectations.
As a result, SMEs need to get creative and make their employees and new recruits feel like they are being looked after. Here are five cost-effective ways in which SME can achieve this.
Health and wellbeing
Health and well-being are high priorities for many people at the moment. With the NHS in crisis meaning long delays for diagnoses and treatment, employees really value private healthcare cover. Whilst providing this does come at a cost for employers, it could still cost less than providing employees with an inflation linked pay rise and mean less time out of work in NHS waiting rooms. Taking mental health seriously is also important for many, so allowing time off for mental health reasons and offering access to counselling shows that mental health awareness and wellbeing is high on an employer’s agenda. Access to professional financial advice, for those struggling with rising household costs or looking to save for their future, is another perk that can be offered without breaking the bank.
Letting people work from home when possible or working more flexible hours is hugely attractive for many employees as they can save money on commuting and gain back time they would otherwise spend travelling. Provided there is no impact on business outputs/service delivery, flexible working doesn’t cost anything to an SME financially, but is a big benefit for many employees and something they have come to expect post pandemic.
Offer extra time off
Leave is also very important to employees, to ensure they have time away from work to rest but also to deal with personal matters. Something that SMEs can do is show a commitment to work life balance by offering extra leave in certain circumstances such as for employees’ birthdays or a day to move house.
Another thing SMEs can offer is salary sacrifice – where the employee takes less salary in exchange for a non-cash benefit. This can be for all manner of items including electric cars, iPads and bikes. During times when household expenses are rising, employees may not have the money to purchase these types of products outright and offering salary sacrifice to employees means they are able to spread the costs with the added benefit of national insurance savings.
Negotiate money off
Finally, negotiating discounts for employees with local businesses such as food outlets and dry cleaners can of real benefit to staff, but won’t cost you anything apart from the time spent negotiating.
While offering big cash incentives may not be possible for many SMEs, offering cheaper perks may well make the difference in ensuring employees choose you over a competitor business.