By Rieva Lesonsky

Small business owners are feeling increasingly optimistic about the economy, and as a result, more than half of them are planning to hire in the next 12 months, according to The GrowBiz Media Small Business Hiring and Retention Survey 2012, conducted using SurveyMonkey Audience.

Here are some of the survey’s key findings:


  • 58.6% of small businesses surveyed are hiring. Increased demand (60.9%), attrition (46%) and expansion into new products, services or markets (44.1%) are the top driving forces. All three point to economic improvement.
  • 23.7% of small businesses need new employees, but either can’t afford them or are too concerned about economic uncertainty to hire them.

Economic Outlook:

  • 52.3% of small business owners think the economy has improved in the last 6 months, compared with 23.4% who think it has worsened.

Employee Retention:

  • 82.2% of small business owners think employee retention is extremely or very important.
  • However, the majority of employers (73.3%) say they aren’t concerned about employee retention as the economy improves.
  • Nonetheless, some small business owners and decision makers (32.3%) have begun to make changes to improve retention.
  • Manager/subordinate relationships (78.1%) are seen by employers as the most important factor in employee retention, and 67.4% of small business owners have already made investments in those areas.

Employee Benefits:

  • 10.9% of employers are planning to add paid benefits in the next 12 months.
    • Health care is the top paid benefit (62.1%) that employers are planning to add in the next 12 months.
  • 15.5% of employers are planning to add unpaid benefits in the next 12 months.
    • Among unpaid benefits, teambuilding activities are the most popular addition (53.7%).

“Our survey confirms what I’m hearing in my talks with small business owners: They’re feeling more optimistic about their own businesses and the economy, and making investments to help their businesses and the economy grow,” said Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media. “I’m especially pleased to see small employers recognizing the importance of both paid and unpaid benefits to employee retention, and taking steps to compete with big businesses in this area.”

The survey of 700 U.S. small business owners, the majority of whom have between two and 50 employees, was conducted in March 2012 using SurveyMonkey Audience.

“We are really excited to see companies using our new SurveyMonkey Audience product offering. Talking to 700 small business owners is a fantastic way to take a pulse on the hiring market and create unique, quality content to help the GrowBiz Media readership,” said Brent Chudoba, SurveyMonkey’s VP of Business Strategy. “We built the Audience product to help our customers find the right respondents for their surveys, and GrowBiz Media is a great case study on how survey data can produce excellent content.”

View the full survey results here.