Replacing an employee costs small businesses in the UK almost £30,000 on average due to lost productivity, recruitment fees and training time, according to new research.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are planning to focus on employee wellbeing in 2017 in a bit to help lower the likelihood of having to recruit new people to replace those who have left, said insurer AXA PPP healthcare.

SME owners in the UK predict that the biggest areas of focus for them in 2017 will be employees’ work/life balance (35%), offering more flexible working practices (21%) and better procurement practices to ensure cost savings (19%).

Almost a quarter of small firm bosses are looking to increase job prospects, as they are looking to hire between three and five people throughout next year, and a further 18% are planning to hire more than six people.

The research also highlighted that 14% of SMEs thought 2017 would see working hours increase, along with employees’ remuneration expectations.

Iain McMillan, director of SME for AXA PPP healthcare, commented: “Attracting talented people to drive your business forward involves considerable commitment and investment. New employees need training and time before they’re fully functional and, in turn, begin to reward you with a return on your investment.

Mr. McMillan added: “Good people are hard to get and keep so it’s good news that SMEs acknowledge the importance of employee work/life balance. Creating a positive, supportive environment where workers can flourish is key to building and maintaining a high-performance workforce and, at the same time, safeguarding your business from the costly risk of losing valuable people.”

Training group STL say investing in training is the best way to show employees are valued within the business and contributes to employee retention. They said it is crucial for employers consider how to retain the key members of the team for the long term health of your business.