More than half of SMEs (55%) are planning to increase the benefits they offer staff over the next two years, a poll suggests.
The MetLife survey of firms employing between 50 and 300 staff found 7% will introduce benefits for the first time while another 46% will expand the benefits they offer.
Around 14% of firms plan to expand the benefits on offer to staff substantially.
A key reason for expanding benefits is that SMEs struggle to attract and retain staff in the face of competition from bigger firms – nearly half (49%) said recruitment and retention are major issues for them.
More than one in four SMEs (27%) admitted their benefits package is not as strong as bigger firms, while one in four (25%) said they cannot afford to pay the salaries prospective employees expect.
MetLife’s research suggests SMEs are increasingly looking for support from employee benefit consultants to help them with recruitment and retention – around 46% of firms said they will look for support with strategies to attract talent over the next 12 months, and 41% want help on retention strategies. This is up from 36% and 34%, respectively, a year ago.
Adrian Matthews, employee benefits director of MetLife UK, said a well-designed benefits package can play a major role in supporting SMEs’ recruitment and retention strategies and need not prove as expensive as many firms may believe.
“The role of the adviser is key as SMEs are telling us they want support in identifying the benefits that would be most valued by their staff: this is good news for employee benefits consultants and other advisers,” he added.
The study found that 69% of SME owners and managers believe their firm should offer more than salary and pension to employees.