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Is Compensation Enough to Retain Top Talent?

by Caroline Boyland February 25, 2022

Short answer: No.

The pandemic has been nothing short of transformational for the labor market. From mass layoffs and scrambling job seekers, to unfilled jobs outnumbering the number of workers, the pendulum has swung with force. Employers are hunting for new and innovative ways to retain top talent.

In light of the Great Resignation— or the Great Reshuffle— competition for employees has accelerated across industries, driving a challenge for employers looking to recruit and retain unique talent. These talent shortages are the highest they’ve been in a decade, with 69% of U.S. employers struggling to fill their open positions. In many respects, employees have the upper hand in this landscape.

To attract talent in this savage job market, recruitment tactics are going above and beyond increased wages (although this, too, has happened). Tech stipends, signing bonuses, wellness offerings, and other creative benefits that outsmart the kombucha tap lines of start-up yesteryears have emerged. Even so, turnover remains. Just because a company can bring someone into the fold does not mean they can incentivize them from walking out sooner than they’d hope.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed the ways we live and work, and it’s clear that many employees are no longer willing to make compromises when it comes to finding work that is worthwhile. With evolving strategies used to draw people into the applicant pool, most people immediately look to increased wages. However, in the current context of the workforce, this is only one component of a much larger picture employees have created for their work values. In addition to competitive pay, leading organizations are taking an offensive approach to establish an attractive culture through offering ample employee benefits—physical, mental, financial, and beyond.

Companies can offer a robust portfolio of voluntary benefits to attract and retain broad talent.

2022 is a time to reimagine the stereotypes of who a corporate employee is. Workers are hungry for places that honor diversity, equity, and inclusion, and a company’s benefits offerings serve as an indicator for whether a company puts its money where its mouth is. People who bring diverse talents are unique in many capacities, and it’s critical to tailor benefits to unique individuals in order to retain top talent. Employers who want to remain competitive recognize this and acknowledge the individuality of their employees. The ones that don’t will vie for the talent they may not even be able to retain.

If you think your company can attract, train, and retain top talent without upping the ante in benefits, think again. With a comprehensive, responsive, and empathetic approach to benefits, an organization is more likely to build a healthy culture and keep its employees engaged and supported enough to produce their best work.

Below are some examples of what this may look like for unique employees across the organization:

Parental Leave

  • A newly pregnant employee needs to make sure that their medical plans will cover pre and postnatal care, and offer sufficient paid leave.
  • A soon-to-be non-birthing parent needs paid time off as well, to bond with and support the addition of a new family member.

Student Loan Assistance

  • A young professional starting their first job, or in the first several years of their career, might be more concerned with paying off their student loans than they are with saving for retirement. Organizations can offer education programs or loan repayment guidance to better enable financial confidence.

Professional Development & Career Mobility

  • Employees crave the opportunity to upskill and reskill to keep them sharp for their roles and to help them grow in their careers. Education benefits, stipends, and virtual learning can offer a great return on investment when aligned to the talent strategy of a company.

Caregiving and Childcare Support

  • Caregivers of children and family members are looking for the flexibility that remote work can provide so they can keep up with the demands of caring for a dependent during a pandemic. Additionally, organizations can offer childcare stipends or programs to support employees with dependents in the era of remote schooling and inflated daycare costs.

Well-rounded Wellness

  • Financial: Entering year 3 of a pandemic, employees across the nation are looking to secure their financial health. Employers can offer financial education and guidance to promote financial wellness and confidence for their employees. Additionally, offering education around savings plans like 401K, HSA, and FSA accounts can help employees make better financial decisions.
  • Emotional: The stress of the past few years calls for employers to offer mental health and emotional support benefits if they are not doing so already. Supporting virtual therapy, or offering subscriptions to meditation apps goes a long way in showing employees that you care.
  • Physical: Exercise is a great way to break up the work-from-home continuum, and many workers are attracted to physical wellness benefits like a gym stipend or general wellness reimbursement they can apply to programs like ClassPass or other fitness subscriptions.

When reviewing your company’s benefit offerings, consider the varied desires of the current workforce. Undoubtedly, salary and wages will always be a weighty factor in an employee deciding where to work, and you should keep your wages as competitive as possible. However, with the ever-evolving work landscape, especially in mid-pandemic life, HR teams have a strategic need— and a cultural imperative— to offer more of the things that keep employees engaged, healthy, and treated equitably.

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