With over 4 million more job openings than employees to fill them, the task of talent acquisition and retention has become a significant challenge for many companies.
However, according to financial advisor Jeanne J. Sutton, employers should explore ways to get creative with the standard benefits they provide.
Changing the Status Quo
It’s a given that employees usually want more benefits than what’s offered with standard health insurance and retirement solutions. This means companies that provide the extras employees are looking for will win the competition for talent, explained Sutton at the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2022.
Understanding what employees and potential employees want and thinking outside the box makes sense since the goal is to entice people to return to work. The unemployment rate only covers people looking for jobs, meaning that there is a large pool of untapped talent that companies could potentially leverage, such as retirees and people who decided to stay at home in a caretaker role.
What Can Companies Offer?
Sutton explains that employers have few options to spice up the benefits they offer without
going over their budgets, from allowing flexible work schedules and assisting with student debt to instituting four-day workweeks and offering immediate access to earned pay.
Flexible Work Schedules
After working remotely for two years, many employees don’t want to return to strict schedules and onsite work. Instead, they want a more flexible approach and the option to work remotely at least part of the time.
Earned Pay Access
As inflation makes life more challenging, an increasing number of hourly employees want to be paid every workday. Many large corporations are now paying their workers at the end of their shift. Employers who hope to compete for this talent pool should consider taking a similar approach.
Employers can also allow new employees to contribute to a 401(k) immediately and automatically enroll them in a plan, even if a year of employment is required before matching contributions begin. Many companies have also increased their matching contributions from 50% to 100%. Sutton also suggests rewarding tenure with bonus contributions and even setting up emergency savings accounts that can be funded from payroll deductions.
Paid Time Off
Employers might also consider allowing employees to carry over unused paid time off from one year to the next or convert it into cash. Another option would be to funnel that cash straight into a 401(k) contribution or towards student debt.
One way to keep older employees on board and attract retirees is to allow a reduced schedule. Older employees could transition to a 30-hour workweek, instead of completely retiring. Many would be willing to take a pay cut in conjunction with a reduced work week as long as they continue to have access to health insurance.
Employers could encourage employees with young children to return to work by providing additional financial support. Some examples include partial or complete coverage of childcare for when the parent is away from home, subsidies for summer camps, paying for travel companions so employees traveling on business can take their children with them, and even complimentary shipping of breast milk.
Sutton also cited assistance with student debt as an effective way to attract and retain talent, especially if employers make matching contributions, which are not taxable up to $5,250 per year. Another option is for employers to funnel the matching contributions into an employee’s 401(k) or an employer-sponsored 529 plan, which would allow employees to cover the cost of their spouse’s student loans.
Sutton is supportive of four-day workweeks as studies show that productivity does not decline when implemented effectively. According to one survey, one-third of the participating employees considered a four-day workweek an important benefit.
When redesigning benefits packages, Sutton advises employers to focus on benefits people are already using. If adding new benefits, employers should consider focusing on those that employee-focused surveys cite as high value. Ideally, employees would be able to point out the benefits they find most valuable.
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