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Competition for good workers means you need to pay attention to your benefits program

February 9, 2012

(From SBAM’s member-only Focus on Small Business magazine)

Gary Kushner, a nationally-known small business benefits expert and owner of Kushner & Company, was a guest on a recent SBAM “Business Next” audio seminar program. In this excerpt from his interview with Michael Rogers, SBAM’s vice president communications, he explains why good benefits programs can give you the vital edge you need to compete for the best workers. Listen to the entire audio seminar discussion with Gary by clicking here.

Business Next (BN): Why do you think it’s important for small business owners to pay attention to the benefit packages that they provide for their employers?

Gary Kushner (GK): In today’s world and global economy, you are, as a small business owner, competing for the talent that is going to make your business successful. Among the things you need is a good rewards-based benefits program that is competitive. You don’t want to just have a revolving door of people coming through your business. You want to attract and retain the top talent that is going to change and differentiate your business and make it successful. 

BN: So, today’s small employers need a sophisticated approach to benefits packages?

GK: Absolutely. It’s one piece to the total rewards package. There are all types of HR strategies that a small business owner should employ, if only because their competition is doing that as well. So I’m going to look at my performance management strategies. How do I differentiate between my top performers, my mid-level performers and my low level, or non performers? I’m going to look at training and development and link it to those other HR strategies and of course I’m going to look at my total rewards strategies. They all work together. 

BN: Is it all about spending more money on benefits?

GK: Even though benefit costs are in fact rising, and rising at a faster rate than inflation, it’s not the business owner, large or small, that spends the most that gets the most talent. It’s the employer that looks at their employee base and the types of employees they are recruiting to keep, and then carefully and intelligently tailors benefits that are going to fit the employee’s needs, the organization and the small business owner as well. And remarkably, you don’t have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to get the best results. You just have to spend the dollars wisely.

BN: What have you found to be the benefits small business employees seem to value the most?

GK: One of the biggest areas is going to be in health benefits. Not necessarily even the richest of plans, but one that protects them in the event of a catastrophic injury for themselves and their family. Secondly, one benefit that’s really rising to the top pretty quickly is the retirement plans being offered by small business owners. What we’re seeing is a trend nationally toward greater involvement by small business owners than in the past, even as recently as 10-15 years ago, in sponsoring, for example, 401K, profit sharing and other types of retirement plans.

BN: I think the one thing that comes through loud and clear to me is that benefits’ planning is more complex than ever, which I think that leads me to conclude that it’s very helpful to get some professional advice in crafting a modern benefits program.

GK: If you begin to think about all of your HR strategies and all of the things you are trying to do and link them to the goals and objectives of the business, you’ll tend to be heading down the right path. All too often what we will see small business owners doing is getting together annually with their broker or their consultant on the benefit plans and really just looking at where they were and what the renewal rates are looking like. What’s getting lost is that tie-back to why we’re doing what we’re doing. What’s the strategy behind it? Are we measuring ourselves and being successful? And, at the end of the day, are we attracting and retaining top talent? 

(What if anything are you doing to enhance your employee benefits program? Get engaged with your fellow SBAM members by leaving a comment below.)

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