Recruiting + Retention: Aligning Benefits with What Employees Want
How comprehensive benefits packages can differentiate you from the competition
By Bridgit Finley, PT, DPT, and Janie Taylor, PT, DPT
In 2023, organizations will continue to face significant challenges: a competitive talent landscape, an exhausted workforce, and pressure to control costs amid a looming economic downturn. How employers respond could determine whether they are an employer of choice.
Today’s job market and the shortage of physical therapists is making it difficult to hire as well as retain employees. The shortage of physical therapists is not going to improve anytime soon, so now is the time to consider making some changes. To attract potential employees, a comprehensive benefit package can play a crucial role. Before we discuss benefits, I want to drive home the point that nothing makes up for a below market rate salary. I have said this before and will say it one more time, pay your employees a market-rate salary. If someone demands an above market rate salary, let them go because if they come to you for more money, then they will leave you for more money. Salary is part of total compensation, which includes benefits as well as company culture and should be highlighted during the interview process. Most employees are unaware of the cost of the total benefit package, and it is a powerful tool to present job offers that outline the total package.
WHAT DO EMPLOYEES WANT?
Offering comprehensive benefits packages can differentiate a company from their competitors and has the added benefit of creating an employee-friendly work environment. This assumes the employees value those benefits. This begs the question, what do employees want?
A distinction should be made between hiring and retention strategies, in that one attracts someone to accept a job and can be viewed as extrinsic rewards — i.e., salary & benefits. While the other one has much more to do with intrinsic motivators, culture, and what they value in a day-to-day work environment. Humans make decisions based on what they value, either consciously or unconsciously. The Gallup organization would suggest that employees value a friend at work, being developed, and working for a boss who cares about the employee as a human being.1 Said another way, do the employees’ values align with the company values? It is clear what a company values by the decisions that are made. If a company values continuing education, then pony up and allocate money in the budget to employee development.
No one will or should tolerate a bad boss, so if you have a retention problem, ask yourself if your organization has a ‘”bad boss” problem.
UNDERSTAND WHAT EMPLOYEES VALUE
Step one is to understand what employees value. Start by understanding the needs and preferences of your current and prospective employees. Conduct surveys or engage in discussions to gather feedback on the benefits they value the most. One warning is to not conduct a survey if you are unwilling to change the benefits. If the survey says the employees value a flexible work schedule and you are unwilling to change the schedule, then the survey is futile and will only highlight that you are unwilling to meet the employees’ preferences.
Matching employee benefits to your team involves aligning the benefits with the needs and preferences of your employees. While the specific options can vary based on the organization and setting, here are some strategies for using employee benefits to recruit and retain employees.
Ensure that your compensation packages are competitive within your setting and region. Regularly review and adjust salaries to remain competitive.
Offer additional financial benefits such as profit-sharing, stock options, or employee discounts on company products or services. These perks can create a sense of ownership and incentivize employees to stay with the organization.
Providing healthcare coverage is highly valued by employees. Offer comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurance plans. Consider including wellness programs and preventive care initiatives to promote employee well-being.
Offer retirement plans such as 401(k) with matching contributions. These plans demonstrate a commitment to employees’ long-term financial security.
FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Give employees the flexibility to manage their work-life balance by offering options like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks, even if it is for the summer or for the month of December. This flexibility can significantly increase employee satisfaction and productivity. For the clinical staff that cannot work remotely, consider allowing them to work 30 or 32 hours a week for the summer.
I am not a fan of a 10-hour work day — it is too long, not productive, and can lead to burnout.
Invest in employee growth by offering opportunities for professional development, including training programs, workshops, and tuition reimbursement. This demonstrates a commitment to their career advancement and can attract ambitious candidates. This can potentially assist with the need to hire talent outside the organization and having to pay inflated salaries. Begin to train and promote within. Everyone should be training their replacement.
PAID TIME OFF (PTO)
Provide generous PTO policies that encompass vacation time, personal days, and holidays. Encourage employees to take time off to rest and recharge, promoting work-life balance and reducing burnout. Offer four weeks off, either paid if they have accrued the PTO or unpaid after three or five years of employment as a retention benefit.
Provide maternity and paternity leave, adoption assistance, childcare services, or flexible schedules for employees with families. Consider offering benefits that support employees with families, such as parental leave, childcare assistance, or subsidies, and eldercare resources. These benefits show support for work-life integration and can enhance loyalty among employees with caregiving responsibilities.
EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS (EAP)
Provide access to counseling services, mental health resources, and confidential support for employees facing personal or professional challenges. EAPs can help reduce stress, increase productivity, and create a supportive work environment.
RECOGNITION AND REWARDS
Implement employee recognition programs that acknowledge and reward outstanding performance and achievements. This can include bonuses, incentives, employee of the month programs, or spot recognition for outstanding customer service, patient care, and above-and-beyond contributions.
BUILD A POSITIVE TEAM
A 2022 Gartner survey of nearly 3,500 employees found that when organizations help employees build connections intentionally, their employees are five times as likely to be on a high-performing team and 12 times as likely to feel connected to their colleagues.2 Plan team-building activities each quarter.
PERKS AND ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
Consider offering additional perks and benefits to enhance the overall employee experience. This could include gym memberships, employee discounts, or flexible spending accounts.
COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATION
Ensure that employees understand the full range of benefits available to them. Conduct regular communication sessions or workshops to educate employees about their benefits and how to make the most of them. Offer financial planning assistance, educational resources, or employee loans to help employees improve their financial well-being. Provide personalized guidance to help employees navigate their options effectively. Remember, it’s important to regularly review and update your benefits offerings to align with evolving employee needs and industry trends. Customizing your benefits package to attract and retain top talent can lead to a more engaged and committed workforce.
Regularly communicate the value of the benefits package to employees, highlighting the resources available to them. Be willing to eliminate a benefit that your employees are not using and replace it with one they will value and use. This ensures that employees are aware of the full extent of the benefits offered and feel supported.
1Collison J (Host). “Why Having a Best Friend at Work Is Important.” Gallup. Published December 5, 2022. https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/406298/why-having-best-friend-work-important.aspx
2Gartner. “Gartner HR Research Identifies New Framework for Organizations to Succeed in Today’s Fragmented Workplace.” Published October 24, 2022. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2022-10-24-gartner-hr-research-identifies-new-framework-for-organizations-to-succeed-in-todays-fragmented-workplace
Bridgit Finley, PT, DPT, is an APTA Private Practice member and partner with Confluent Health. She is the founder of Physical Therapy Central in Oklahoma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janie Taylor, PT, DPT, CEO of Physical Therapy Central and Redbud Physical Therapy in OKC.