Alternative Benefits to Attract, Develop and Retain Talent

January 2022
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For employers, finding and keeping talent is a full-time job. Amid headlines in recent months about the Great Resignation with companies battling for talent and coveted professionals resigning from jobs, it’s hard to know where to start.  

Hiring efforts must attract, develop and/or retain the best employees. In 2022, offering employees alternative benefits is a good way for companies to stand out in a tight job market. 

In our experience with clients and industry leaders, my agency, VIVO Growth Partners, which provides strategic human resources services, has seen the following benefits spark the most interest among employees:

• Offer student loan repayment assistance. Student-loan debt now tops $1.7 trillion in the United States, burdening young professionals who see company programs that help repay their loans as an important job benefit. At the same time, less than 4 percent of businesses offer this repayment support, according to Debt.org. Small and midsize businesses that offer student-loan-repayment assistance to employees will attract and retain top talent over time. 

• Pay for an employee’s vacation. Some companies are asking team members to nominate peers to have their vacation expenses paid as a reward for their good work. A peer-nomination process to earn a trip incentivizes effort and builds loyalty. Other businesses are offering timeshares that employees can reserve at a reduced price. Both ideas offer fixed costs that are easily budgeted. 

• Provide parental leave. Time off from work for parental leave can be expanded to include moms, dads, adoptive parents, employees with fertility issues, postnatal support and taking care of aging parents. 

• Survey your team. They’ll let you know what matters to them — especially as the pandemic has led to a shift in perspective about work. Those insights will help you develop and retain your best people. 

Offer time.

Who doesn’t want more time? Some hires value time-related job benefits — such as transparent personal time off, work from home and family-leave options — as much as they do their salaries. 

Some businesses are offering flexible hybrid-work options to help employees have time for child care, home schooling and other realities that make working 9 to 5 unfeasible for many parents and care providers. Flexible work schedules are among the benefits that today’s talent want most, we have seen.

For businesses that need people on-site, entice talent with in-office fitness equipment, massages, dry cleaning pickup and coffee delivery. Such perks help team members find balance at the office. 

Develop a compensation sheet.

For many young professionals, financial literacy is a work in progress. To attract talent, companies can show them a total compensation sheet that highlights salary, standard benefits and alternative benefits. The package clarifies for candidates the investment the company is willing to make in them. 

Develop new timelines.

Rules that determine how long people stay at entry-, mid- and senior-level jobs have become antiquated. As Reuters reported, a 2013 survey found that nearly 80 percent of workers in their 20s said they wanted to change careers, followed by 64 percent of workers in their 30s and 54 percent of those in their 40s.

As employer/employee relationships change, it’s reasonable to see employment timelines change, too. In our view, employees below the level of manager should not be expected to stay in one job for more than two years. We expect employees at the manager level and above to stay in one job for two to four years. 

As you recruit talent, ask why the person is thinking of leaving their current job to come and work for you instead. Doing so is a subtle way to learn about a job candidate’s personality and whether they might fit into your company culture. It also helps to retain that hire over time. 

Hiring managers should understand that employment gaps on a candidate’s résumé aren’t a scarlet letter. Ask these candidates what they did during their employment gap to boost their skills. Activities such as volunteering and online courses show initiative, a skill you want in your next hire. 

Retain talent with personal growth.

The biggest trend we see among our clients and partners is that employees want to feel nurtured and to find intrinsic value in their work. One way to provide those benefits is to cover their professional development fees and association dues. 

Personal growth can also apply to social, emotional and physical considerations. Footing the bill for a recreational sports team or offering employees discounts from a fellow small-business owner are alternative benefits that will make them feel different, special and connected. 

Retain talent with professional development maps.

Rather than give employees annual performance reviews, offering them a clear professional-development map shows they can grow and develop within your small or midsize business. Visualizing these key points helps attract the right job candidates. Develop your employee handbook, update job descriptions as needed and offer consistent feedback.

All of these alternative benefits are easy to customize. While VIVO Growth Partners recommends providing health insurance or other insurance on an employee’s date of hire, a waiting period of three to six months is common before alternative benefits are provided. To maximize your investment in alternative benefits, we recommend requiring that workers stay employed for six to 12 months after they’ve received the benefit.

Any alternative benefit should either attract, develop or retain top employees. Ideally, it will do all three.


Hire Learning

When you’re recruiting:

  • Develop a clear recruiting/interview process and communicate its steps to candidates. 
  • Keep in touch with candidates. If they don’t hear from you, they will move on to another company. 
  • Integrate diversity and inclusion into your talent-acquisition process.
  • Don’t wait around to offer a candidate a job. 

When you offer a position:

  • Perform background checks on ALL hires. 
  • Have everyone sign an offer of employment agreement. Don’t call it a contract.

Once a new hire arrives:

  • Be clear about your company’s culture and how you work together. 
  • Take a pulse regularly with employee conversations, surveys or team meetings.
  • Listen to feedback and make changes where possible. 
Return to Current Issue Navigating the Year Ahead | January 2022
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