Benefits that Attract and Retain Employees
by Dan Regovich
AJ Augur Group LLC
What attracts prospects to your company? Conversely, what drives employees away from your company?
There are many reasons people change jobs. I don't know that I could pinpoint the one reason that is the most common, but it typically is due to some kind of pain being experienced in the work life which ultimately affects the personal life. These "pain points" often have a simple solution that can be met through an employee benefits system. In my experience, there are several benefits, both tangible and intangible, that can attract employees to your company and keep them there – or drive them away.
A company's financial success or potential for success is a very big attraction. Although a financially successful company doesn't guarantee it also is a great place to work, it certainly helps in attracting new employees. Most people don't want to work for a financially distressed company, and financially distressed companies usually don't attract top talent. If those companies do bring on top talent, the odds of someone sticking around for a long time are slim.
We all know that our health care system is a mess and has become extremely expensive. This subject is not cut-and-dried, but I have observed something interesting regarding health care benefits. I have dealt with several European companies with operations here in the US, and these European companies provide very inexpensive, but excellent, health care coverage for their US employees. Some of these companies even pick up either the entire cost or the vast majority of it. Whenever recruiting for one of these companies, my job of finding top talent becomes much easier, because everyone is worried about health care coverage. These days, when a candidate is considering an offer of employment, it is not only the base salary that matters.
I have seen companies with vacation policies in which all new employees start at two weeks (or less), no matter how "senior level." It's hard to attract top talent when a person who currently has four weeks of vacation is contemplating a job move that only will give them two weeks of leave because of an antiquated vacation policy that everyone claims not to have the power to change. I have seen bad vacation policies keep companies from hiring the prospects they really wanted.
If there is one very effective way for an employer to cultivate disgruntled employees, it's to make a bonus or commission structure so confusing that nobody understands it. Then, add more frustration when it comes time to pay out: let the employee know that they didn't meet the goals that weren't clearly understood in the first place and that they will receive little to no money.
One thing I have learned is that if a bonus/commission structure is so complicated that employee prospects don't understand it, they probably won't get paid much, if anything. I always recommend that those interviewing for a new job ask about the average percentage of base salary that was paid out as a bonus/commission in the previous year and which years didn't receive a bonus payout at all. Employers should be fair in what is paid to employees and resist changing the bonus or commission structure simply because an employee has earned a large payout.
This subject is a little trickier, but we all know companies with a great reputation and those with... less than a great reputation... as a place to work. I think the best description to illustrate a not-so-great environment was given by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. In talking about the importance of recognizing an employee who is not performing and shouldn't be working for a company, he said, "Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people, as they inevitably find themselves compensating for the inadequacies of the wrong people. Worse, it can drive away the best people. Strong performers are intrinsically motivated by performance, and when they see their efforts impeded by carrying the extra weight, they eventually become frustrated."
I would add that being short-staffed also will frustrate the strong performers in any company as they "carry the extra weight" of job functions that still need to be performed. It's one thing to be lean – it's another to have unrealistic expectations of someone's work load.
No room for advancement
In small plants or small companies, there may not be much that can be done, but even in smaller locations, I have seen people who are content in their jobs when small changes are made. For instance, when they were trained to take on new responsibilities while shedding some of the old responsibilities to someone else. Good employees thrive when they are learning and doing something new.
This might seem like a strange item to mention in a list of employee benefits, but I have seen companies lose a candidate they really want on numerous occasions when they've taken too much time to make a decision. Good candidates find other jobs when there's a long hiring process for two basic reasons.
The candidate sees the amount of time it takes a company to hire as an indication the company is indecisive or incompetent. Nobody wants to work for a company like that, and the candidates often turn down an offer or pull themselves out of the running. Typically, once an individual makes up his or her mind to leave a company and actually start interviewing, the new job prospect keeps on applying and interviewing with several companies. The companies that move more quickly usually win.
On top of everything else I have mentioned, what attracts new employees to a company is its people. Companies that are doing many of the right things tend to retain good people, which in turn attracts more good people. Much of how people are treated within a work environment starts from the head of the company and works its way down. The companies that see people as their most important asset often are great places to work because they treat their employees as valued contributors of success. The companies that see their employees as dispensable usually treat their employees that way, and the resulting work atmosphere leaves much to be desired by both current and prospective employees.
Whether recruiting new employees or enticing those already in place to remain, the benefits offered can far exceed the value of the salary paid.