Spring is in the air – and more employees are considering greener pastures, according to Glassdoor’s latest survey.

The career site’s Q1 Employment Confident Survey found that 44% of workers surveyed believe they could find a job that would match their current experience and compensation in the next 6 months – the highest percentage since 2009. Salary expectations are also on the rise, with equally as many employees say they’re expecting a pay raise over the next year.

With employee confidence on the rise, small business owners need to be strategic in order to retain their top talent, says Glassdoor expert Rusty Rueff.

“Business owners need to change their attitude and approach to retention and paying attention to the needs of their employees,” says Rueff. “It’s time to make sure that we’re dusting off compensation expectations, and making sure we’re paying at market, rather than trying to hang on to what we were paying years ago.”

That said, Rueff acknowledges that not all small businesses will be able to offer generous raises. In order to make sure employees don’t feel like they’re being stiffed, Rueff says it’s necessary to keep an open line of communication between management and staffers.

“The worst thing you should do is know you have employees who have expectation for pay raises, or expectations of what that pay should be, and then be silent on [raises] or not deliver a raise that meets the expectations of what they’re looking for,” says Rueff.

In this regard, Rueff says small business owners are actually at an advantage compared to executives at larger companies, who may find themselves in hot water with investors if they’re too honest with employees about the business’s financial situation.

“Small businesses are at an advantage for company communication. Private small and medium-sized companies can speak more openly than large public companies, who are always having to scrutinize what they say, because it will end up in the hands of an investor or cause unintended consequences,” says Rueff.

With this advantage in mind, Rueff suggests business owners give their version of a “State of the Union” address, so to speak, where they speak frankly about company performance and confront salary questions.

And for business owners who can’t hand out raises at all, Rueff says it may be time to consider other ways to sweeten the deal for top workers.

“Other benefits can supplant extra pay,” says Rueff, explaining that truly attractive perks will mean something different to each staffer.

“If one employee wants a pay increase because she has to pay her children’s caretaker for five days a week, you could allow her to work from home for two days, so the pay isn’t being reduced by extra childcare,” suggests Rueff.

“It’s a one-size-fits-one situation, and small businesses have more of an advantage, because you can really know your employees.”

Follow Gabrielle Karol on Twitter @GabrielleKarol