Recruiting + Retention: Aligning Benefits with What Employees Want

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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


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

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.


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’

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


Offer retirement plans such as 401(k) with matching contributions. These plans
demonstrate a commitment to employees’ long-term financial security.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


Consider offering additional perks and benefits to enhance the overall
employee experience. This could include gym memberships, employee discounts,
or flexible spending accounts.


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.

2Gartner. “Gartner HR Research Identifies New Framework for
Organizations to Succeed in Today’s Fragmented Workplace.” Published October
24, 2022.

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Bridgit Finley, PT, DPT, and Janie Taylor, PT, DPT

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 bfinley@ptcentral.org.

Janie Taylor, PT, DPT, CEO of Physical Therapy Central and Redbud Physical
Therapy in OKC.