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Jonathan A. Liebert 

There’s been significant disruption in the market around hiring and retaining new employees. Not only are businesses dealing with the “Great Resignation,” but they are also dealing with the “Great Reshuffle,” which means people are leaving their current jobs in pursuit of other opportunities as employers lure quality candidates away from their current roles. Pay is absolutely at the top of the list for many employees. And why not? According to research from JUST Capital and featured on CNBC and in Reuters, “87 percent of Americans across all political, age, geographic, gender, and racial lines agree that the growing gap between CEO pay and median worker pay is a problem in this country today.”

But money isn’t the only motivation for job seekers; they are also looking for the basics, such as a good benefits package that includes health insurance options, retirement planning (401k or other), tuition reimbursement, and paid time off via sick, parental, vacation, and bereavement leave. There are also other factors employers should consider. In fact, 76 percent of working Americans said that when considering accepting a job, they would opt to work for a company that was trusted, ethical and fair — even if it paid less.

So what are some things that business owners should consider as they navigate this strange new normal? Obviously, the various forms of non-wage compensation matter more than a bigger paycheck will depend on the person, but here are a few worth looking into according to research from JUST Capital.

1. Day care stipend or flexibility when childcare situations change

It is extremely difficult to find childcare right now and it is also very expensive. Many families are finding that it may be cheaper for one spouse to stay at home and take care of the children while the other continues to work. But as many people eventually return to work, they will be looking for companies that provide a stipend or even grant more flexibility when issues occur. Figure out what your business can do to attract workers with children — or better yet, how to keep your great workers that have little ones at home. 

2. Flexible working hours

This should come as no surprise; employees want more flexibility with their job/employer as there are benefits to a virtual work option or even a hybrid. I wrote about the myth of work/life balance a few months ago in CSBJ and about the value of achieving work/life integration. Having a hybrid work schedule will help your employees figure out the best way to deal with personal interruptions at work, and work that interrupts their personal life. Ninety percent of American workers say that they would like to telework at least part time. Two to three days per week seems to be the sweet spot that allows for a balance of concentrative work (at home) and collaborative work (at the office). Figure out what is best for your company culture and industry and see if you can allow for more hybrid work. 

3. Paid parental leave

Looking to hire a younger workforce? You may have to consider that your younger workforce may be trying to start a family.  Getting paid parental leave is rare. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 16 percent of private-sector workers in 2018 had access to it. This results in employees taking unpaid leave to recover and/or care for a newborn, which can push a lot of people into debt or financial stress. Giving your employees paid time off may be very attractive to a younger workforce and shows them the company culture you have. 

4. Paid time off

Most companies offer some form of paid time off (PTO), but it’s important to pay attention to the details: Variety and length of PTO policies matter.

For example, Intuit’s leave package includes up to five days for bereavement leave, four weeks for taking care of a family member, and up to five weeks of vacation days, depending on years of service. Employees can also cash out a portion of unused vacation time. While this is a large company that can afford to cash out unused time, it is just an example for small businesses to get creative and offer different types of leave to employees to help attract and retain them. Poll your employees too, and see what they want — don’t just assume that what leadership wants is best for everyone. 

5. Student loan and tuition reimbursement

Student debt can be a heavy burden. It can also be a long-lasting one. In 2019, 45 million student loan borrowers owed $1.6 trillion in federal and private loan debt. The average bachelor’s degree recipient came out of college with just under $30,000 in debt, and the average loan repayment was $393 per month, with an average repayment term of 16 years. While there are some forgiveness programs out there, you typically must work for a 501(c)3, which is not in the cards for everyone. So it makes sense that in recent years more companies are investing in their workers by offering tuition reimbursement and other education assistance programs. Every little bit helps, even if it’s for books or school fees — so think about what makes sense for your company. 

Businesses must continue to be nimble and innovative as they grapple with each new market change. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but talking to subject matter experts, business organizations like the BBB, Small Business Development Center and chambers of commerce can give business owners ideas of what to pay attention to. Be creative and build a great culture; having employees who know you care about them will go a very long way!

Jonathan A. Liebert is CEO of BBB of Southern Colorado, and CEO and cofounder of the National Institute for Social Impact — NI4SI.org