The Loop

How To Attract Top Talent

Filed under: Benefits

The job market routinely swings from high unemployment – when companies get to handpick who they want – to low unemployment when workers have more clout. With recent unemployment levels at a nine-year low, the power pendulum has swung back to the realm of jobseekers.

More jobs are available, but the unemployed aren't the only ones scooping them up. They have competition from the overworked, underpaid, disenfranchised, passed over and fed-up ranks of workers all over the country. Among them also are super talented over achievers who can take their pick of the best jobs available.

What Workers Don't Want
Gone are the days when people worked long hours to cover the job duties of workers who were laid off. It's been nine long years since the start of the recession: mid-career employees want to be appreciated; millennials are unwilling to stay at a job with no growth, no challenges and no fun.

Workers do not usually leave their employer simply for money; chances are there are other reasons, such as limited growth opportunity, too much stress, a workload that infringed on their personal life, or maybe they just didn't like their boss. Why didn't they like their boss – because they were not good at their jobs or because they were simply disagreeable? If you're really interested in a high-quality candidate, open up the discussion during latter interviews and dig deep so he recognizes that you really care about his wants and needs in his next job.

You also have to deliver. Listen to what that candidate says about a former boss, and make an effort to pair him with a direct supervisor who can accommodate his workstyle. If he didn't like working for a micromanager, give him someone who encourages autonomy. If he felt like he was left to sink or swim with no guidance, assign him to someone who is nurturing and freely shares knowledge.

What Workers Want
Today's workers are seeking personal freedom, flexibility and control – not just in their careers, but in their lifestyles. That means taking lunch at three o'clock two days a week for carpool duty or taking off Friday afternoons to get the weekend started. And if you want staff available to work occasional nights or weekends, you'd better be willing to trade paid-time off for the perk.

As it turns out, attracting the best talent doesn't necessarily mean offering the most money. As Fox News Anchorwoman Megyn Kelly demonstrated when she left the network, the flexible work hours tailored for her lifestyle goals offered by NBC News were more important to her than a higher salary. This new era of benefit creation presents a golden opportunity for smaller companies to scoop up big-name talent with perks in tune with today's workers.

For example, if your company still needs workers to put in 40 hours a week, consider how you can help them make the most of their weeknights and weekends at home. The following are some unique taxable benefits that appeal to today's job candidates.

Free Housecleaning
No one wants to spend their Saturdays cleaning toilets and mopping floors. Consider offering a housekeeping budget for each worker in the company. One company set aside a couple of thousand dollars per person annually. That money could have gone to salary increases, but there's no way of knowing how it would be spent. By structuring a housekeeping benefit program, you know you're offering a way to help offload household chores so workers have more time for themselves and their families. The benefit can help reduce the stress of juggling too many responsibilities, strengthen family bonds, and help workers return to work mentally fresh. The uniqueness of this benefit also can help differentiate you from competitors.

But don't stop there; contract an on-demand crew of handymen and landscapers that employees can tap for more help around the house. Vet a network of babysitters, homework tutors, elderly assistants, etc. People spend so much time researching and trying to find help; companies with human resource staff can help set up these conveniences to maximize work downtime. Allot each worker a household budget per month or year and round up resources they can tap that are automatically paid out of their worker expense account.

Personal Trainer
One recent survey found that more than three quarters of workers complain of too much stress to the point where they quit or considered quitting their job. While you may not be able to change much with regard to workloads, employers can offer coping strategies. One way to do that is to incorporate exercise into their workday. However, it's one thing to reimburse workers for a gym membership that they seldom use, but quite another to give them the gift of one-on-one training with a personal fitness guru.

Personal training enables each employee to receive a custom-tailored workout program with exercises they enjoy and look forward to. Plus, a personal trainer can help gauge what a worker needs and alter the routine as necessary. For example, frustration with a work challenge? Maybe the employee could use a few rounds with boxing gloves and a punching dummy. Tension in the back and neck? Maybe today's a good day for a neck and shoulder massage instead of a workout.

While workforce personal trainers may incur a sizeable expense, consider the offset benefits: Lower healthcare costs and reduced turnover.

Reimburse Date Nights
Cash-strapped families seldom get out for a night on the town. Again, raise wages and those dollars may go toward items that in no way reduce stress levels or enhance the worker's well-being. On the other hand, who would turn down an all-expenses paid night out with their spouse? In exchange for receipts, one company reimburses a monthly date night including everything from drinks, dinner and a movie to the $15 an hour babysitter.

Also, be considerate of singles – maybe reimburse dinner and movie with a friend at the same frequency. Employees who don't go out much might save up their "dating expense account" for a quarterly jaunt to a bed and breakfast inn with a wine tasting tour, or some other outing of their choice.

Use Them – Period
Many workers never use their vacation days or trade them in for equitable pay. This might like seem like a perk, but long term this can hurt both the worker and employer in the form of burnout and lower productivity. That's why some employers make vacations mandatory. In fact, to sweeten the pot you might throw in an extra $500 a year payable to the employee on his last workday before a vacation of at least five consecutive days. Encourage workers to take enough vacation time to get their minds off work. This helps them return to work more focused and energized.

Some employers, such as Netflix and LinkedIn, offer their workers unlimited vacation days or discretionary time off. This sends a loud and clear message that all they care about is that high quality work gets completed on time. Those who can get their work done in shorter timespans can enjoy the fruits of their labor. It's an incentive for higher productivity.

When it comes to developing incomparable benefit programs, you don't even have to think outside the box – just conduct a survey to ask your employees what would make them better at their jobs and what would make their home lives easier and more enjoyable. You'll likely receive a plethora of unique ideas that can help your company stand out in the world of competitive benefits.

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