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Why Benefits Aren't Enough to Attract and Retain Top Talent

Keeping your employees has never been more important.

Over recent decades average worker tenure continues to shrink.

Covid-19 accelerated this, and in 2021 we had The Great Resignation, an unprecedented exodus of employees.

And then there’s the smaller, daily threats to retaining employees - the ability to apply for a new job is always just a click away, while hungry recruiters regularly fill your employee’s inboxes.

This is extra concerning for remote companies, simply because it’s much easier for an employee to leave. Changing jobs no longer means reintegrating into a new office, or relocating to a new city; it’s a transition that can be done while in bed.

The question of ‘how do we get our people to stay, and enjoy, working here?’ is increasingly difficult to answer.

Give people perks, right? Yes, the most basic solution is to offer benefits. These may take the form of stipends, bonuses, or PTO. Yet these are no longer extra, it's now the bare minimum for companies to provide these benefits.

In our increasingly distracting world, it means it's now the attention of your employees that is so valuable.

Benefits are attractive in the beginning, they originally feel exciting and are a good part of talent acquisition strategy. But they fail to retain employees.

Because benefits suffer from the “new car effect,” meaning that their novelty wears off quickly. You’ve experienced this with shopping, we all have, our purchases are most exciting at the beginning. Then we become accustomed to them, and they lose their glow.

So, when their value fades, this essentially puts you into competition for your employee’s attention. Particularly for complex or high growth companies, benefits are forgotten even quicker, and get buried under the stressful realities of the daily grind.

So how do you keep employees? With an engaging culture.

Here's our formula. Engaging culture = value + attention.

Let’s look at an example:

A company provides a fitness stipend, an employee purchases a Peloton. We know the benefits of exercise, there’s a clear value to both the employee and employer. And it certainly has the “new car effect,” it’s an exciting purchase. The employee enjoys it for a couple months, but soon enough the Peloton is just another thing taking up space in the garage.

The initial value has faded, but there’s still potential value, if the company can gain their attention. They may do this with fitness team-building exercises, or monthly wellness competitions that use the Peloton.

Instead of shiny objects, the companies with engaging cultures provide something much richer. Rather than relying on initial excitement, an engaging culture provides deeper human needs of esteem and belonging. These always outlast the “new car effect.”

Here are some ideas for creating an engaging culture:

  • Regular mentor sessions or check-ins

  • Time for fun team-building activities

  • Profit sharing program

Engagement is the key word here, and there are plenty of culture-driven initiatives that lack it. For example a casual workplace attire may be fun at first, but soon just becomes another everyday thing. If it loses attention, it’s not engaging.

The good news is that an engaging culture can ultimately run on itself, and creating an engaging culture doesn’t necessarily require a huge shift in your company.

For example stress reduction involves normalizing small periods of time to practice mindfulness...

The goal here is to have subtle, daily changes in the culture that yield effective results.

Though small, these solutions are sustainable, because our stress levels change regularly. In fact stress hormones can be activated within seconds, so the value is always relevant while only requiring small amounts of employee time.

To build an engaging culture, start with identifying a value to provide for your employees: team connection, stress reduction, physical wellness, etc.

Once you’ve identified this, it’s best to bring in an expert to help deliver it. Too often leaders try to do this themselves, but don’t have the time or energy to keep it going. Bringing in outside experts is how your leaders can continue doing the work that matters, while ensuring the value remains engaging.

And my expertise is in stress reduction. If you are interested in learning more about how I can help engage your employees using mindfulness, click the link below:


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