Get All Access for $5/mo

In Today's Tight Labor Market, You Can't Afford to Have Unhappy Employees Here are three ways to attract and keep happy small-business employees.

By Brenda Mullins Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

pixelfit | Getty Images

Amid all the ups and downs, sweat and tears, entrepreneurs find great happiness in their work. After all, they are often pursuing a passion or dream and finding personal fulfillment in their work. But, does this happiness carry over to their employees?

Related: Basecamp Co-Founder and CEO Jason Fried Explains How to Make Work Less Crazy

To gain a better understanding of employee perceptions about working for small businesses, the 2018 Aflac Small Business Happiness Report surveyed 1,000 U.S. small-business employees on their overall satisfaction and happiness at work. The results revealed 91 percent of small-business employees feel satisfied working at a small business. Another 87 percent say they prefer the small business employment experience to the large business experience.

While this is good news for small-business owners, in today's historically tight labor market, employers cannot afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to employee satisfaction. The latest U.S. Department of Labor report shows the number of job openings dwarfs the total number of workers looking for jobs, indicating a competitive hiring field and an environment where employees may be swept away by new opportunities.

However, small-business owners can continue to set themselves apart and attract and retain happy talent in a few critical ways.

1. Do not skimp on benefits.

It is no secret that health insurance is an expensive and often complicated benefit for small businesses to offer. However, more than half of employees listed health insurance as the most important benefit that affects their job satisfaction, according to a recent Clutch study. By offering health insurance, employers demonstrate that they care about the well-being of their employees. While the rising cost of major medical insurance continues to be a challenge for all businesses, employers can help their work forces manage costs by offering a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), health advocacy services and other voluntary benefits like hospital and critical illness insurance.

Related: How to Make Your Best Employees Stay at Your Company

For small businesses that cannot always compete salary-wise with their larger counterparts, beefing up benefits can be one way to attract and retain talent. In fact, four in five employees prefer benefits or perks to a pay raise, according to statistics gathered by SCORE. Extra benefits like a flexible work schedule and work-from-home options are examples of some cost-effective perks to consider.

2. Show employees they are valued.

Unlike larger companies, small businesses have a unique amount of control when it comes to creating a company culture that makes employees feel like they belong. Businesses that create a family-like feel in the office and recognize the work of their employees will benefit from a happier and more loyal workforce. Gallup found that employees who feel adequately recognized are half as likely as those who do not to say they will quit in the next year. Business owners should take the time to deliver regular feedback to employees and recognize their contributions to the company's success.

3. Provide mentorship opportunities.

A key opportunity for improvement within small business is providing more opportunity for advancement and mentoring. Only 4 percent of small-business employees said their employer offers any type of formal mentorship program, and nearly half (46 percent) said that their employer provides no opportunities for advancement, according to the Aflac Small Business Happiness Report. Business leaders should try to provide less-experienced workers with the opportunities and tools to connect with and learn from more experienced team members. These mentors and business leaders should make an effort to understand employees' career goals and what they want to accomplish in their current role and at the company. This information can be used to create individual road maps for each employee's career and, ultimately, help them see a long-term future with your company.

Related: Investing in Your Employees Is the Smartest Business Decision You Can Make

Additionally, do not be afraid to look beyond your company's own walls for additional opportunities or connections that you can share with your workers. For example, sending employees to outside training courses or workshops, professional industry association events and local networking events gives employees the opportunity to learn from others in the field. Not only do employees receive additional support, advice and information, but they also serve as ambassadors for the business, which can, in turn, lead to new business.

By demonstrating to your employees that you care about their well-being and career development, small businesses will not only create a positive work environment, but they will also earn their employees' loyalty. And that is certainly something to be happy about.

Brenda Mullins

VP of Human Resources and Chief People Officer at Aflac

Brenda Mullins is VP of HR and chief people officer at Aflac. She is responsible for core human resources functions in the U.S. for Aflac’s 5,000-plus employees and developed the framework for expanding Aflac’s diversity efforts through recruitment, retention, relationships, reinforcement and recognition.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick


ChatGPT is Becoming More Human-Like. Here's How The Tool is Getting Smarter at Replicating Your Voice, Brand and Personality.

AI can be instrumental in building your brand and boosting awareness, but the right approach is critical. A custom GPT delivers tailored collateral based on your ethos, personality and unique positioning factors.

Business News

Apple Reportedly Isn't Paying OpenAI to Use ChatGPT in iPhones

The next big iPhone update brings ChatGPT directly to Apple devices.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Is the AI Industry Consolidating? Hugging Face CEO Says More AI Entrepreneurs Are Looking to Be Acquired

Clément Delangue, the CEO of Hugging Face, a $4.5 billion startup, says he gets at least 10 acquisition requests a week and it's "increased quite a lot."

Growing a Business

He Immigrated to the U.S. and Got a Job at McDonald's — Then His Aversion to Being 'Too Comfortable' Led to a Fast-Growing Company That's Hard to Miss

Voyo Popovic launched his moving and storage company in 2018 — and he's been innovating in the industry ever since.

Business News

Sony Pictures Entertainment Purchases Struggling, Cult-Favorite Movie Theater Chain

Alamo Drafthouse originally emerged from bankruptcy in June 2021.