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Employee Management, Leadership

Cost-Effective Perks to Attract and Keep Top Talent

Big business deals and big businesses are more often than not the focus of attention-grabbing headlines. What they’re doing, who they’re merging with, even how many people they’re hiring and firing – those are news stories that receive lots of attention.

But what should, and doesn’t, receive as much attention are small businesses. There are millions of small businesses in the United States, accounting for a much bigger portion of the day-to-day economy than many people realize. For example, according to recent research, there are more than 28 million small businesses in the U.S. Their collective impact is upward of 54 percent of all sales, too. Some estimates have found that small businesses occupy up to 50 percent of all commercial space – and that’s not accounting for people that work from home.

Now that we’re clear on the impact of small business, let’s discuss the people that work for them.

A Snapshot of Employees and Challenges

It’s not just real estate that occupies the minds of small business leaders – it’s employees, too. That’s because small businesses provide more than half all of jobs – 55 percent to be exact. More than two-thirds of all jobs created in over four decades can be attributed to small businesses. While the layoffs at big businesses grab a lot of headlines, the flip side of that coin is more interesting: As big business trimmed some 4 million jobs, small business added 8 million of them, all since 1990.

But there’s a troublesome twist to that otherwise positive statistic: about 2 million Americans voluntarily quit (as in they weren’t fired or laid off) every month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. And if they’re not quitting, they’re thinking about it: According to one study, about one-third of people are actively looking for a job, and three-fourths would think about it. So why the disconnect? Why do people get a job – and then want to leave it?

The Causes of Our Discontent

Of course, general unhappiness is one reason people leave their jobs. But that unhappiness can come from many sources. Some may have conflicts with a boss that seem to hamper their growth or their possibility for advancement. Other people may believe that they have no power in their jobs, which makes them frustrated, or they may feel overworked and undercompensated. Some employees may have serious conflicts not with a boss, but with co-workers, or they may feel they are not getting credit when they should be. Other people may believe they can find a better opportunity with more desirable benefits, pay and advancement opportunities if they leave.

Still others have built up enough skills or developed a strong enough idea that they’re ready and willing to create their own business. In fact, about one-fourth of all executives want to start their own companies, according to Business Insider. In turn, they’ll confront the same challenges, including how to grow well and how to attract and keep good people.

What Employees Want and How You Can Help Them

Of course, one of the biggest reasons people love – or loathe – a job is the employment package. But many people suffer a lack of imagination when it comes to discussing it. They think the reasons for disgruntlement are just about the annual pay.

Certainly pay is an understandable concern for employees. They want to be compensated fairly for their time and efforts, rewarded for helping the company achieve goals and recognized for growing themselves as employees. But as it turns out, employees are worried about – or hopeful for – much more than just a paycheck.

Perks come in two different forms: esoteric and tangible. The esoteric perks are harder to quantify but no less important. Do your employees feel as though they are respected by you and members of the team? Do they feel as though they are listened to and that their ideas may have a chance for advancement? Do they feel good about coming in to work every day – or not so great? Do they trust you to do right by them and by the company as a whole? If you feel confident about the answers to these questions, you probably created a culture that’s employee-focused, which means you’ve made a big step toward ensuring that all those employees that walk out each day walk back in the next.

The tangible perks are easier to understand, but they still offer some muscle room for companies to adapt and use effectively and creatively. Prioritize time off: Employees want more of it – and there are plenty of interesting ways to give them more control over their day-to-day schedules. Is a flexible workday impossible for you to consider – or have you just not considered the possibility? Are you able to encourage well-being (an intangible) by actively encouraging fitness, either through fitness stipends or classes at work? Can you provide even small things – magazines everyone wants to read, good coffee, classes or outings several times a year? These perks can help your business retain its employee assets in a productive, meaningful way.

It can be hard to balance everything that it takes to keep your business intact and afloat. But if you start at the beginning – or start today – you won’t be as likely to lose a key person at the wrong moment, or find a whole department up in arms over a particular issue. And there are plenty of ways you can invent your own employee-focused culture, even at the smallest of businesses. Click here if you’re looking for more interesting perks that may suit your employees or different ways to structure benefits packages. The results may be worth it more than you realize – today, next week, next year and a decade from now.


Consistently ranked among the nation’s premier institutions, the USC Marshall School of Business is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility, and groundbreaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world’s leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With more than 80,000 members in their alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide network of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.

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