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Small businesses have an intrinsic advantage over larger ones: the ability to create company cultures in which employees feel like they belong.

Seventy-five percent of employees are either very or extremely satisfied working for a small employer, according to the 2017 Aflac Happiness Report. This is in part because of the unique benefits a small business can offer. Employees feel appreciated and understand how their work helps the company achieve its mission. Sometimes, they even feel like family.

Take MicroHealth, a small business with offices in Vienna, Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia, that helps customers use health information technology to empower better, healthier decision-making. Its cofounders, Dr. Frank Tucker and Col. (ret.) Claude Hines, both served full careers in the U.S. Army, where they worked in medical services.

From the company's outset, Tucker and Hines strove to cultivate a family feel in the workplace. The office feels like home. The kitchen is always stocked with food and drinks. You'll often find team members sitting together on the couch to hash out a business challenge or unwinding with a quick game on one of the company Xboxes.

MicroHealth has solutions specifically for veterans, and it hires a lot of veterans, too. Its inclusive workforce spans Generation Z to Baby Boomers. MicroHealth HR Director Kumud Sharma describes the culture as casual but innovation-driven, with a true family feel. She recalls how the team surprised Tucker on his birthday. They all came to work in their company t-shirts and brought in cake and other home-cooked treats.

Although it was founded in 2010 and has nearly 70 employees, the business still embodies the entrepreneurial energy of a startup. It also makes a point to respect employees' work/life balance by offering flexible schedules and attractive vacation policies.

"I am a mom of two boys. Because the company understands and respects my need for a personal life, it makes it easier for me to give my best to the company. If the business needs something, I am motivated to help," explains Sharma.

The importance of making employees feel valued

To create a family-like feel in the office, communication is key. Management delivers regular feedback to employees, but that goes both ways. Team members are encouraged to be honest and speak up if they would like to cross-train in different departments.

The company takes professional development seriously and invests both time and money in understanding employees' career goals. It is commonplace for employees who begin in entry-level positions to work their way up to new roles.

MicroHealth's company culture, in which employees are made to feel valued, reflects its business vision. The team has deep tech expertise, but its core value is people. The company's health values are also reflected in its culture and benefits program, which includes subsidized gym memberships.

As part of its competitive benefits package, MicroHealth offers employees Aflac supplemental insurance*, which helps them cover some expenses that their major medical insurances may not. "Health care costs are constantly rising. Offering Aflac helps our employees and their families deal with unforeseen situations," explains Sharma.

MicroHealth's culture and benefits play a key role in recruiting and retaining talent. "One of the biggest reasons people leave a job is because they don't feel taken care of," Sharma says. "As much as compensation comes into play, it is also about health benefits, generous time off, and culture."

She notes that improving employee retention lowers recruitment costs, saving the company money. Plus, when you build a motivated, high-performing workforce, it improves the company's bottom line.

"Just like any other family, there are differences and challenges," admits Sharma, but the company's ability to "work through them together" is part of what defines its success.

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*Aflac coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.

Z171182

Exp 8/18

Published on: Sep 19, 2017