Innovative Benefits - How to Retain Employees by Demonstrating Respect and Values
by John Baldo on Thu, Jul 28, 2022
If your company is focused on retaining current employees, it’s essential to acknowledge that the COVID pandemic catalyzed meaningful shifts in benefit and workplace expectations among existing employees and those seeking new employment. The widespread advent of long-term remote work paired with new (and unpredictable) health challenges, plus the hurdles faced by those working from home with young children, redefined what many workplaces look like and how employees prioritize their needs, “non-negotiables,” and preferences from their current or future employer.
Chief among employee considerations is employee benefits and how the company they work for demonstrates its company values through its actions to improve employees’ daily lives.
SHRM’s Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey concluded that the top three contributors to job satisfaction are respectful treatment of employees at all levels, compensation/pay, and (our focus here) benefits. Although it’s natural to think of these three categories as individual factors in a job satisfaction “equation,” in reality, providing innovative benefits demonstrates respect towards your employees and functions as a form of compensation in abstract and tangible ways. By thoughtfully addressing your benefits strategy, you “check” (or at least contribute to) the two other important categories of employee job satisfaction.
Importantly, the data bears out the demand for these changes. A recent 2022 SHRM Employee Benefits Survey found that employee expectations for both “flexible work benefits” and “family care benefits” rose by roughly 20% between 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 2022.
Below, we’ll survey some of the best strategies and tools available to help your business retain your existing employees and offer a range of work benefits that resonate with your employees and address their needs.
One of the exciting aspects of revamping your approach to employee benefits is that there’s room for innovation, creativity, and adaptation based on the stated needs and preferences of your employees.
If you’re invested in emphasizing physical wellness, this could include a host of approaches: offering nutrition sessions, fitness classes, gym membership, or even stipends to support your employees’ at-home exercise regimens and home gyms. The benefit of the flat stipend approach is that you pass along agency to your employee – whether they want to go full Ivan Drago with a weight vest or enjoy some lower-impact Zumba or Tai chi. In addition to supporting your employees’ personal wellbeing, company-wide physical wellness programs also lessen sick leave, absenteeism, healthcare costs from chronic lifestyle diseases, and increase productivity.
When it comes to establishing mental health programs within your broader wellness program, telehealth and telemedicine should be a major consideration. Recent surveys show that 93% of organizations offer telemedicine/telehealth as an employee benefit (another 20% increase between 2019-2022). Similarly, but of equal importance, 1 in 5 employers now offer leave for mental health days outside of standard sick leave. As with physical wellness strategies, some companies are offering regular “in-house” practices for mental health as well, such as optional weekly “meditation mornings” and other inventive levels of care.
Flexible Scheduling & Ongoing Remote Work Options
The remote, hybrid, and flexible work configuration “era” is upon us and we’re here to offer strategies to help your business manage it gracefully and in ways that improve your company-wide productivity and cohesion. Our recent article on “Changing Work Styles” is a great place to consider this adaptive process in a more comprehensive way, but here are some additional suggestions to help you begin brainstorming.
In the context of employee benefits, flexible scheduling and work options can mean providing greater latitude and autonomy to your employees, ranging from fully remote work opportunities, hybrid work configurations, in-office/on-site work for collaboration or workshops only, or offering modified hours (later start times, for instance) to account for life circumstances or as an incentive for high productivity. As part of an effort towards increased flexibility, many companies are also instituting flexible PTO, offering all employees a uniform number of days (or hours) to use at their own discretion on traditional holidays, mental health days, trips, or for family events.
Like the other categories of employee benefits we’ve explored, employee engagement initiatives should be tailor-made to suit the interests and unique dimensions of your company culture. If you sense near-palpable disinterest in a Friday Monopoly “game night” via Zoom, don’t let a superimposed plan backfire. Maybe a simple/optional “happy hour” once a week keeps things a bit more casual and open-ended, or you can offer to arrange online co-working sessions where employees join a Zoom call and work together simultaneously, listening to a Spotify playlist where everyone has submitted a few songs.
Creating space for your employees to engage in civic or volunteer opportunities in-person or remotely is another great way to let your employees connect and get to know each other in a different context and bring some of that increased social and collaborative energy back to the projects you pursue as a team at work.
If you want to explore other concrete options, consider implementing employee appreciation programs, which could mean offering incentives ranging from simple “thank you” videos, public recognition of achievements, or performance bonuses. Increasingly, companies are also investing in professional development and training programs designed to help their employees develop new skills, receive undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance, and more.
Again, depending on your industry or workforce, there are numerous ways to get creative and dynamic about what you can offer your employees – many of which will facilitate their job satisfaction and career growth.
Maternity Care/Leaves + Child Care Assistance
As we mentioned at the start of this article, the shift to remote work during the pandemic (and the continuation of that work configuration) has led to changed expectations regarding benefits, especially for parents of school-age children and expecting parents. For this reason, companies have begun to adapt their benefits to offer a wide variety of services, including paid maternity or paternity leave.
As just one example, many group health insurance plans cover maternity and newborn costs, alleviating financial strain and the inherent challenges of raising infant children. Childcare benefits and assistance are another crucial offering, ranging from on-site childcare services to stipends that cover the expenses of a nanny. A recent article from Fortune highlights that mothers with young children leave the labor market more frequently than other groups; as a result, companies should do all they can to extend their childcare benefits to ensure retention and ease the significant burdens of childcare for their employees.
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Retaining and hiring high-quality employees is the goal of any successful HR department, and innovative benefits can help attract or retain top talent.