As technology continues to blur the lines between home and the office, employees are looking to their employers for help striking a work-life balance. Understanding this as an employer is integral to creating a positive and productive work environment for workers.
But what are the tangible things that organizations can do to foster the type of work environment that makes employees happy to be there and happy to stay?
Based on MetLife's 17th Annual US Employee Benefit Trends Study, published this year, the key is to take a "holistic" approach to corporate culture that demonstrates to workers how valued they are as employees—and as individuals.
1) Get to Know Employees as Individuals
MetLife's 2019 findings indicate that employees are more engaged at work when their employers view and support them as individuals with lives outside of the office. Nearly 90 percent of workers surveyed said they wanted to work for an employer known for respecting their lives beyond office walls. This was especially true among younger workers and women.
To get to know your workers as individuals, develop employee surveys that explore attitudes, motivators, values and goals. Then, work to create programs meant to foster a company culture that will make employees feel seen and understood—organize a monthly breakfast for employees that are also new parents to bond and exchange tips, or a host a book club where workers can discuss new novels. These common interest—or experience-based activities can help employees feel like they're part of an organization that values them as people—not just worker bees.
Use these programs to show employees that the company values what they do by engaging in open dialogue to gain further insight into who employees are. Be sure to also show workers that they have the freedom to voice concerns and opinions in the workplace.
2) Take Care of Employees, Financially and Otherwise
While many employees are concerned about salary—nearly 6 in 10 say an appropriate salary is a key element to workplace success—it's not that simple, MetLife found. A slight salary bump may not be enough to protect employees from unforeseen expenses. Instead, consider implementing financial wellness programs, retirement plans, and/or comprehensive benefits packages—accommodations that can help employees to feel not simply comfortable in the present, but also secure in their future.
And consider this when designing employee perks: 72 percent of employees surveyed expressed interest in unlimited paid time off, putting that benefit ahead of most others, including wellness stipends paid sabbaticals and free or subsidized on-site services, like hair salons, dry cleaners and restaurants.
Make employees aware of what their benefits are through a company website, the provider's website, in-person group presentations, benefits handbooks and one-on-one guidance. Treat employees as customers here, helping them understand what their benefits are and how they can use them. There is value here to employers, too: employees who feel taken care of are more likely to stay with a company and do their best work.
3) Empower Employees to Find Purpose
Employees want to feel a sense of purpose at work, yet this means different things to different people. MetLife found that respondents of all generations see completing daily tasks as a large part of their purpose, but younger workers—millennials and Gen Zers— also crave the opportunity to have a positive impact on their community and society.
Let your workers define their own purpose to some extent, but look for ways to play an active role in what it means to them. Are there volunteer opportunities that your employees participate in outside of work? Consider offering employees a handful of "volunteer days" in additional to the usual PTO policy. Do employees actively donate to organizations they support? See if you're able to match their contributions.
Most importantly, make employees feel appreciated and valued for their efforts. While nearly half of employers said they were recognizing employee achievements and hard work, just 37 percent of employees said the same was true. Close this gap.
4) Take Technology Into Account
From an employer perspective, ever-advancing technology means having to hire for new skill sets as well as re-skilling certain employees. More than half of employers say the profile of the "ideal job candidate" is changing as technology does, according to MetLife, but re-skilling existing employees will allow a company to continually adapt as it determines what exactly the ideal skill set is.
Training employees as new technology becomes available will also help with employee retention rates. More than 90 percent of employees say they take career development and training into account when considering accepting or keeping a job. When a company invests in its employees long term success, workers are more likely to trust their employers and feel cared for.
Technology-related or otherwise, integrate training into everyday experiences. Rather than pulling employees away from everyday tasks, incorporate it into their schedules and encourage self-directed learning through podcasts or documentaries, MetLife suggests.
No matter how many benefits you offer, it's worth it to take some time to reflect: Do you know what your employees favorite benefits are? How can you make them better?
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