Take a minute to write down one or two of the favorite gifts you’ve received over the years. What made it special? Chances are someone took the time to get to know you and then made sure that gift was purchased with you in mind. Do you still have it or memories of the gift, if it was an experience like a trip? Most of us will never forget the gift giver.
What if more of what we did for employees actually made them feel this way? For many years, offices were a sea of nondescript grey cubicles– some companies wouldn’t even allow personal items. That approach makes people feel like a cog in a wheel. Hospitals designed solely to cut down on germs and boost efficiency missed the need for a human experience, one that supported employee and patient health. Many of us know of companies where no matter what is happening in your life, you better not be late.
Moving out of the pandemic, it’s clear that these approaches don’t work if you want an engaged, resilient workforce. Nurses are burning out. Working caregivers to children and/or aging loved ones in every industry ended up more stressed than ever and left the workforce. Younger talent is demanding a different experience in exchange for their time and skills. Younger workers watched their parents go through the financial meltdown of 2008, have a deeper awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing, and they aren’t willing to sacrifice their mental and physical health to get to the next rung on the corporate ladder.
The bottom line is that every company needs talented, engaged employees to stay ahead. But if employees don’t feel seen, chances are, they won’t be with you for long.
What You Can Do
Employee benefits, programs, trainings, and meetings can be used in positive ways to show the company’s commitment to the workforce. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but it does need to be specific to the team or employee you want attract and retain, just like that special gift.
For younger employees, are there educational benefits or certifications they want? These can be incentives for them to stay with your company and show that your company supports their career growth. These types of benefits can kick in at year two or three or be on a scaled payment schedule. For example, after one year of service, the company will pay 25% of the certification course, after year two, 50%, year three is 75%, and by year four it is 100% covered.
For working caregivers, time is a huge issue. They may love their job, but challenges arise with unexpected issues for those for whom they are caring. Look at more flexibility in work start and stop times to accommodate parents and those caring for aging loved ones. You may also consider an FMLA plan that allows for a few hours instead of half-day or full-day options. If you have a Dependent Care Plan, conduct regular education events about the benefit and how to use it. Most understand how it helps with childcare, however, this is also a benefit for those caring for aging loved ones at home. As you host education events throughout the year, make sure you are getting feedback from employees so you know your strategy is working.
What do you have in place that truly makes a difference for an employee’s health and wellbeing? Does the work culture support employees getting preventive care, or are managers not allowing that to happen? Do the health and wellbeing benefits you offer really take care of your employees needs, or is it a matter of checking the box?
Here are some out of the box, real life examples of what companies have done to make their employees feel noticed:
- A national moving company sends an employee and their family (or friends) for one week to Hawaii after three full years of service.
- A clothing company that works with the spa industry gives a down payment on a house to any employee that works for them for five years.
- An activewear/sports company near the ocean posts a daily surf report. Employees are encouraged to surf, use company-provided mountain bikes and kayaks, go for a run, or anything else an employee wants to do. Teams work out meeting times so that everyone can stay active. This approach hasn’t hurt the bottom line. In fact, the company has made billions.
- One company has a foundation that provides funding to various charities. Employees learn about organizations that are submitting applications for support and the employees are able to submit a request for their favorite non-profit. The entire workforce then votes on where the money goes each month.
- Another company provides bereavement leave when an employee’s pet passes away. The company also makes sure to send a card.
Company swag and some of the more standard “gifts” are OK, but if you can start to dig a little deeper and find out what employees want, you can create a working environment that makes people want to be there– even through change and challenges. Those “gifts” mean real returns for your organization in lower costs and a more engaged workforce.
As you review the benefits you provide to your employees, it’s a great time for your HR and Benefits team to think outside the box for 2023.