How SMBs Can Remain Competitive In Today’s Economy

David Reid, CEO and cofounder of Ease.

While small and midsized businesses (SMBs) remain the backbone of the American economy, they have struggled to stay afloat during these past two tumultuous years. The impact Covid-19 has had on business closures and the rapidly digitized commerce landscape led many businesses to lose customers and employees and, in some cases, close their doors for good. During the first month of the pandemic, the number of small businesses in the U.S. decreased by 30%, and they have been slowly recovering over the past two years.

The State Of Small And Midsized Business

Access to funding and innovative technologies allowed larger businesses to provide business continuity in an uncertain economy and helped them stabilize revenue streams. Unfortunately, accessible resources for small businesses simply don’t match up to those of their larger counterparts. The early pandemic financial aid that helped many SMBs make ends meet has ended, and with the Great Resignation continuing to wreak havoc, small businesses must develop strategies to attract and retain talent and stay open.

The Changing Benefits Landscape

The benefits employers offer have been at the forefront of the talent attraction conversation, with voluntary benefits taking center stage. According to my company’s latest edition of our annual SMB Benefits and Employee Insights Report, voluntary benefits plans have grown in priority for business owners. To remain competitive, SMBs consider physical, mental, financial and social health benefits to be key differentiators in attracting talent and retaining existing employees. These benefits can include:

• Financial education services and financial wellness perks.

• Student loan repayment benefits to eligible employees or access to continuing education programs.

• Pet insurance to provide peace of mind to your pet-parent employees.

• Expanded access to digital health care options, including fertility benefits.

• Caregiving benefits for working parents, like offering backup care when your child is sick or needs care during the workday.

While true for larger businesses as well, SMB size can be an advantage here. When making changes to the benefits offerings at larger companies, proposals and approvals can often be lengthy and opaque. In a small business, however, the decision-maker has less red tape to act on the demands of today’s talent. For SMBs looking to bring on new employees, it’s time to think beyond salary and consider the holistic onboarding package.

The Cost Of Covid-19

SMBs have also needed to plan for additional costs related to the pandemic and its impact on employees. While medical premiums across the board fell under the rate of inflation, the 7% consumer price index increase is the highest we’ve experienced in nearly four decades. Year-over-year premium increases coupled with other factors like increases in hospital and physician services continue to pressure decision-makers to balance access with meaningful benefits for employees. Additionally, requiring insurers to pay for Covid-19 testing, vaccine administration and treatment likely reach customers through premium increases.

Understanding the health care market and how it impacts your business and your employees’ livelihood is an important step to take when determining how to make your business stand out from competitors. As employees resume medical appointments and continue to demand mental and physical health offerings from the workplace, medical premiums and health plans are an increasingly important part of the overall benefits package.

The roles SMBs play in our communities can’t be understated. Our neighborhood innovators, cottage industry artisans and local champions must be supported to bolster the optimistic spirit at the heart of America. When determining the most effective strategies for ensuring your small business survives a turbulent economy, prioritizing unique offerings for your employees can help ensure business survival.

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