By Jessica Moser
There are 11.3 million women-owned small businesses in the U.S., and the rate of new businesses started by women is 1.5 times that of men – the country has a lot invested in the success of female small business owners.
In return, female small business owners are rewarding the U.S. economy with their enthusiasm for growth. The quarterly MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index found female small business owners are more optimistic about the year ahead than their male counterparts, with 65% of woman-owned small businesses expecting higher revenue in the next 12 months compared to 61% of male-owned small businesses. Women also anticipate more hiring growth (36%) than men (30%) and a greater increase in investment (30% to 28%, respectively).
However, this same research also found a health sentiment gap widening between men and women small business owners. Male-owned small businesses report good overall health (64%), versus 51% of female-owned small business owners, with this gap growing two percentage points this quarter.
Given the significant role of women-owned small businesses, and the importance of their success to the U.S. economy, it’s critical to address the challenges they see in the marketplace.
At a time of record low unemployment, the competition to attract and retain talent has never been tougher. Adding to that, automation and the increased use of technology have left workers fearing that the human connection they experience in the workplace may be lost. So, while workers don’t fear technology, they do crave a more human workplace. One that recognizes them as individuals, supports their long-term growth and development, and aligns with their values.
This may seem like a daunting task for a small business owner, along with actually running their business, but there are simple ways to meet these employee needs without breaking the bank. Female business owners can leverage interpersonal skills to create human connections in their workplace to build employee loyalty. By creating a desirable workplace culture, female small business owners can give themselves a leg up in the ongoing war for talent, which can in turn boost their perception of overall health.
Here’s a few ideas to help build a more “human” workplace:
- Find the right moments for personal and professional recognition. Recognizing an employee’s birthday or work anniversary or being aware of an interest or a child’s activities show that you know who your employees are, in and out of work. It shows that you value your employees as individuals.
- Allow for flexibility where it makes sense. When you are intentional about showing your employees you trust them, they will feel more valued. When they feel valued, it builds loyalty. This, again, demonstrates an understanding of employees as individuals and recognition that balancing work and life can be a challenge.
- Find a cause that you care about that your team can support. Employees are more loyal to an employer that shares their values. This also shows that you are human, and care about causes beyond work. When you can connect with employees as people it fosters loyalty.
A Female Small Business Owner Creates an “Animal” Workplace
After working in a traditional veterinary hospital for twelve years, Dr. Lisa Aumiller was tired of the long shifts where she was overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated. The quality of pet care was also not up to her standards so she decided to take her passion and expertise and turn it into her own business – HousePaws. HousePaws is a modern veterinary house call service that takes veterinary care on the road, keeping pets healthy in the comfort and convenience of their own home. Since its start in 2010, HousePaws has grown and now serves several communities and even opened a brick and mortar hospital for procedures that require facilities such as surgeries or dental work. By becoming a small business owner, Dr. Aumiller was able to create a “human,” (or “animal!”) workplace by finding causes the company can partner with – including volunteer organizations that give back to both animal related communities and human health and welfare communities.
These are just three ways small business owners can demonstrate humanity. As women who own small businesses differentiate from their male counterparts in that they spend an average of 30 minutes more with family and friends, they can also be seen as more accessible or flexible. While these strategies won’t replace table stakes compensation and benefits, the intangibles can frequently tip the scales when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. That’s a win for everyone during a time of low unemployment when it’s hard to attract and retain workers.
Note: mention of any brand name is for illustrative purposes only, and does not constitute endorsement by me or my employer.
Jessica Moser is the senior vice president, Small Business Solutions in MetLife’s Group Benefits business.