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There was a time when workers stuck with one company for their entire career. Employers are lucky these days if they can hang on to top talent for more than a couple of years.
From the business side, it seems like employees can always find a better offer at some competitor or another. The truth is, many companies worry about taking risks by offering higher salaries and better benefits. What if they end up with no return on their investment?
The fact is that instead of letting talent jump ship and make money for a competitor, businesses must focus on providing corporate cultures and benefits packages that inspire loyalty. If that means taking a risk, then the risk is worthwhile.
What Workers Want
There are a number of benefits employees want that aren't too difficult for employers to implement.
"It may be obvious, but the option to work anywhere is a benefit that really resonates with our employees," says Ramon Chen, Chief Product Officer at software developer Reltio, a company that prides itself on providing a positive corporate culture for its employees. "And it allows us to draw from talent across the nation, as well as overseas. But of course, we also offer the stability and discipline of an office environment for the employees who prefer it."
Offering flexible work schedules requires a bit of trust, but Chen believes it is worth it.
"Time is important – perhaps more so today than ever before," he says. "We trust employees to work during the hours that suit them and remove the requirement to commute everyday – an alluring perk in the San Francisco Bay Area."
Besides letting employees work in their own space and on their own time, employers can increase employee happiness by letting workers bring their own devices via a BYOD policy.
"BYOD is becoming more common in tech companies today. At Reltio, we enable our employees to choose their own devices, including mobile phones and laptops. There's no company-dictated standard," Chen says. "We encourage employees to use what they're most productive and comfortable with. For a small company, this might present an administrative and security overhead, but giving employees the tools they're familiar with and like goes a long way towards having them feel comfortable."
Many businesses struggle to implement newer policies because they continue to offer benefits solely because they are the type of benefits that have always been offered.
"An outdated practice is sticking with a fixed number of PTO and sick days," Chen says. "Unlimited PTO is becoming more common today. We encourage people to take a minimum number of PTO days per calendar year. People are dedicated to their work, and sometimes they need a little help actually looking after themselves and to be forced to take time off."
In addition to benefits, other practices in the company may need updating as well.
"Reporting structures and opportunities for advancement need to be transparent," Chen says. "The end of year review and pay raise based on milestones is outdated. At Reltio, we have an open-door policy, wherein all employees are encouraged to submit their thoughts and take responsibility for projects. While there are managers, it's a meritocracy, and everyone can operate on the level at which they need to do their job."
According to Chen, it's also important for companies to focus on supporting and nurturing every hire from day one.
"We focus on hiring for the leaders of the future," he says. "We want those who join today to have the most rounded and comprehensive view across the business, so that, as they become the leaders of each of their respective functions, they also become the general managers of each of those groups or business units. Investing in people begins immediately – the first day they join."
While investing in employees is important, companies must weigh the risks and costs and make sure that they aren't more than the business can absorb.
"Offering health and 401(k) benefits immediately is critical. At Reltio, we go one step further by paying all the healthcare premiums for our employees and requiring no enrollment period," Chen says. "This is something that a larger company with more financial resources can typically offer. But if you're a small company and can commit to that level of investment, it speaks to how the company cares about [its] employees."
Smaller businesses need to make sure they don't get too ambitious with offerings in an effort to compete with larger competitors, but that doesn't mean there aren't options that can scale down for smaller companies.
"Beyond financial compensation, giving stock options and making every employee part owner in the company is commonplace in technology firms, but should be increasingly considered by non-tech firms to build that loyalty and vested interest in the success of the company," Chen says.
Executives and managers at each individual business will need to weigh benefit options to see what works best for their own company. There is some risk to trying new things, but there is also some reward. Taking a small gamble to keep your workforce engaged and happy is worth it.