Unemployment is hovering around 5%, November marked 73 continuous months of job gains and wage growth is picking up. All indications seem to suggest that employers have positions to fill, which may also mean that workers now have leverage, confidence and options. This is good news for job candidates. But for employers vying for fresh talent, it means the attributes of a company need to be that much more enticing. It also makes me think that a comprehensive benefits package may tip the scales for a candidate who’s considering multiple offers. To put it simply: Benefits can be the game changer.
It’s true that a traditional comprehensive benefit package has always been a successful recruitment element for companies. But given the wider array of benefits employers now can offer, today’s companies can use those elements to differentiate themselves from the competition.
From an employer’s perspective, competitive benefits don’t just help with recruitment but can also bolster retention. While strong benefit packages can potentially become expensive depending on the options they include, replacing an employee can be potentially even more costly and time consuming if a company experiences regular churn. With an investment in more appealing benefits packages, an employer may be able to mitigate the cost, time and effort of turnover and recruitment.
While healthy, stocked kitchens, nap areas and ping pong tables are perks that now reach far beyond the tech industry, many companies are building up three additional benefits areas that can truly change the game.
1) Financial wellness programs. Given the recent recession, retirement still is a growing concern for many American workers. A recent study showed that over the past 12 months, 38% of workers considered delaying retirement beyond the original age they intended and 52% said they will delay retirement because they “need to save more.” When these financial worries make their way into the workplace, employers should take notice. Consider a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers that showed that employees spend an average of three hours a week at work dealing with their finances. That’s fairly significant.
By offering financial wellness programs, employers can combat this anxiety and increase efficiency, while providing a sought-after benefit that many companies aren’t yet offering. Ninety-two percent of employer-respondents in another ADP study confirmed interest in providing their workforce with information about retirement planning basics, and 84% said the same of retirement income planning. Even if employers would like to provide these programs, few offer them, citing several existing challenges that stand in the way, such as a need to focus on other aspects of their business (27%) or not enough resources (15%). Providing financial wellness programs can be an added reward that may help a potential employee lean in your favor.
2) Strong internal training. Providing employees with training and development opportunities can promote retention and commitment. Regardless of the number of opportunities for career development, you can still help employees refine skills and increase knowledge that will serve them in the future. American workers want to learn to hone their skills. In fact, 84% of Americans are excited to use technology to learn in real-time, according to ADP’s Evolution of Work study. This is a benefit that not only can provide employee enrichment, it can also strengthen the talent pipeline to management positions.
However, internal training programs are not what they used to be. According to ADP’s recent report, Strategic Drift: How HR Plans for Change, corporate training budgets fell by 20% between 2000 and 2008. Seventy-six percent of executives see the market for skilled employees tightening and 75% expect high turnover among millennials. Reduced corporate training budgets have perpetuated a cycle of high employee turnover. So, if your organization has strong training programs, it’s likely to stand out from competitors. It may be worth considering internal and external training opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, cross-training and professional development classes.
3) Workplace flexibility. Be open to the idea that it may be more feasible for some workers to telecommute and work from home for a portion of the week. Workplace flexibility is attractive for many employees and it can help reduce the number of unscheduled absences. Flexible work arrangements — such as the option to work from home, alternative start and stop times, compressed work weeks, or Summer Fridays — can help encourage workers to use their time more efficiently, and underscore a corporate culture that stresses balance, mindfulness and trust.
As job candidates and existing employees take a more holistic view of their benefits, relevant, supportive and flexible programs can be the game changer for them. The right mix of direct compensation and indirect benefits may be the difference between onboarding that “dream” candidate, retaining a top performer, or elongating the search for that precious needle in the talent haystack.
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