From a rapidly diversifying workforce to rising worker expectations, small business owners are wrestling with tectonic shifts in the workplace. These changes create challenges when competing for talent. As job satisfaction and loyalty head toward lows unseen since 2008, finding and keeping people has leaders uneasy.
Even so, two-thirds (66%) of small business owners say their business is in good health. At 66.8, the Q2 2022 Small Business Index score is the highest it’s been since the pandemic began.*
What should small businesses make of these dynamics from MetLife’s 2022 Employee Benefits Trends Study and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Q2 2022 Small Business Index? It’s time to channel optimism into action.
Meeting Workers Where They Are
Amid a power rebalance between small business employers and employees, the demand forchange has outpaced change itself. Despite employers’ progress in recognizing and supporting small business workers — and their efforts to improve workplace culture and purpose — employees still need and want more from employers and benefits options.
Employers can meet this moment by focusing on holistic health. While small businesses have made strides in doing so by broadening benefits programs, as well as prioritizing flexibility andother drivers of mental health, gaps still persist. When small business leaders focus on theemployee experience with holistic well-being in mind, they’re much more likely to see gains such as improved mental health, satisfaction, resilience, and retention.
What is holistic well-being?
Holistic well-being includes the interrelated things that make a person whole: financial, mental, social, and physical well-being.
With these insights in mind, five key areas of opportunity stand out in MetLife’s small business report: purpose, flexibility, culture, training, and benefits. Here’s what employers can do to seize them when adapting to this changing world of work.
1. Ground everyday work in a greater purpose.
Purpose creates meaning from the minutia of a person’s day-to-day, and it comes with power. Employees who engage in purposeful work are much more likely to feel mentally and holistically well. They’re also more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs and loyal to employers.
2. Consider flexibility where it’s possible.
Employees consider flexibility a top-three factor — behind pay and benefits — for staying at their old job or accepting a new one. Employees who don’t feel they have flexibility at work are much less likely to feel mentally healthy. They’re also less likely to stay at the same job for more than 12 months. Where flex arrangements aren’t possible, consider what else small business employees want. In place of flexible schedules, most would prefer increased pay, more time off, or a wider mix of benefits.
3. Empower managers as the stewards of work culture.
Culture gets expressed through leaders’ words and actions, and it affects different areas of wellbeing. Because managers largely carry the torch for workplace culture, their influence on holistic health is palpable. When small business employees have a supportive manager, for example, they’re much more likely to feel mentally and socially healthy, as well as resilient.
4. Promote training as a commitment to success.
Employees seek out opportunities to learn and grow, and employers who address those needs enjoy not just a holistically healthy workforce, but also a more productive and loyal one. When workers feel their employers are committed to their success, they are more likely to feel holistically well, resilient, and productive. They’re also more than twice as likely to say they intend to stay at the same job for a year or more.
5. Contextualize benefits with education.
Benefits can’t support employees if they go unused, which is why benefits education is a key piece of the whole employee experience. When workers understand what they get beyond pay and why it matters, they’re much more likely to feel holistically well and resilient. And as with other areas, these improvements translate into higher productivity and loyalty.
What’s Ahead for Small Businesses
Today’s workers have diverse and diverging values and needs. In effect, it’s almost as if employers are managing multiple workforces in one. But with optimism prevailing among small business leaders, successful businesses aren’t letting these concerns dampen their confidence. On the contrary, they’re turning insights into action by thinking holistically across the whole employee experience.
When employers do and provide more with people-centric solutions, they’re much more likely to find and keep their people. And in this changing environment — in this era of the whole employee — that can make all the difference.
*Source: Chamber of Commerce – MetLife Small Business Index 2022 Q2, Accessed June 2, 2022, https://www.uschamber.com/sbindex/summary.