For all of those making resolutions this year, the phrase “New Year, New Me” gets tossed around often. What about a company perspective on this, though? Are companies coming forward with a “New Year, New Us” approach? Maybe they should.

The business leaders I know have resigned themselves to the fact that hiring will continue to be increasingly competitive for the best talent in 2022 (as it has been for the past 24 months, at least). As always, retaining a great employee is better for stability and profitability than trying to find a new one, and employee retention will be a core function for most businesses this year. In this market, more employees are evaluating their circumstances and deciding if the grass is greener on the other side, or maybe, just as green on the other side but with a few more benefits.

Deciding whether to move on or to stay with their current company forces many employees to re-evaluate the benefits they get with employment. Of course, wage and healthcare benefits are primary drivers, but we’re beginning to see other aspects being just as important. In fact, CEB (a best practice and technology company) does a quarterly global labor market review and found the top five things people look for in a new job, are:

1. Stability
2. Compensation
3. Respect
4. Health Benefits
5. Work-Life Balance

Did you think stability, respect and work-life balance would be so high? What that tells us is that there are many benefits that go beyond compensation and health benefits that are vital for employees. So, what kind of programs and policies can your company institute to show your employees you want to give them stability, respect and work-life balance?

Here are two overriding themes with some concrete program ideas for employers to implement:

Letting voices be heard

This is huge, especially with younger workers who have grown up in a social media environment where their thoughts, ideas and opinions have always had a place to be expressed and recognized. Be it TikTok videos, Facebook comments sections, the Twitterverse or even Instagram, your younger employees are used to being able to share their thoughts and ideas and having (at the very least) their friends comment back on what they think of those ideas. When they join the workforce they want to express their ideas and be heard there, too.

This isn’t limited to only younger workers, as every generation is on social media now – the difference, of course, is younger workers have known this their entire life, while older workers remember a time when the workplace was very different then that. However, the bottom line is your employees want a bigger voice, and when they are heard it hits those key benefits of respect and stability. Being heard makes anyone feel valued- here are some ways to do that:

Stay interviews: Different than an annual review these one-on-one or small group meetings involve the team leader having a meeting that is exclusively about gathering ideas from the team on how work could be done better, more efficiently and finding out what additional tools may be needed.

Philanthropy committees: What if your employees helped select which non-profits are the recipients of annual or quarterly charitable giving? What do you think that does for respect when you empower them by putting your money where their mouth is?

Employee-selected bonuses: Employees select which colleague should win employee of the month, and what the prize should be (ex: additional compensation, hours of PTO, aweekend getaway, etc.)

Lunch-on-the-house: A different employee gets to select where the office/department buys lunch quarterly, monthly or weekly depending on the frequency you can afford.

Invest in your team

Some employers say they can’t afford to invest more in their teams, but when you consider the cost of recruiting and re-training, you can’t afford not to. Investing in your employees doesn’t always need to be a permanent raise or incentive (although of course it can be). Here are a few ideas that go beyond just a straight raise:

Childcare stipend: Show your employees that you understand there are escalating costs that can be an additional burden and even a small stipend shows you understand the costs associated with coming to work and having your child in daycare or after-school care.

Continuing education training: There are a ton of online trainings right now, and even some in-person seminars and conferences. Few things tell an employee that your job with us is stable quite like covering their expenses to go to a multi-day conference to represent the company, or investing in online training to sharpen their skills.

Personal care gift cards: Who do you know that would turn down a massage- especially if they didn’t need to punch out for it. Acupuncture, spa services, deep tissue massages, fitness memberships, yoga classes, spin classes — these are all great ways to tell your employees I care about your work-life balance.

Paid training and shadowing: Rather than expecting a current employee to show a new employee the ropes, what if you paid them an extra $3-$5 per hour for the week or two they are helping train a new employee? The new employee will feel taken care of having a dedicated person looking out for them, and the current employee will feel respected and valued that you appreciate their expertise and work ethic. This small extra pay for a few weeks is a great concrete way to show respect and make the employee feel valued.

These are just a few ideas to start with, but beyond everything listed above one thing you can always do is ask your employees what they want. When you know what’s going on in their lives, finding out what potential benefits could be for them gets easier and easier. Several times in 2022 we will return to this subject with more ideas for employers to try and implement with their teams.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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