Employee turnover increased significantly for U.S. small businesses due to COVID-19, according to a new survey from Principal Financial Group. The company’s latest polling of more than 1,000 small business owners revealed a 20% uptick over the past 12 months, reaching its highest levels in years.

Among those surveyed, 97% believe the pandemic spurred the turnover. In response, employers are taking steps to boost employee retention, according to the 2021 Principal Business Owner Insights.

More owners are revisiting employee benefit offerings to improve workforce retention and productivity, despite tight budgets. When considering employee benefits, small businesses rank affordability (50%) and their ability to attract and retain employees (42%) as most important. Other factors, like providing financial wellness and the advice of HR and legal counsel, are growing in importance.

“It’s encouraging to hear from so many business owners who are taking the time to better understand why their employees are leaving so they can proactively address these concerns for current and prospective workers,” said Mark West, national vice president of business solutions for Principal. “We’re committed to working with employers to ensure we have benefit offerings that are targeted to their employee needs, especially as they evolve in the wake of COVID-19.”

The survey also reveals that the number of “key employees” per organization has increased since 2010 (23%), with significantly more owners saying they have four or more in 2021 (35%). Over half of business owners (55%) would like to reward their key employees with additional benefits. In businesses with 50 or more employees, 75% view additional benefits as critical for key employees.

Nearly 3 out of 4 business owners (73%) are using a financial professional to help with the financial curveballs thrown their way over the last year. This is more than any other year Principal has conducted its survey. In 2015, only slightly more than half (54%) of business owners said they worked with a financial professional. When looking for a financial professional, owners prioritize expertise (63%) and cost (62%).