Originally posted August 18, 2014 by Rich Williams on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

On a typical Saturday, you may drop off your car with your trusted mechanic, stop by the hardware store for a few supplies, grab lunch at a local sandwich shop and pick up some groceries on the way home. Every day, we enjoy the products and services delivered by small businesses.

Small business is the engine that powers our economy. Of the nation???s private enterprises, only 2% employ 100 or more workers, and 90% employ no more than 20. Behind each small business is an owner who wears many hats and relies on employees to deliver their best work every day ??? there aren???t a lot of extra employees to pick up the slack if someone is sick, injured or leaving the company for good.

Recent economic times magnified bottom-line concerns of small business owners. Many who weathered the downturn did so with lean staffs willing to work harder and longer to keep the job. But as the economy improves, those hard-working employees are apt to look for opportunities with larger firms that offer richer benefits and better life balance. Benefits play an important role in this consideration; half of employees recently surveyed say benefits are an important reason they remain with their employer. Small business owners who don???t pay attention to benefits risk losing their best workers.

Smaller, but with similar concerns

Small companies experience all the employee retention and recruitment headaches that big employers do, but often without reserve resources and staff to help shoulder benefits responsibilities. Few have dedicated staff to assess current benefits and consider changes or additions employees desire; many don???t offer benefits beyond compensation. According to LIMRA, small firms that do offer benefits tend to give fewer choices than their larger counterparts. The benefits offered most often are coverage for medical (44%) and prescription drugs (40%). Only one in four small businesses surveyed offered dental or life insurance coverage.

But employees at small firms have the same life needs and concerns as big-firm workers. A survey of more than 1,000 small business employees conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Colonial Life found that many more employees are concerned about retirement savings (50%) and financially surviving a temporary work disability (39%) than losing their jobs (33%).

Voluntary benefits: More choices, not higher costs

Without realizing the human resource cost, too many small businesses fail to offer employees access to the very choices that could nurture employee loyalty and tenure.Experts say that doesn???t have to be the case: With voluntary benefits, small business can ??? and many do ??? offer a wide range of benefits geared toward the unique company culture.

The key is keeping up with what employees want and need. Younger workers might not invest in a 401(k) retirement option, but they???re probably interested in a cafeteria plan that gives them flexibility to save for unexpected, big-ticket needs. Older workers are typically more keen to invest in disability and retirement savings opportunities. You can help your clients understand their employee demographics and make connections to the right benefit options.

Many small employers would like to offer or enhance existing benefits, but cite cost as a deterrent. The good news is the same employees who would like better benefits are also willing to pay for them. A 2014 Colonial Life-Harris Poll found employees at small firms are quite interested in additional, reasonably priced insurance benefits such as life, short-term disability, critical illness, accident and cancer coverage.

Voluntary benefits ??? personal insurance coverage workers can buy through employers at a lower rate than they could get on their own ??? are a great way for your clients to offer a range of competitive benefits without damaging the bottom line. The value for employees starts with group rates, and they gain extra points in the employee loyalty ledger for convenience with payroll deduction options. And that can translate into enhanced employee retention: Small business workers who are satisfied with their benefits are more likely to feel loyal to their company.

Expanded benefit choices, low cost, and convenience are three very big reasons for small employers to dive into voluntary benefits. If keeping top talent motivated and productive is important to your clients, then find out today how easy it is to offer the benefits those highly valued employees crave most.