The One Employee Benefit Small Businesses Need to Stay Competitive

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As a small business in Australia, it can be difficult to hire and retain top talent for your organisation. From building an online presence with limited resources (perhaps you don’t have a careers page or website at all), to competing with larger organisations who can offer bigger salaries, there are many challenges that small businesses often face in the recruiting space.

However, fortunately, as a small business, you have the flexibility and authority to offer benefits to employees that some larger organisations may not be able to. And with 75%1 of Australian employees claiming they would consider benefits other than a pay rise, this could be your competitive edge when it comes to hiring and retaining great candidates.

What kind of benefits do Australian employees want?

60% of Australian jobs seekers consider flexible hours or the ability to work remotely as factors that would most attract them to a new job

While there are many benefits that small businesses can offer employees, our research shows that flexible working is one of the most sought after by Australian job seekers. In fact, 60%2 consider flexible hours or the ability to work remotely as factors that would most attract them to a new job. Surprisingly, perks that many organisations think may attract job seekers to their open roles actually have minimal impact. For example, benefits such as free snacks, meals, or a gym would only attract 3%2 of job seekers to a new role. So small businesses who have limited budgets for costly perks could benefit from offering flexible working arrangements to employees.

The number of jobs containing "flexible working hours" has increased since 2018

With 68%3 of Australian employers allowing their employees to work remotely, and the rise in job descriptions that mention “flexible working hours”, it’s important for small businesses to differentiate their flexible working benefits to stay competitive in the market.

While the ability to work from home occasionally is most often associated with workplace flexibility, there are three different types of arrangements you can offer employees. Let’s take a look at each arrangement, and the potential benefits and risks they could pose to your business.

1. Part-time work

Whether your small business is a start-up or it has been around for years, you may not have the resources or need to hire a full-time employee at the moment. As a result, consider hiring part-time employees instead. This can open up your pool of candidates to qualified job seekers who are looking for the flexibility of part-time work, while also helping to improve the productivity and morale of other employees.

While offering part-time positions can help bring employees through the door, you may need to offer other benefits to help retain them. One of the top reasons why most Australians started looking for a new job was because they wanted to develop their skills or progress in their careers. As a result, ensure your part-time employees have the same opportunities as full-time employees for career development and growth. For example, consider offering more hours or responsibilities to high performing part-time employees to help keep them engaged and satisfied in their role.

2. Job sharing arrangements

If you need a full-time employee, but want to offer the flexibility of part-time work, consider a job sharing arrangement instead—where two or more employees share one full-time job. This gives your employees the flexibility to attend to their other commitments (family, education, etc.) while ensuring you have enough people to produce the work your business requires. Offering this kind of flexibility to your employees can help ease their stress and improve their work-life balance, while you can also benefit from having two people with different perspectives and ideas contributing to your business.

But, it’s important to pick compatible candidates for a job sharing arrangement, as employees who cannot work together or communicate effectively with each other can pose major risks to your business. For example, putting incompatible employees in a job sharing arrangement can cause unwanted stress, anxiety and doubts about accepting the job in the first place.

40% of Australian employees have voluntarily left a job after a short period of time because of an unhappy workplace

In fact, studies show that 40%4 of employees have voluntarily left a job after a short period of time because of an unhappy workplace, so hiring compatible employees for a job sharing arrangement is vital for retaining them past the first few months. To ensure candidates will be compatible with each other, consider using an experiential interview process to evaluate whether they will be a good fit for the role, the business and each other.

3. Ability to work from home or remotely

Benefits of remote working according to employers: increased productivity, improved morale, reduced employee turnover, reduced absenteeism, operational cost savings

Probably the most well-known flexible working arrangement, the ability to work from home or remotely is quickly becoming a norm in the workplace. And rightly so as studies show that companies who offer remote working options benefit from more productive employees (67%), improved morale (64%), and reduced employee turnover and absenteeism (57%)3. As a small business, allowing employees to work from home or remotely can even help you benefit from operational cost savings, as reported by 51% of companies3.

However, in order to differentiate your business from the other 68%3 of Australian organisations who also offer remote working options, consider allowing your employees to also customise their hours when working remotely. For example, instead of being online the normal 9-5, employees may want to work 7-3 to be able to meet commitments in the afternoon such as attending school plays, medical appointments or catching flights. Allowing your employees to work remotely and choose their hours can really help your small business stay competitive when recruiting top talent, especially when hiring for one of these hard to fill roles.

Informal vs formal flexible working policies

While offering flexible working arrangements such as these can be a great way to attract and retain qualified candidates for your small business, it’s important to carefully consider how these policies will fit within your organisation and other employees. For example, one of the biggest drawbacks to allowing employees to work remotely and choose their own hours is the possibility of miscommunication. If employees are working from home, or working different hours than other employees, and this is not communicated to co-workers or managers, this can cause inefficiencies in the workplace.

As a result, depending on your business and the nature of your flexible working arrangement, consider whether you want an informal or formal policy in place. Although a formal policy can be great for the long-term and organisations with teams who need to work and collaborate together, they do require paperwork and cannot be implemented as quickly as an informal policy. On the other hand, a formal policy will ensure all employees and your business are aware of and benefiting from flexible working arrangements.

Whatever you choose, be upfront with your employees about the expectations of your flexible working policy and take steps to continuously improve the arrangement for both employees and your business. With care and precision, your flexible working policy will not only help bring top talent to your organisation, but also retain them as happy and productive employees.


1 This survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 1,006 currently employed Australians in December 2017.
2 This survey was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 1,000 currently employed Australians in 2018.
3 This survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 200 currently employed Australians between October and November 2018.
4 This research was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Indeed among 1,006 Australian job seekers between July and August 2018.

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