Almost two-thirds of small businesses were hiring or trying to hire in September, according to a report from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), but 46% reported they couldn’t fill those job openings, well above the 48-year historical average of 23%.

Reeling in and retaining quality employees during times of low unemployment, high competition, and a red-hot labor market makes employee benefit packages critical.

For the first time, small businesses in Washington are having to do actual recruitment, including the need to offer a robust benefits package. Employees routinely rank healthcare as their top one of their top concerns. Naturally, the cost of healthcare is the top concern for business owners.

While offerings of free staff meals, four-day work weeks and highly flexible remote work options are sexy perks, Washington already has in place several programs that mirror a traditional healthcare and retirement compensation package.

Health Insurance

If you’re a small business owner in Washington, you may qualify for a tax credit that could cover some of the costs you pay for employees’ premiums. If you have a small business (1-50 employees), you’re not required to offer your employees health insurance. If you do, you might qualify for tax credits. The helpful folks at can help you obtain your tax credit and find a small business health insurance plan that works best for you and your employees.

SharedWork Program

If returning part-time or full-time permanent employees are causing your business financial hardship, Washington’s nationally recognized SharedWork program might help. SharedWork allows employers to reduce hours by as much as 50%, while employees collect partial unemployment benefits to replace a portion of lost wages. To determine if you’re eligible: 800-752-2500 or

Retirement Marketplace

Offering employees options for Retirement Savings keeps your business competitive, may provide you with tax incentives, and is easy and affordable to set up through the Retirement Marketplace. Operated by your friends here at the Department of Commerce, the Marketplace is an online marketplace where qualified financial services firms offer low-cost retirement savings plans to businesses and individuals, including sole proprietors, “gig” workers and the self-employed. The Retirement Marketplace simplifies the process of finding a retirement savings plan by making it easy to compare state-approved plans.

There are also programs to help you find and train qualified employees:

Of course, what many business owners are doing is what has long been tried and true: offering more money. Just under half of owners reported raising compensation, according to the NFIB survey, while over a quarter plan to in the next three months.

This month I’m talking with small business owners all over the state to see what’s been working as far as hiring and retaining top talent. If you have any stories to share, please get in touch with me. I’d love to hear from you!