Despite fears of a possible recession next year, job openings rose to 10.7 million in September, and there were about 1.9 job openings per unemployed person that month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Small-business owners who want to scoop up top talent and retain their employees need to offer prospective hires more than competitive salaries in today’s challenging labor market. Aisha Taylor Issah, the CEO and founder of Sistahs in Business Expo, a small-business expo and community designed for entrepreneurial women of color, wants to create an attractive benefits package for her staff that is also prudent for her company.
Insider created a mentorship program, in partnership with Indeed, to help five entrepreneurs overcome these talent-related hurdles. We paired them with five experts to help them solve specific problems, like increasing DEI efforts, hiring to scale up, and crafting robust benefits packages.
Issah worked with Leslie Neitzel, the chief human-resources officer of the fertility-benefits provider Carrot Fertility, to proactively craft a benefits program.
“Leslie was very helpful in exposing me and introducing me to the possibilities around benefits for my team,” Issah said. “She was very helpful in opening my eyes to what options were out there and really showed me that you don’t have to be a huge big business in order to give benefits to your team.”
Over the course of this eight-week coaching program, Neitzel introduced Issah to nontraditional benefits solutions that can give Sistahs in Business Expo the boost it needs to retain its best workers and grow.
Waiting for the right moment
Issah, who in the past had to pay out-of-pocket for medical treatments due to a lack of coverage, understands how important benefits can be for attracting and retaining talent. She knows that in order to grow Sistahs in Business Expo, which currently has a staff of 15 people, she needs to be a competitive employer.
Meanwhile, Neitzel, who has years of experience crafting benefits plans, including those at Carrot’s 335-person workforce, knows that benefits are fundamental to keeping current workers satisfied.
In their initial conversation, Neitzel talked about current social, political, and economic circumstances, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as a catalyst for setting up benefits programs. But Issah isn’t ready to offer benefits yet and wants to wait until her team grows in size.
“I’m just being forward-thinking,” Issah said. “I’m just trying to plan ahead for when we are ready to do it, making sure that we are as well-informed and in the best position possible to do so.”
With this in mind, Neitzel reframed their conversations to discuss useful benefit offerings that could be implemented at a later date. For example, employers can create online resource hubs with articles, tips, and reminders about wellness and self-care, Neitzel said.
How they moved forward
Knowing that cost was a factor for Issah, Neitzel proposed alternatives that can often be overlooked by employers.
The pair discussed wellness and employee-reward options such as lifestyle wallets, a set amount of money workers can use for anything that relates to their well-being, like gym memberships or therapy.
“I had been thinking about benefits in terms of what I received, and it was kind of the standard, traditional packages,” Issah said. “But I was very surprised to just hear about the new and innovative ways that companies are offering benefits to their employees.”
During the mentorship relationship, Neitzel was reminded of the importance of benefits plans that can grow with the business. If she were to mentor an entrepreneur again, she said, she would want to dig into their business plan a bit more to understand how benefits could and should play a larger role in the company’s development.
“It was a reminder to me around how complex and how different organizations and companies are, whether they’re five, 5,000, or 50,000 individuals,” Neitzel said. “I was reminded of just how important things like benefits are, regardless of the industry and the size of the company.”