Currently, the United States is dealing with a labor shortage unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. To be fair, though, the term “labor shortage” is slightly misleading. It’s not that there aren’t enough working-age adults. Instead, employees have collectively decided they no longer have to settle for toxic workplaces and low wages. They’re prioritizing company culture and forcing organizations to take a hard look in the mirror. But what does this desired company culture entail?
- Providing the right rewards
- Offering fair wages
- Giving employees more flexibility
- Personalizing benefits
- Treat your people like people
Providing the right rewards
Rewards help improve company culture because they make employees feel valued and encourage them to perform their best. Kristen Ruttgaizer, VP of people and culture at Igloo Software explains the impact rewards can have, saying, “When employees feel a connection and purpose within the workplace, their level of engagement will increase, which will also harvest an environment of strong employee retention.” In the face of the current labor market, retention is more important than ever.
But just giving rewards isn’t enough. You also have to give the right rewards. Ruttgaizer notes, “A good example is a personalized reward that is in line with the interests or hobbies of an employee. This kind of reward fosters a positive connection between the employer and employee.” These rewards show that you’re thinking of your employees as more than just cogs in a machine. You’re recognizing them as real people with varied interests.
Tangible vs. intangible rewards
Good rewards come in both tangible and intangible forms. Tangible rewards are those your employees can hold in their hands, like a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Intangible rewards could include praise or recognition as well as taking an employee or team out to lunch when they’ve achieved a major goal. Both forms of rewards are valuable and help employees feel more connected to their workplace.
Additionally, rewards shouldn’t just come from the top down. Peer-to-peer recognition offers a great way for employees to provide intangible rewards to each other. Many employee engagement tools offer peer recognition programs, and some allow employees to exchange their praise for tangible rewards.
Employee engagement software with peer recognition:
Ruttgaizer gave an example of a way Igloo uses peer recognition in their own rewards program. “Each quarter, Igloo employees nominate their coworkers for a “Northern Light Award” that recognizes employees who have gone above and beyond demonstrating one, or all 5, of Igloo’s core values in that quarter,” she says. “As highlighted above, it is important to provide employees with a reward that aligns to their interests, and based on feedback from our employees, this employee recognition program provides a monetary reward as opposed to a gift or gift card. The executive team votes on the top three nominees and announces who won and why on a 30-minute companywide call.”
Offering fair wages
In order to attract and retain top talent, you have to pay them a fair, livable wage. I recently came across a post on Reddit detailing a job that required a Master’s degree but was only paying $15.29 per hour. For a full-time employee, that averages out to just under $32,000 per year. This is far too low and unfortunately, fairly common.
This is a major part of why companies are struggling to fill their jobs. If you’re requiring extra education, experience, or expertise, then you can’t expect to pay an entry-level salary. If you’re not sure what the going rate is for the jobs you have listed, sites like Indeed and Glassdoor typically have salary ranges available for you to reference. You’ll also save time for both you and the applicants if you post the salary range on the job listing.
Tie bonuses to performance
If you offer bonuses to your employees, they should be tied to performance rather than favoritism. Of course, this only works if performance metrics are fair and both the employee and manager agree upon them ahead of time. You need to conduct regular performance reviews (more than just one or two per year) and use them to discuss your expectations for the employee, what they’re succeeding at, and where they could use improvement.
Based on these discussions, bonuses shouldn’t be a surprise. And raises should follow the same practices. If you feel like an employee deserves a raise, you shouldn’t wait for them to ask you for it. In fact, it’ll go a long way towards their engagement if you don’t.
Giving employees more flexibility
Employees also want more flexibility in their work, especially in industries that allow for it. If employees could reasonably work from home and still remain productive, they should be given the option to do so. And if they don’t have to complete their work on a 9-5 schedule, you should allow them some freedom in their chosen working hours as well. Not everyone follows the same circadian typology (chronotype), and forcing employees to work during their least productive times won’t help anyone.
Flexibility also allows employees to take frequent breaks without feeling guilty. After a particularly intense bout of work, some employees may need to take a quick walk or do a quick chore like loading the dishwasher to give their brains a break. Asking employees to be all in on intense work for eight hours each day isn’t feasible and will quickly lead to burnout.
Companies should also give their employees options when it comes to their benefits. Allow them to choose from several different health plans and additional coverage to meet their needs. Some companies even offer a flex stipend that employees can spend to cover additional needs like life or dental insurance.
But benefits can go beyond healthcare and retirement matching. One of my favorite benefits of working at TechnologyAdvice is our “bucket list” benefit. Each year on our work anniversary, TechnologyAdvice helps us check an item off of our bucket list. It includes a monetary cap that scales based on the amount of time we’ve been with the company. This benefit offers a personalized experience that makes us feel more valued and connected to the company.
Treat your people like people
Building a company culture that will attract and retain good employees comes down to simply treating your people like people, rather than just faceless entities. Reward and praise them for their accomplishments, offer fair and livable wages, and give them the flexibility to complete their job in a way that works for them. As individuals, you can’t expect all of your employees to fit the same mold, and your company culture should include elements that cater to a variety of people.