Small Business Help

Attract Top Candidates With the Pay and Benefits They Actually Want

Dorothy Chong | January 3, 2019

If you’re hiring in 2019 but not offering competitive benefits, you could be missing out on the best applicants

Despite being major private employers collectively, small businesses are, in many ways, still the underdogs. They have to work harder at everything, from front-office management to back-office operations — each new workday presents a new battle. When placed next to a Fortune 500 company, one can’t help but ask, “How can David compete with Goliath?” But we all know how that story turned out. The key, as with any challenge, is to gain a competitive edge. To even the playing field between small business Davids and corporate Goliaths, TSheets and QuickBooks Payroll sought out what employees want from a pay and benefits package, to learn how small businesses can best compete for top talent.  

Employees want paid holidays, sick leave

Because the U.S. is the only advanced economy without a federal PTO policy, the TSheets survey examined the state of paid time off among employees throughout the country, from how it is used to its perceived value. At a glance, we found:
  • 69 percent of respondents would reject jobs without any PTO.
  • The average PTO allowance is 11 days per year.
But PTO can include several types of time off (vacation time, sick time, bereavement leave, etc.), and not all types of PTO are created equally. Respondents in the TSheets survey ranked what they think employers should provide in a PTO policy, and paid holidays reigned supreme. This refers to federal holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, that private sector employers are not obligated to grant time off for, let alone paid time off.Second to paid holidays was sick leave, or paid absences from work employees can use to seek medical care for themselves or immediate family members. Additional data from the survey reveals how the lack of this provision may be the reason almost 90 percent of respondents have gone to work unwell. More unfortunate is how 32 percent of employees say they feel pressured not to take time off. Meanwhile, those who classified their work-related stress level as “unhealthy” were also less likely to have any paid time off, factors that can lead to burnout and a short workplace tenure.   

Employees rank flexible schedules as highest workplace incentives

In the QuickBooks Pay and Benefits Report, survey respondents were asked to list the incentives that would ultimately increase satisfaction and retention. Their responses corroborate the TSheets PTO findings, in that different incentives appeal to different people. Healthcare is a must for some, but a gym membership is irrelevant. And parental leave won’t carry the same weight for employees without children. Incentives from the Pay and Benefits Report range from performance-based raises to working from home, emphasizing the importance of finding the right person for the role, instead of just filling the seat.   

Employees don’t want benefits and bonuses that keep base pay low

The good news is that many employees are getting what they want. Seventy-four percent of respondents, QuickBooks reports, got a raise in 2018, while 23 percent of respondents are eligible for a bonus in 2018, versus just 16 percent in 2017. This should amount to additional good news. But when it comes to compensation trends, employers should tread carefully with bonuses and benefits, as employees can see right through an offer that’s pretending to be competitive. In fact, employees cite a low cost of living (36 percent), benefits (30 percent), and bonuses (27 percent) as the bait-and-switch decoys employers use most frequently to avoid giving proper raises. One in 10 employees also says the offered benefits have decreased in the past 12 months.  

Caution: Even great benefits can’t remedy a toxic work culture

In the end, the same culprit emerges from both surveys. At the root of employee unhappiness is a toxic work culture where the employer just wants to squeeze employees bone-dry. This could be why 47 percent of employees plan to change their jobs in the next 24 months, even though an overwhelming 75 percent say they are either “satisfied” and “very satisfied” with their jobs. In his book, “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big,” journalist and Inc. editor-at-large, Bo Burlingame, discovered growth and profit should not be a business’ only measures of success or recruiting appeal. Instead, a thriving, value-driven culture creates happy employees who, in turn, become the business’ most powerful recruiters. So as you set out to hire, despite the out-of-reach resources, know there are plenty still within your control. How you choose to use them is entirely up to you.
A little about Dorothy Chong

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