The Loop

The Care Factor: The Key to Worker Engagement, Productivity, and Loyalty

Filed under: Benefits

According to MetLife’s 2024 US Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), workers say that employers who care about their health and happiness is what motivates them to be more productive, loyal, and satisfied with their job. The study defined employee care as:

  • Demonstrating genuine interest in workers’ overall well-being – both professionally and personally
  • Fair and transparent compensation structure
  • A safe work environment
  • Recognizing and valuing individual worker contributions
  • Acknowledging their unique needs as individuals

Unfortunately, the research found that 42 percent of US workers have concluded their employers do not care for them based on these benchmarks. In contrast, among workers who do feel cared for by their employer:

  • 87% are more engaged with their work
  • 90% are more productive
  • 89% are loyal to their employer

Demographic Differences

It is important to note that the EBTS study found that worker priorities tended to vary by demographic groups. For example, women are more concerned with safety and comfort in the work environment, as well as a high level of support from managers. Gen Z workers, on the other hand, preferred that their employer be transparent and proactive on political, social, and environmental issues.

Promote Purposeful Work

In the small business arena, more than 50 percent of workers value what they consider “purposeful work” to be a key component of their job. Among those who didn’t feel their job offered purposeful work, 71 percent indicated they’d be looking for a new job within a year.


In order to self-determine their own work-life balance, employees seek flexibility in work arrangements, including remote or hybrid work, as well as less rigid schedules.

One recent trend that has emerged is called “chronowork.” This scheduling strategy is based on the overriding fact that people have different circadian rhythms. This generally references sleep patterns, such as an early bird or a night owl. Some employers have started lengthening the workday, so that early risers can start early and clock out early. Late sleepers can come in late and work late – all punching in an eight-hour day. While there should be a few hours of overlap to hold meetings and face-to-face interactions, this new biological clock tactic enables people to work during the time of day when they feel most productive.

Supportive Work Culture

The 40-hour workweek is the most dominant staple in peoples’ lives; the largest unit of time around which all other appointments and activities must be scheduled. With increasingly busy lives as workers, spouses/partners, parents, caregivers – even children and teenagers – it is incumbent on employers to build a supportive work culture. This involves managers and supervisors getting to know their direct reports on a personal level so they can understand the challenges workers face and the activities they enjoy that help stave off burnout.

Because employees spend so much time at work, their colleagues and managers become part of their social community. Encouraging caring and positive relationships among your staff hierarchy can result in an energetic and supportive team. Quick personal conversations allow managers to connect with workers and help them feel that people at work care about them.

Prioritize Training

Many workers are continually looking toward the future, trying to figure out a career path that will earn them more money. One way that employers can be pro-active is by providing continuous training opportunities. Managers should hold one-on-one meetings (not just at review time) to talk about each worker’s goals and what they would like to be doing in the future – then help match them with training opportunities.

An MIT survey revealed that the average worker receives only a half day of training each year. Furthermore, only 4.5 percent of workers receive a promotion within the first two years of hire. That may be because next-level positions are often filled by outsiders; only 10 to 20 percent of job openings are fill by incumbents. Lateral moves are even more scarce – awarded to only one percent of US employees, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Employers should weigh not only the considerable cost savings that come from training and promoting in-house talent, but also the value of demonstrating that they care about employee career growth.

Bear in mind that even if workers do not see themselves working there in the future, guiding them toward their goals elsewhere can make them more productive, appreciative, and loyal in the present.

Focus Benefits on Personal Care

The same holds true for personalizing benefits. If you provide a wide menu from which to choose, HR has the opportunity to guide individual workers toward benefits best suited to their situation. Offer workers the ability to schedule one-on-one meetings to share their situation and get personalized benefit recommendations – a surefire way to show workers you can about them.

Pay Fairly

It’s no secret that pay disparities breed resentment and division among workers. You can try to keep worker salaries a secret, but that continues to be a losing battle in today’s more transparent environment. It can erode trust in the company and its leaders. A better route is to build an equitable and transparent pay system that aligns with worker knowledge, experience, and productivity.

Conduct pay-equity audits to identify workers whose pay is below scale based on these benchmarks. In other words, don’t keep an outperforming worker at his paygrade level simply because that’s where he – or more likely she – was hired in. Level up pay once you recognize that productivity and performance is on par with higher-earning coworkers. Not only will this earn trust and make that worker feel valued and cared for, but it’s also the right thing to do.

Interestingly, MetLife discovered that 83 percent of company leaders believe that their workers are “financially healthy.” The first step to debunking this myth may be an anonymous pop-up survey asking your workers that very question.

Crisis Care

Most workers encounter critical moments in their lives when they need support. It could be juggling school and work, trying to buy a home, welcoming a new family member, taking on new caregiving duties, or losing a loved one. These are times when employers should be prepared to step up with extra compassion, flexibility, and resources to support individual workers.

The MetLife study found that employers that go the extra mile during these critical moments create long-term loyalty that yields higher levels of holistic health, productivity, engagement, and retention.

Ease Up on Restructuring

An enormous contributor to workplace stress and anxiety is the dreaded restructure. And yet, endless departmental restructures seem to be the norm at many large companies. Moving people around (and calling them “human capital”) like pieces on a chessboard is both dehumanizing and sends the message that their job roles and contributions are devalued. This is the opposite of showing workers that you care about them.


It is also worth noting that most organizational restructures do not last, which is why they seem never ending. The stress toll on workers, not to mention irreversible actions such as laying off employees and hiring new ones, may be less constructive than investing in a more caring approach to operational improvement.


One key aspect to employee care is often the most overlooked: HR should take the lead role in designing policies, benefits, and management training practices designed to treat employees better and nurture the role of employer care.

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