Posts

Flexibility: Key to Employee Retention in 2023

As 2022 comes to a close, several work trends are clearly visible on the horizon. Here’s one employers can’t afford to ignore — an alarming number of employees are still leaving their jobs. For all the talk about “the Great Resignation” being behind us, turnover continues to shape the world of work. And it doesn’t seem to be fading.

What’s the culprit here? In my opinion, too many employers continue to discount the need for flexibility in all its forms. Not sure if this should be a priority for you? Then consider some big-picture statistics:

  • recent Workhuman survey focused on workforce behavior and sentiment estimates that 36% of employees plan to leave their jobs in 2023.
  • Gartner predicts that steep 20% turnover rates will continue for the foreseeable future, with as many as 65% of employees still reevaluating their career paths.

These findings are hard to ignore. But rather than drilling down on disengaged workers and why they’re looking for greener pastures, I’d like to flip the script. Instead, let’s talk about people who want to remain in place. What can we learn from them?

Why Some People Stay

What is keeping people onboard? No doubt, some are hunkering down in reaction to growing economic uncertainty. But despite recent layoff news, many organizations are still hiring qualified talent. So why aren’t more people jumping ship?

Here’s why I think flexibility is the key. It is one of the most important factors keeping satisfied people connected with their employers and committed to doing their best work. In fact, as a motivational force, flexibility is second only to salary — ranking even higher than a positive work culture.

That’s powerful stuff. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s look closer.

Making a Business Case for Flexibility

If you’re mapping your HR goals for 2023, keep this caveat in mind: From a business perspective, flexibility may be losing some of its sheen. Organizations are facing the prospect of another year trying to juggle remote and hybrid workforce models. And after years of struggling to get it right, some companies may not be willing to invest as much time and effort to make it work.

Other business factors are causing leaders to push for a return to the office. After all, money talks. And the cost of office space doesn’t drop by 50% if only half of your workforce is filling the space. Also, we hear more executives emphasizing what suffers when people work from a distance — social bonds, career growth, collaboration and innovation.

But if you’re contemplating a full-scale return to office, perhaps you should think twice. Here’s why. I’m reminded of a 2021 #WorkTrends podcast conversation about flexibility with work-life expert and business consultant, Suzanne Brown.

Did Suzanne know something the rest of us weren’t ready to take seriously when she said this?

“People will stick around now. But as soon as the economy starts to strengthen, if you haven’t already built flexibility into your culture, you’ll start to lose people quickly.”

Circumstances may have shifted since that discussion, but Suzanne’s advice still holds true.

Flexibility Isn’t Just Skin Deep

When the conversation turned to imagining what flexible work could look like on the other side of the pandemic, I recall Suzanne saying:

Flexibility is more than just taking an afternoon off once in a while. Flexibility is how you treat employees in the long-term.

So true. The pandemic underscored what employers already knew (but may not have been willing to fully support at that time). But the fact remains, people want and deserve flexibility, even when the pandemic isn’t a concern.

With this in mind, what can employers do to build flexibility into their organization’s DNA? The challenge is to match the right conditions to choices that make sense for your workforce. Flexibility is both an informal and a formal state of work. And every organization is unique.

The possibilities are diverse: job sharing, split-shifts, permanent remote work, four-day work weeks, cross-functional talent mobility programs, project-based talent sharing, freelancing pools, part-time arrangements and more.

But the trick is to offer a mix of options that are relevant and meaningful for your people, while also supporting your organization’s values, culture and goals. If you’re serious about finding the best choices, you’ll involve your people in defining the options and being accountable for their success.

Clarifying the Rules

Flexibility deserves to be more than a random whim or a moving target. Employees and employers alike need to agree on guidelines. Indeed, your team’s ability to perform well in any combination of flexible roles demands a workable game plan.

Because employees see flexibility as the sign of a great work culture, it’s important to get their buy-in. Begin with a renewed reality check. Take the time now to ask employees and managers what kind of flexible options they believe would work best, going forward. (Anonymous surveys and feedback tools are terrific at helping you manage this process and interpret findings.)

Keep in mind that individual circumstances, career objectives and personal preferences change over time. What works for someone today may no longer fit in a year or two. People don’t want to be trapped in a work structure that no longer serves them. What will your process be for people who want to rethink their choices and modify their work model?

Here’s the clincher for employers. You need to demonstrate respect for people’s wishes. Respect and recognition are intimately connected with employee satisfaction, productivity and commitment.

That means leaders must be willing to do more than listen. It’s essential to take appropriate action in response to input. And it’s even more important to repeat this process, over and over again. When you demonstrate an ongoing commitment to building your flexible agenda around collaborative conversations, how can employees resist?

We’ll see what happens soon enough. The pandemic no longer has a grip on our every move, but the Great Resignation is still happening. No one knows for sure what will unfold next. But whatever challenges lie ahead, you can’t go wrong by staying in touch, staying open and staying flexible.

It could just be what convinces more of your people to stay.

Which Caregiving Benefits Do Modern Employers Provide?

What benefits are top-of-mind for organizations that want to attract and retain great talent in today’s challenging talent market? Many are finding it pays to step outside the standard benefits box with creative options that meet diverse employee needs. For example, caregiving benefits are gaining strong momentum.

To learn more about this, we asked business and HR leaders to describe one caregiving option they believe is essential in supporting employees as they move through various life stages — from family planning and fertility to childcare and eldercare. Their recommendations cover a spectrum of solutions:

  • Childcare Benefits
  • Tuition Assistance
  • Sabbatical Leave
  • Unlimited PTO
  • Nutritional Support
  • Family Medical Leave

To learn more about why these options are so helpful, read the responses below…

6 Caregiving Benefits for the Modern Workforce

1. Childcare Support

One “do-everything” benefit can’t cover all the complexities involved with each stage in life. To ensure higher utilization and satisfaction, focus on stages with the most impact on employees and find the best option for each stage.

Certainly, fertility and family planning are good benefits to consider. However, childcare has the biggest impact on employee retention and productivity.

Childcare costs are soaring. In fact, in most states, the average annual cost of childcare is more expensive than college. This expense means many working couples are considering whether they can even afford to have kids, or if one parent must resign from work to care for their children at home.

Childcare also has a direct impact on employee attendance. On average, parents who must respond to childcare needs miss 9-14 days of work each year. And more than 65% leave work early or arrive late because they lack access to care. This is nearly 3x more productivity lost than from employees who are managing healthcare issues.

Kevin Ehlinger, VP Product Marketing, TOOTRiS

2. Tuition Assistance

Higher education and vocational training open up a wide range of opportunities for employees. They equip workers with the skills and knowledge to pursue additional career options and improve job mobility.

Tuition assistance makes education more accessible, empowering workers and their families to plan for their future. Offering tuition assistance as a benefit helps attract high-quality candidates and helps them hone their skills while helping employers retain top talent. In addition,  government education assistance programs in the U.S. let employers deduct sizable reimbursements for employee tuition contributions.

Ben Travis, Founder, HR Chief

3. Sabbatical Leave 

Although sabbatical leave was traditionally offered only in academic settings, it has started to gain strong traction over the past few years in the private sector, in response to a rise in employee burnout and the Great Resignation.

Private employers are looking for generous perks to attract new employees, keep them engaged, and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance. Sabbatical leave is the perfect benefit to check those boxes. 

In short, sabbatical leave is the option to step away from work for an extended period (usually 6 to 12 months) for any purpose whatsoever. This is a perfect way to accommodate employees at every stage in the employee lifecycle, from cradle to grave.

Individuals can take a sabbatical to de-stress and get pregnant, care for a new child, fight an illness, spend time with a dying loved one, or just travel the world. It is a flexible, practical benefit that allows for a range of uses. Whether paid, partially paid, or totally unpaid, any employee will appreciate the flexibility that sabbatical leave offers.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

4. Unlimited PTO

As a business, we are committed to helping our employees maintain a work-life balance. We’re also committed to creating an environment that supports our employees’ personal goals and lets them prioritize their families. One way we do this is through a generous personal time off (PTO) policy.

We offer unlimited vacation time as well as unlimited sick time. We encourage employees to take time off for both personal and family goals, as well as when they need to care for ailing family members.

In addition, we provide resources for employees so they can continue working from home and/or work on a flexible schedule while they are taking time away.

Luciano Colos, CEO, PitchGrade

5. Nutritional Support 

One aspect of healthcare that spans the entire lifecycle is nutrition. So one benefit worth considering is coverage for prescribed nutritional supplements — not just prescription drugs. Other ways to support nutritional needs during different life stages is by providing access to educational information and expert talks about nutrition.

Optimum nutrition at each phase in the lifecycle promotes more robust immune systems and higher energy levels. That means it helps keep your workforce and their families healthier. So ultimately, these benefits ensure better performance at work and fewer illness-related absences. 

Ruth Novales, Marketing Director, Fortis Medical Billing Professionals

6. Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave is one benefit every employer should consider to help employees address the full lifecycle, from fertility to family planning to elder care.

Family medical leave helps protect an employee’s job for up to 12 weeks if they become ill or they need to care for a family member. A supervisor cannot fire an employee when they rely on this benefit for a legitimate reason, so it can provide a helpful safety net if the need arises.

Lindsey Hight, HR Professional, Sporting Smiles

 


EDITOR’S NOTE: These caregiving benefits ideas were submitted via Terkel. Terkel is a knowledge platform that shares community-driven content based on expert insights. To see questions and get published, sign up at terkel.io.

Childcare Benefits: A Reckoning for Working Families

It’s not a stretch to say COVID changed everything—including the way working families think about childcare benefits. Before the pandemic, parents struggled with childcare challenges, of course. But the day-to-day realities grew much worse when the pandemic struck.

After the initial shock of schools and childcare centers shutting down, families were left to figure out how to work from home while parenting. Instead of being at school or daycare, children spent the day side-by-side with their parents. In fact, from February 2020-February 2021, the lack of childcare pushed 2.3 million women out of the labor force. And a very long time passed before these women could return to work (if they have returned at all).

While people in some jobs continued to work on-site throughout the pandemic, many workers had to adapt to the new remote work world. This is where many employees still find themselves today, either working remotely or in some form of hybrid schedule—splitting time between home and office.

Today, childcare conditions have improved slightly, but still are far from ideal. Fortunately for some working families, employers are sponsoring more childcare benefits for those who need this kind of support.

Remote and Hybrid Employees Still Need Childcare Assistance

The benefits of remote work are well documented. However, one drawback is often overlooked. I’m talking about the misconception that people don’t need childcare assistance when they’re working remotely. This notion became prevalent early in the pandemic, and unfortunately, employers still haven’t moved on from this line of thinking.

Picture a typical working mother in a remote or hybrid management role.

Compared to her in-office peers, she doesn’t have fewer deadlines, less ambitious KPIs, or a smaller staff to manage. Nor does she have extra hands to hold her baby while attending Zoom meetings or responding to email messages. There are no extra hours in the day when she can feed or play with a toddler.

The workday is still the workday—even when people perform those tasks at home, surrounded by family distractions and obligations, rather than in an office cubicle.

Families With School-Aged Kids Face Unique Challenges

Contrary to what some believe, childcare needs do not stop once kids start kindergarten. I’m a mother, myself, so take it from me! Parents of 5-year-olds are still in the thick of their childcare journey.

Historically, preschool programs (as well as before-school and after-school care) served as a safety net to support a large, productive workforce. But COVID, chronic underfunding, and budget cuts have left these programs with limited capacity, fewer teachers, and reduced hours. The safety net is frayed, at best.

And now, working parents have the added burden of anxiety about COVID risks.

Previously, when children were mildly ill, they still attended school. These days, we know better. Emergency and backup care are must-haves for working parents who are unable to stay home with a sick child.

Even when parents take precautions, they still face the risk of a COVID outbreak at school that can suddenly change the course of a day, a week, or a month—depending on mandated quarantine periods. This is a lot for working families to handle, which is why employee childcare benefits matter so much.

Throughout the pandemic, working parents have been balancing the risks of depriving their children of social interaction or exposing them to a potentially deadly disease. Some families decide to choose individual or small-group professional care, such as a nanny or nanny-sharing arrangement. But this increases overall childcare costs and isn’t affordable enough for some.

The Trouble With Workplace Childcare Centers

Some employers have tried to help working families fill this gap by investing in on-site childcare centers. While an admirable idea and a substantial financial commitment, these large centers fall short for many employees.

These facilities no longer meet many childcare needs, and simply do not work for remote and hybrid workers. For example, how many working parents would want to commute to headquarters for their kids when they may otherwise be working from home? Working families prefer caregivers who are located close to home—which should be good news for employers who don’t want to dedicate massive budgets to build and maintain large childcare centers.

Childcare Benefits Are Key to Employee Retention

No matter which childcare option families choose, it comes at a price. And it’s hard for people to keep in perspective just how unaffordable it has become.

The national average childcare cost has risen to more than $10,000 per year, per child. That’s incredibly steep. How many working families do you know with two or three kids who also have an extra $20,000-$30,000 lying around?

The increasing cost of childcare forces parents (and mothers, in particular) to make a very difficult choice: Stay employed or quit to care full-time for their children. This has pushed record numbers of women out of the workforce.

The reality facing families is stark and alarming:

Current and prospective employees value family care benefits more than ever. This means employer-sponsored childcare benefits should play a key role in retention and recruitment strategies.

Final Thoughts

COVID drastically changed employment and childcare. The status quo is no longer sufficient, for both employees and employers. Forward-thinking business and HR leaders are rising to the challenge and supporting working families with employee childcare benefits that make a significant difference in people’s lives. This is a step in the right direction.

Employee Caregivers Are Quitting. Here’s How to Keep Them

These days, we’re flooded with headlines about The Great Resignation, The Big Quit, and The Great Reshuffle. It’s not surprising. The desire for career advancement and better work/life balance are powerful reasons why people are resigning in record numbers. But these aren’t the only motives. Actually, a growing number of people are quitting so they can take care of loved ones. If your organization can’t afford to lose these employee caregivers, this advice can help you keep them on board.

Factors Driving This Trend

We’re seeing more employee caregivers, partially because the pandemic put older people at risk and disrupted existing family care arrangements. But also, it is the result of broader population shifts and the rising cost of long-term care. Let’s look at how this could play out over the next 15-20 years…

1) Our Population is Changing

Historically, if you mapped our population by age, the chart would look like a pyramid. In the past, many more young people were at the base. As they became adults, they helped support a smaller number of older people at the top. Today, that pyramid is inverted, with a larger elderly population and an increasingly smaller base of young people at the bottom who struggle to support the elderly. This is happening because:

  • Boomers are aging
  • Younger generations are producing fewer children
  • Medical advances are extending life expectancies

This inverted pyramid means that by 2040, the elderly will depend more heavily on the working population than those under 18. Put differently, in less than 20 years, more of your employee caregivers will be supporting elderly loved ones, rather than their own children. Or potentially, they could be caring for both at the same time.

That’s already the case for many employee caregivers. In fact, more than half of middle-aged Americans are currently “sandwiched” between generations.

2) Caregiving Costs Are Rising

Because care is expensive to provide, not everyone will be able to hire professionals to look after aging family members. Instead, they’ll need to provide care themselves at home. According to a recent AARP survey, there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S. and 80% of these caregivers are providing care to an adult family member or friend.

This means organizations will increasingly have employees who are juggling job performance with the burden of being a caregiver—along with all the time, energy, and emotional commitment that caregiving requires. While they may manage caregiving by missing time at work, it could also be as serious as leaving the workforce altogether.

For example, consider these statistics:

How to Support Employee Caregivers

What are forward-thinking HR leaders doing to help employee caregivers? Our recent conversations focus on three key action areas:

1) Provide Financial Solutions

One of the most important ways to support employees is by helping them plan for their own long-term care. While younger employees may not see the need, education and planning now will offer them more care options in the future if they’re injured or become ill.

When you create financial programming, be sure it includes discussions about the role of:

  • Medicare and Medicaid – Some people see government programs such as care options. However, they typically don’t cover long-term care (Medicare) and access involves significant drawbacks and limitations (Medicaid).
  • Retirement savings/401k – Similarly, using 401(k) and retirement savings to pay for care is possible, but this also comes with drawbacks. These investments are best reserved for funding life expenses during retirement and are not recommended for use during working years.
  • Standalone long-term care insurance – This coverage may be offered at work or purchased through an independent insurance provider. It can be a viable solution that can help cover some costs of long-term care.
  • Hybrid life insurance with long-term care benefits – This lets people purchase life insurance coverage that includes the ability to advance part of a death benefit for care needs. Many products on the market focus care benefits on professional care such as a nursing home or home health aide, but new products in this category cover family caregiving, as well.

2) Promote Your Employee Assistance Programs

Another way to support your workforce is through an employee assistance program (EAP). The right program can help employees navigate the challenges they face as caregivers. Whether it’s offering care planning tools and strategies or access to tools to help people manage complex aspects of care, be sure to consider a wide range of resources. For instance, you could include:

  • Care planning services
  • Care needs assessments
  • Help in finding and evaluating care
  • Life insurance claims support
  • Long-term care claims support
  • Home care placement assistance
  • Legal support for wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents
  • In-home loneliness solutions
  • Home modification services
  • Relocation support

Finally, it’s important to share details about your EAP program, and re-communicate the program’s features and benefits on a regular basis. Pairing this with enrollment or re-enrollment of your financial support solutions is a great way to protect your employees.

3) Pay Attention to Caregiving Legislation

Many state governments are taking notice of the need for care—the growing number of people who need a solution, the lack of affordable care, and the expected future drain on state Medicaid funds. A growing number of states are enacting legislation to address these care issues.

For example, in 2021, Washington became the first state to pass this kind of legislation. The Washington Cares Act provides long-term care financial support for state residents. The program is funded by a payroll tax. Employees with qualifying long-term care coverage could opt out of the program (and the associated tax).

Although this legislation may provide a rough blueprint, each state’s approach is likely to be different. To prepare their organizations and their employees for the future, employers should begin tracking legislative activity.

Start Planning

It’s hard to know precisely what’s in store for employers as more Boomers leave the workplace and younger employees step in to care for aging loved ones. But thus far, it’s clear that employee caregivers will need support and solutions as they navigate an increasingly challenging eldercare crisis.

HR leaders can be an essential part of the solution, but it’s important to start planning now. Workplace programs and policies need to evolve, with active involvement from employers and their employees. Start by educating your workforce about the need to plan for long-term care–whether caring for an elderly parent or planning ahead to manage their own care should they need it. Working together with employees to address their needs will help them understand your commitment to them, and encourage them to stay.

Photo: mentatdgt

Cultivating Employee Trust in Today’s Workplace

Trust plays a role not just in employee recruitment and retention, but in everything from the benefits employers offer to their cultural norms. As leaders welcome Gen Z  into the workplace, they’re learning that this generation insists on transparency and trust in a way that prior ones simply did not.

Frankly, today’s employees have high expectations. Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer found that 73% expect to have the opportunity to help shape the future of society. The same percentage say they expect to be included in company planning. 

Evident among younger employees, in particular, are four trust-related trends:

1. Flexible work is becoming a table-stakes benefit. 

The giant leap that technology has made over the last decade means most employees are now able to work from home. Many now see that as a right rather than a privilege earned with trust.

According to FlexJobs, which leases coworking space to companies, 80% of the 7,300 surveyed workers said they’d be more loyal to their employer if it gave them flexible work options. More than half (52%) have attempted to negotiate such arrangements themselves.

It’s understandable that many employers are hesitant to give workers total freedom to work when and where they want. But technology — the very thing that has made this trend possible in the first place — can also be used to create accountability. Communication platforms like Slack show when workers are online, and time-tracking tools can ensure they spend their time in ways that are actually valuable to the company. 

2. Employers and employees are monitoring each other’s online activity.

It’s been true for some time that employees and employers research the other online before a hire is made. But now, they’re scouting each other’s social media accounts on a near-daily basis.

The question in many HR circles is no longer whether to hire someone because of past social media posts, but whether new ones might be worth firing someone over. And it’s no longer just illegal activity that raises eyebrows: Employees and employers are on the lookout for bigotry, culturally insensitive comments, and even relationships with questionable individuals. 

Make clear to employees that your company is watching, but do so in a positive, uplifting way. From brand accounts, interact with employees’ social profiles. Go ahead and share that post from a worker who just ran a 5K. If they ask for contractor recommendations for an upcoming roof repair, why not comment with a referral to someone who re-shingled the office?

3. Diversity is gaining attention as a professional-development advantage.

The broader the range of backgrounds a company has, the more its members can learn from one another. As people learn from each other, they build trust — gaining insights into their work and seeing the world from another’s perspective can strengthen ties. Tracey Grace, CEO of IBEX IT Business Experts, credits the company’s diverse workforce with “keeping the company fresh and me growing.”

SurveyMonkey data suggests that Gen Z employees understand this as well. Almost three times as many members of diverse companies told the pollster they plan to stay with their current employer for five years or more.

Reiterate that mentorship programs are open to everyone, and try to pair diverse mentors and mentees. Encourage women and members of racial minorities, in particular, to pursue growth in technical fields, where they’re often underrepresented. 

4. Workers aren’t waiting around for things to get better.

Employment tenures have been trending downward for years. Just 10% of Baby Boomers have left a job for mental health reasons. But according to a survey of 1,500 young people from Mind Share Partners, three-quarters of Gen Zers asked have done so.

Every role at every company will experience stress at some point. But while older generations could be trusted to tough it out at least for a few months, many younger workers react by immediately sharpening their resume.

Make company challenges an open conversation. Encourage workers to speak up if they are struggling. Be generous with support, whether through a part-time helper or additional development opportunities, when asked for it. 

Everywhere you look, distrust has redefined the ways employees and employers interact with one another. But many of the changes it’s produced are clearly not: Flexible work environments encourage people to work when and where they feel most comfortable. Growth opportunities can and should be given to everyone so they can both earn trust with others and extend trust in return. If distrust is what it takes to get to happier workplaces, then so be it.