Win the War for Talent: Double Down on Benefits

Laurie Ruettimann Culture, Food and Drink, Good HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, Laurie Ruettimann, Recruiting, Retention, Talent Strategy

If you haven’t heard, we are in a war for talent. I spend my time with recruiters and HR professionals who don’t know how to compete with big firms who offer large salaries and big bonuses.

I say — double down on your benefits package.

1. Invest in financial wellness. Retirement plans are nice, but you can’t plan for tomorrow when you can barely make it through today. How many of your employees can afford to think about retirement when they have rent, mortgages, kids, aging parents and leftover debt from the recession? Go beyond a “lunch and learn” with your 401(k) broker. Do whatever you can and encourage financial stability in your workforce. Invest in financial education classes, offer personal coaching (like this program through PWC), or consider offering rigorous cloud-based tools to help your employees live a debt-free and stress-free life.

2. Fund your health-related initiatives like you mean it. It’s great that you have a cafeteria that serves healthy options; however, I’ve been to enough corporate campuses to know that salad and quinoa can’t compete with cookies and popcorn. Give your employees a chance to be healthy from the moment they wake up until the moment they hit the hay. Bring in local, healthy chefs to teach cooking classes (or go take a class as a team!). Host a food truck rodeo where the foods are local, slow, organic and delicious. Partner with a company like LYFE Kitchen and offer discounted meals. Encourage walking meetings, offer access to free smoking cessation programs, and force people to unplug for a specific amount of time during the year.

3. Brag about your time off policy because it’s honestly awesome. Three weeks of vacation is table stakes, baby. Do you want great talent? Buy their affection by beefing up your PTO policy. This doesn’t mean unlimited PTO, btw. That sucks.

4. Strive to be better than Obamacare. I love how people think that private insurance is so much better than the alternative. Ha! I have friends who are like — thanks but no thanks — my work-related plan is expensive and stupid. I’ll take my chances on the exchange. (True story.) It’s basic decency to offer a solid plan that has great coverage at a reasonable cost. You can’t compete for talent if Obama’s got workers’ backs more than you do.

5. Make fun fun again. Remember when it was okay to enjoy yourself at work? No? Me neither. From forced birthday celebrations to inauthentic cocktail parties, it’s almost like we forgot that many of us go to work to avoid the un-fun stuff we have to do at home. Work-related parties should be parties — voluntary and entertaining. The beer in your office should be tasty, not cheap and sitting in the fridge for months on end. And stop stocking your office cupboards with off-brand trail mix and stale graham crackers. Nobody wants to eat that crap!

So those are just very basic ideas to help win the war for talent. If you can’t allocate more budget to salaries, think about how to build the business case to steal budget from other parts of the business for items that don’t look like salaries.

It’s hard to give everybody a big raise, but it is sometimes easier to do environmental scanning, understand what your competitors are offering, and double down on benefits!