Employee Benefits for SMEs – What does your Business Offer?

When it comes to SMEs and employee benefits, the larger the business, the higher the likelihood that the business will have either an EAP or a comprehensive benefits package.

However, data provided by the Development Bank of Wales in 2019 and a Welsh Government study the same year reveals that Wales has a much smaller percentage of ‘medium’ sized businesses than England, Scotland or Ireland and therefore often smaller budgets – and many of them are located in the South – so how can you compete for the best talent as a North Wales business?

By law every employee must now be offered a workplace pension and basic staff holiday, so additional benefits are the key to retaining talent and helping employees to feel valued.  This is extremely important in the tech sector, where talent is prized and well paid in large English cities – if North Wales is to keep pace with tech development, we need to retain home grown talent, and if you can’t compete on salary, a strong benefits package could help – so what benefits can smaller business in Wales offer?

Benefits is a much bigger area than can be covered in a short article – but here are four inexpensive ways that Welsh businesses can invest in their team for relatively low cost:

Healthcare

Mid-pandemic, full healthcare benefits are extremely prized by employees, however they are also one of the more expensive benefits to provide.  That said, there are smaller, lower cost ‘cash plan’ options, which don’t provide full health cover but offer 24 hour telephone GP access, cashback if your employees get sick and a restricted number of specialist consultations, as well as access to physio, dental and other care.

If business owners have an EAP which applies to Directors, it is worth looking to see if some of the smaller benefits are extendable to the whole company – services like mental health helplines are often accessible by all employees, even if only the Directors have cover for the main benefits.  Speaking to a broker will help you find the best solution for you and your team.

Flexibility

The CIPD in Wales are pressing for flexible working to be a day one right for all employees. One of the upsides of the pandemic is that employers have invested heavily in technology and in the main, remote working has ‘worked’.  With latest research finding ‘hybrid’ working being prized by employees, offering some work from home time is becoming a ‘must’.  For parents, allowing them to come in a little later so they can take their own kids to school, time off for sports days and plays, and a little latitude on taking personal calls from the school and childminders during work time is really valued and can also relieve stress.

CPD and Workplace Learning

Thanks to generous Government funding, Welsh businesses are often able to access low cost or free training opportunities, with most areas running courses in digital skills.  By upskilling your employees, you aren’t ‘training them to leave’, you are encouraging them to stay by showing them you value them.  Look into what is available, free of charge or subsidized, in your area.  Business Wales offers advice, support and upskilling for business owners, often free, and your business advisor will often do the research into what’s available for you, leaving you free to run your business.

Online Learning and Employee Coaching

Online courses are often inexpensive compared to offline learning, and new AI coaching tools are enabling employees to receive one on one development, helping to coach desirable behaviours but also nurturing management thinking and behaviours.  Allowing a few hours per week ‘personal development time’ can reap rewards.

North Wales is a beautiful place to live, with attractive scenery, friendly people and good transport links to northern tech hubs like Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds who are increasingly rivalling London for new technologies.  With lower housing costs, a lower crime rate and good education, who wouldn’t rather live here?    Reviewing your benefits plan to include good CPD opportunities, some healthcare, more flexibility and a friendly, happy team, smaller businesses really can attract the best.  It’s simply a matter of playing to your strengths.