I've been thinking about this question a lot. I became a manager at a young age and continued to lead teams and mentor employees for the next 30 years. Throughout that time, I paid attention, or sometimes not, to the motivating factors employees required of their employers. These requirements shifted every few years, from free beer and wine for those of us working late to mind-expanding sabbaticals to, until recently, offices with ping-pong tables and birthdays off.
Then complications surrounding the pandemic appeared to both employers and employees like the Great Comet of 1811, a seemingly never-ending anomaly with a tail we can still spot. We've read about and experienced the wave of resignations, with over 2 million working moms being the first to give notice, as only one example of complicating factors.
Offices are starting to open, ping pong tables have gathered dust, and really, what's the point of getting your birthday off if you've been home for 18 months? With a newfound perspective on work/life balance and what it means to have a healthy, nurturing workplace, employees are now emboldened to require more.
What should employers be considering at this moment in time? Staring up at the comet's tail blazing across the sky, I've thought about what it would take to attract a powerfully talented and earnest workforce today. I've been fortunate to work for great companies and great bosses. The following list is inspired by benefits I have personally experienced in some fashion.
Real estate prices have increased by 74 percent in some areas of the country. When these new homeowners return to their metro areas, they will sublet at astronomical rents. Employers should take stock of their employees' housing situations and offer benefits that help keep them under their roof.
Continue with flex and WFH hours. The comet's tail has not left the atmosphere, and the pandemic's effects are still a complicating factor for many individuals. If you don't have faith in your employees to get the work done - and done well - from home, then you don't have the right people working for you. There is a vast, dedicated, talented workforce that made it work and can make it work even better with formal, ongoing, real support.
Post-Covid healthcare. You don't need to be personally suffering from the virus to feel its effects. It's been a shitty year, and we all feel it. The mental health impact can't be understated. Far too many people are walking around numb from the effects of a closed social structure. Put mental health check-ins in place…yesterday.
Cash, baby. Your HR department can expound on all the company benefits, but most of the value will never be fully understood and appreciated. So take some of that investment and distribute it in pretty Venmo deposits. Even better, make it a surprise. I’ve worked for several companies, and this was BY FAR the best company benefit I ever experienced, and as a result, I’m forever grateful and dedicated to the organization. I’m looking at you, Jim Mullen and Carin Warner.
The takeaway? Cut out the silliness and invest in the benefits that support lives. Enough with the Wednesday margarita cart and flowers on your anniversary. It's no longer about ping-pong or birthday PTOs. Perhaps, just perhaps, it never was.