Man working in PJs Smallbusinesses can easily appeal to top talent by offering flexiblework schedules or remote roles. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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If you're like many small business CEOs, you're probablythinking that despite some ongoing market volatility, your growthoutlook is pretty good this year, and you may be consideringadditional hiring. But with the nationalunemployment rate at 4 percent—just up from the all-time low of3.7 percent in October of 2018—the competitionfor talented workers is sure to be intense.

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How can you position your company for success and entice new workers into the fold? Here arethree ideas that don't cost a lot of money but can make a bigdifference to your current employees, prospective hires, andoverall productivity in the coming year.

1. Offer flexible and remote work

The perfect employee for the job isn't always in the ideallocation. While some will be willing to take on a longer commute oreven relocate for the right opportunity, many modern workers aremaking work/life balance more of a priority. That's whereflexibility in work schedules can come in handy.

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According to a recent survey, more than eight in ten U.S.workers say they would like to telework at least part time. Andit's no secret that the Millennial and Gen Z generations demandflexibility from their employer. Small businesses can easily appealto top talent by offering flexible work schedules or remote roles.Right now, less than a quarter of small businesses expect to dothat if hiring gets difficult, according to a recent survey ofsmall business CEOs by the Wall Street Journal and Vistage—which meansthere is room to stand out.

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You may even want to consider offering positions that areentirely remote, as this lets you pull talent from around the world(or at least the country) without having to set aside and pay forspace in your brick-and-mortar office.

2. Structure “extra” benefits so they're affordable andaccessible

If you offer medical, dental, vision, life and disabilityinsurance, it may feel like you've put together a competitivebenefits package—but it won't help you stand out. Push yourinsurance carrier to propose more creative benefit options. Someproviders will even throw in additional benefits, such as anEmployee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers work/life support,legal guidance and financial resources. And remember thatadditional benefits don't have to be expensive for small groups, ifyou pick the right carrier.

3. Consider technology that can streamline your processes andhelp you keep good talent

Many small businesses don't have the luxury of a dedicated HumanResources manager, let alone a full HR department. That means youneed an employee benefits platform that is streamlined, simple tomanage, flexible and powerful. Here are a few things toconsider:

  • Embrace the cloud. Be wary of carriers orbenefit providers who have legacy systems that need to beretro-fitted to your existing technology. Employees today are usedto state-of-the-art technology and will expect a self-service modelwhen it comes to enrollment and employee benefits education. Havinga cloud-based platform that offers the flexibility to managebenefits the way you and your employees want – whether that's fromhome or on a smartphone—will be essential to your program'ssuccess.
  • Safeguard employee data. Look for an employeebenefits platform that provides you with real-time data managementand online tools to help maximize employee participation levelswhile keeping employee data secure. Difficult situationsunfortunately do arise—and when they do, the last thing you or youremployees need to be doing is tracking down details. The rightsystem can help you stay organized from top to bottom.
  • Choose a carrier for the long run. You may notwant to add all available employee benefits and systems right away,preferring instead to add more each year as your profits allow. Theright carrier will adjust your benefits and their service as yourneeds change. Teaming up with an insurer who is capable of growingand evolving with you—and your employees—can help you achieve yourgoals.

The ability to attract, develop, and retain a talented workforceis one of the greatest competitive advantages a business can have.Preserving and growing this advantage requires steady investment,but it can be done cost-effectively, and it can boost your bottomline. A contemporary employee benefits approach is a great way forsmall businesses to stay competitive in the war for talent.


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Ron Herrmann is head ofUS life insurance and employee benefits for AXA Equitable,where he leads all factors of both the Individual Life andEmployee Benefits Businesses, including manufacturing anddistribution of a diverse suite of protection benefits to themarket. 

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