Benefits and Compensation, Recruiting, Strategic HR

The Key to Acquiring, Retaining Coveted Talent? Enhanced Benefits

Millions of Americans continue to vacate their jobs in a phenomenon that’s come to be known as the Great Resignation. But experts and analysts looking beyond the headlines to determine why so many people are quitting have begun referring to it as the Great Reckoning, the Great Upgrade, or the Great Acceptance.

The majority of people leaving their jobs are not resigning from the workforce altogether but rather upgrading their careers by fundamentally changing how they work, where they work, how they are compensated, and how they balance their jobs with their personal lives.

According to an analysis by jobsite Indeed, there were 10.8 million private sector job openings in the United States as of January 21, which is more than 1 million fewer than the site’s estimate for the end of December. Though the numbers are beginning to tick downward, they still reflect high demand for workers in a market where the number of jobs is far higher than the number of workers applying for them.

And while early retirement among older workers and fewer immigrants in the labor pool account for some of the vacancies, at least 1.5 million mothers are still on the sidelines because of inflexible childcare benefits, and millions of others are holding out for new positions that will give them more leeway when it comes to how and where they work.

For this reason, companies need to rethink the benefits they offer if they aim to attract and retain the best talent.

The Benefits Employees Want

Through my work with Global Upside Corporation, a Safeguard Global company, I’ve seen many companies pull out all the stops when offering benefits to attract and retain talent. Gone are the days of HR leaders developing benefits packages and only refreshing them yearly. As employee needs are rapidly changing, companies need to be aware of these changes and tailor their benefits plans accordingly. Supporting employees and having a benefits policy that is nimble and can adapt to the changing times are crucial for employers that want to stand out from the crowd.

Looking to other countries can be helpful when businesses consider the benefits they may offer. When the pandemic peaked in India, for example, my company went into action to secure oxygen tanks for employees and their families when local hospitals filled up. In addition, U.K. companies recently announced they are trialing a 4-day workweek, demonstrating that enhancing employee benefits has become a priority on a global scale. 

Other examples of unique benefits we have seen—in the United States and elsewhere—include 100% paid at-home diaper services for working parents and additional perks supporting employees’ personal development. We are seeing companies pay for gym memberships, entrance fees to run in marathons, pet adoption fees, and even cooking classes to ensure employees have a well-rounded work/life balance. On top of that, employers are paying for 100% of healthcare costs, covering student loan payments, and expanding the definition of “sick days” to include mental health or personal wellness days.

If benefits like this sound expensive to offer and implement, consider the alternative: The revenue loss from lowered productivity and the expenses incurred by replacing and onboarding new workers can easily dwarf what a company will pay for enhanced benefits packages.

Here are three pieces of advice for companies to ensure the benefits they offer will attract and retain the best and brightest candidates:

Survey your workforce regularly. Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a series of changes to companies and their employees. As public health guidance changes, so do workplace policies and the daily lives of workers. The benefits offered by employers should evolve over time in conjunction with these changing factors. Think in terms of updating your benefits packages as the times progress. The best way to make the right changes is to survey your employees regularly to find out what benefits will be the most valuable and impactful.

Prioritize wellness and work/life balance. Employees don’t just want their employer to help pay for their care if they get sick. Increasingly, they want benefits that help them stay well. For this reason, companies should consider flexible working hours and offering personal time off. Benefits promoting work/life balance are among the most attractive to candidates who are looking for their next opportunity. Mental health benefits, including those offered through telemedicine platforms, are becoming more of a necessity now than ever before.

Increase benefits options for women and working parents. “Family-building benefits,” including fertility treatments and help with adoption and foster care support, are growing in popularity, seeing an 8% increase last year, according to the 2021 FertilityIQ Workplace Index. The number of companies with family-building benefits worldwide now stands at 800. Combining benefits like these with childcare help and flexible hours helps women and working parents, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and employees who want to become parents. Getting more women back into the workforce will go a long way toward ending the Great Resignation.

Workers aren’t quitting their jobs to sit on the sidelines. Many are in between jobs and are adamant about finding another position that has better benefits. Employers in every industry would be wise to remember that what we are seeing is also being called the Great Upgrade and that many candidates are looking to upgrade to something better.

Benefits are an important aspect of the upgrade. By listening regularly to what benefits employees want—and putting a special emphasis on work/life balance and the needs of working women—employers can come out on top in the ongoing war for talent.

Gita Bhargava is the Chief Operating Officer at Global Upside, a Safeguard Global company.