Understanding benefits options can help small business owners attract and retain top talent

Manulife Financial Small Business Research Report offers insight into the small business market for financial and benefits advisors

WATERLOO, ON, Oct. 28, 2011 – More than three-quarters (76%) of small business owners and managers in Canada believe that taking care of employees makes them work harder for the company. In addition, more than half (55%) of owners and managers believe that offering competitive health benefits is a crucial element in attracting and retaining top talent, according to the results of Manulife Financial’s first annual Small Business Research Report.

Despite a widespread recognition that benefits are of value to employers and employees, 42% of small business owners surveyed do not currently offer those benefits, although almost one in three (27%) have considered it. This data shows that there is a significant level of interest and a considerable market opportunity for health and retirement benefits within Canada’s small business community. Understanding the views that small business owners have about benefit plans and how they align with their business goals is a critical success factor for advisors working in this segment.

Marc Avaria, Vice President, Group Small Business for Manulife Financial, believes this information will help financial and benefits advisors get closer to their clients. “A big part of our role is creating resources that help advisors better anticipate the things small business owners need in order to be successful,” he said. “An advisor who understands what small business owners are going through, and the concerns they are dealing with, will be more effective when it comes time to help address those concerns.”

The Small Business Research Report provides advisors with practical tips they can use when serving this important segment of the market. “The small business spirit in Canada is tremendously strong and vibrant,” said Rick Brunet, Executive Vice President, Group Benefits. “We’re thrilled to put the Research Report into advisors’ hands because we think it’s a valuable tool that will help them better support their clients.”

The first Manulife Financial Small Business Research Report surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners across the country about the key challenges they face in managing and growing their companies, including attraction and retention. The Report explores six main themes that impact the day-to-day life of a small business owner: professional support network; employee productivity and focus; top talent retention; controlling costs; access to capital and growing revenue. The results provide significant insight into the small business market in Canada, allowing financial and benefits advisors to better understand the challenges faced by their clients, and to provide the advice and options they need to be successful.

Other key findings for financial and benefits advisors from the Manulife Financial Small Business Research Report include:

  • Six in 10 (58%) Canadian small business owners and managers offer a health benefits plan while another 27% have considered it.
  • While 58% of respondents report offering a health benefits plan, fewer provide or offer various types of retirement or other savings programs for their employees, such as profit sharing plans (25%), group RRSPs (20%), special executive plans (18%) or an employee pension plan (15%).
  • An overwhelming majority of small business owners (86%) feel an obligation to take care of the people who work for them.
  • Over one-third (36%) of Canadian small business owners and managers believe not being able to spend time on big-picture planning is a problem for them. Of those, 85% are looking for help.

Download a copy of the full report at smallbizadvisorweek.ca

About the Manulife Financial Small Business Research Report

The Manulife Financial Small Business Research Report is based on on-line research conducted by Rogers Connect Market Research (Rogers Publishing Limited) on behalf of Manulife Financial. In June 2011, Rogers surveyed 1,005 Canadian small business owners and senior managers (with between 2 and 100 employees) across industry sectors and regions about the key challenges they face in managing and growing their companies. The report also includes analysis from a selection of small business benefits advisors in Canada on what the research results mean for those who support small business.

About Manulife Financial

Manulife Financial is a leading Canadian-based financial services group operating in 21 countries and territories worldwide. For more than 120 years, clients have looked to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Our international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients. We provide asset management services to institutional customers worldwide as well as reinsurance solutions, specializing in property and casualty retrocession. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were Cdn$481billion (US$498 billion) as at June 30, 2011. The Company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States.

Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at www.manulife.com.