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SMEs risk losing a quarter of their female talent

Burcin Ressamoglu - Sodexo Engage

The latest data* reveals that SMEs are at risk of losing a quarter of their female employees, with 28% of female staff planning to leave their role in the first half of 2022.

Sodexo Engage’s survey collected responses from over 1,000 SME employers and employees, identifying the HR trends dominating today’s workplace and, crucially, learning what employees really think about their organisation.

The research found that women are key drivers of the great resignation, and that 32% of women planning to leave their jobs would prefer to work at a larger corporation. These employees ranked stronger promotion prospects (45%) and more inclusive benefits (36%) as the main attractions of a big corporate.

Of the female employees who would rather work at an SME, 49% cite the “family feel” for this preference, as well as the better work-life balance (45%). However, the lack of flexibility (44%), as well as limited opportunities for progression (42%), proved to be major turn-offs.

With more employers shifting away from set office hours, flexible working options have become an expectation for today’s workers and are particularly valued by female SME employees.

The research* revealed that a quarter of women wished their employer offered flexitime, and 40% said they would be more engaged at work if they had a better work-life balance, making a concrete business case for more flexible arrangements. However, the research also showed that retaining female talent takes more than flexible working policies, and that a comprehensive benefits package also carries considerable weight.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of female SME employees said they’d be more likely to accept a role at an SME company if it offered good benefits, and a third (33%) said they’d be more engaged at work if they had better employee benefits. The top benefits for female workers included private healthcare (25%), private dental care (25%), and discounts on everyday expenses (23%).

Sodexo Engage also found that the majority of women still don’t feel valued at work, despite the fact that 90% of SME employers agree that rewarding and recognising their workforce enhances employee loyalty. In fact, 72% of women were more likely to feel undervalued in their team compared to men, and nearly one in 10 (8%) couldn’t remember the last time they were recognised for a job well done.

As such, it is imperative that SMEs establish a reward and recognition programme that acknowledges the efforts of their female staff. Nearly 7 in 10 female employees (69%) said they’d be more likely to stay in their current job if they were rewarded on a more regular basis, making this a worthwhile tool for SME employers to adopt. On top of that, a targeted rewards programme can be a highly cost-effective initiative that improves retention for SMEs, without draining budgets.

Burcin Ressamoglu, CEO at Sodexo Engage, comments:“Despite more and more SME employers focusing on building workplaces where women are championed, not nearly enough have turned their attention to retaining this segment of their workforce. The ‘Great Resignation’ shows no sign of slowing down, so SMEs cannot afford to ignore the dangers of women leaving the workforce.

“In order to retain female talent, SMEs need to create a culture that supports the advancement of women by using key strategies such as inclusive benefits packages and comprehensive reward programmes. Businesses must also acknowledge the fact that policies like flexible working are more than a benefit, but a must-have, and an important first step in making female employees feel seen and recognised for their hard work.”

*Research from Sodexo Engage

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