During economic crises, headlines often pour in about layoffs, salary cuts, and many other factors that present the relationship between employees and their companies as strained or even adversarial. While it’s true that employers are often forced to cut their workforces and reduce benefits to relieve pressure on their balance sheets, difficult economic times also present an opportunity for companies to demonstrate their commitment to employees.
There are several ways HR teams can support employees’ well-being while also putting the company in a stronger financial position. Companies can provide flexible benefits that meet employees’ unique needs while eliminating wasteful programs that employees aren’t using. They can also focus on talent mobility and professional development opportunities, which improves employee engagement and retention. Finally, HR teams can have open discussions with employees about their financial goals and provide guidance to help employees achieve those goals.
At a time when employees are increasingly concerned about their financial futures and turnover rates are high, your HR team should provide reassurance and support by making the financial well-being of your workforce a top priority.
A new era of relationships with employees
Employee attitudes and expectations have undergone seismic shifts in recent years. Beyond the demand for remote work, the quit rate hit the highest levels ever recorded (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) in November and December 2021, while the proportion of American workers who are self-employed surged after early 2020. But these developments reflect even more fundamental changes in today’s workplace.
Just as consumers expect personalized products and services, employees want to be treated as individuals with their own specific goals and concerns. The companies that offer flexible schedules, benefits that meet employees’ unique financial needs, and opportunities to change roles or learn new skills are the ones that will attract and retain talent in the coming years.
It’s time for HR teams to take the lead in reframing companies’ relationships with employees. These relationships should be more open and responsive than ever; companies need to determine which forms of support are actually in demand, and this will require candid discussions about schedules, benefits, and the financial circumstances of each employee.
Employees face their own distinct challenges
While it’s always a mistake to assume that a one-size-fits-all benefits package will work for all your employees, this is especially true as the labor force becomes more diverse. In fact, the vast majority of candidates say a diverse workforce is an important factor in deciding where to work. A PTO Exchange survey of 1,000 workers in North America found that 83 percent would be very or extremely interested in flexible benefits such as convertible PTO, while 90 percent said this type of benefit would make them more likely to stay with their companies.
Convertible PTO allows employees to redirect the monetary value of their accrued time off toward other financial priorities, such as retirement contributions or student loan payments. The PTO Exchange survey found that diverse employees would use this benefit differently. For example, low-income workers prefer to put cash in an emergency fund, while older workers want to invest in their retirement. Meanwhile, women and nonwhite employees are less likely to use all their PTO in a given year—another reminder that HR teams should provide individualized benefits that meet employees’ specific needs.
Company and employee well-being are indistinguishable
As the labor market is finally beginning to stabilize, job growth remains strong but turnover rates are still high. Companies shouldn’t assume that the intense competition for talent is going to fade anytime soon. HR teams still have to figure out how to set the company apart, and flexible benefits are a great way to do so.
However, improving employees’ financial well-being isn’t just necessary for attracting and retaining workers—it’s also vital for productivity. According to Gallup, just over one-fifth of employees are engaged at work, and this costs companies huge sums of money in lost productivity every year. When employees’ individual financial needs are being met, they’re much more likely to stay focused on doing a good job.
The relationship between a company and its employees should never be adversarial. The best way to show your people that you value them is to offer benefits that will help them get through this economic downturn and flourish in the future.