Small business owners continue to find it difficult to fill job openings, reports the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) in its “March 2017 Report: Small Business Optimism Index.” The NFIB says that this is one of the tightest labor markets in the 43-year history of the survey. The organization found that 17% of small businesses cited the difficulty in finding qualified workers as their single most important business problem. Furthermore, 32% of all small businesses reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, the highest reading in the recovery.

In response to the scarcity of qualified workers, small businesses (26%) reported to the NFIB that they are raising compensation to attract and retain talent. They also are addressing the shortage of prospects by offering flexible and remote work options, which is becoming a major priority for employees.

A study of small business employees and owners conducted by Justworks, an all-in-one benefits, HR and payments platform, and SquareFoot, a marketplace for commercial real estate, found that 52% of employees would take a lower-paying job if it offered a greater degree of workplace flexibility. To that end, 76% of the employers surveyed believe offering such options has a big impact on their ability to hire. Plantronics survey of a few years ago also found that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options assisted small business owners (64%) in hiring and retaining key employees.

Know what else employees want

While income and flexible work arrangements are important, the “2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey” reports that the millennial workforce is looking at a number of other factors when considering job opportunities, including:

  • Good work/life balance
  • Opportunities to progress/be leaders
  • Sense of meaning from work
  • Professional development/training programs

Offer perks that win over candidates

With competition for top talent stiffening, employers also are getting creative when it comes to perks. The Creative Group, a Robert Half Company, offers a list of perks – defined as nice to have additions outside employee’s salary and benefits – that companies are offering these days to stand out from the competition. Among them are:

Workplace wellness programs: Programs can include anything from paid gym memberships to yoga classes on site or health screenings and even all of them.

Free food: Offering free food benefits employers as well as employees. It cuts down on time out of the office for employees to grab a bite so that providing meals can be a productivity booster.

Concierge services: Concierge services help employees achieve better work/life balance. Concierge services that drop off/pick up cleaning, run errands and even take in the car for servicing save employees lots of valuable time.

Transportation or parking reimbursement: Companies are paying for all or part of the costs of public transportation, bridge tolls and parking for employees who travel long distances.

Small businesses are finding that they need to adjust to the changing requirements of today’s workforce to attract talent. Turns out such requirements can be anything from a bonus to a burrito.