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Not changing from pre-pandemic times can lose you workers

The Power of Two

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

Read their previous columns.

It took a global pandemic to radically change the way we work, even though employers have struggled with the traditional work week for the last two decades. There has long been an ongoing dialog about how to improve working conditions in a way that would mutually benefit all parties.

And now the last couple of years have changed us all. Gone are the days where employees needed to be in the office five days per week — gone is commuting, sitting in traffic, going out to lunch or out for a quick coffee.

The changes made thus far — which, we think, have been extremely beneficial — occurred because we weren't given a choice.

Not only do we see these changes as a benefit to employees, but it has become necessary for employers to relax what was deemed necessary pre-pandemic. Unfortunately, some employers are struggling to transition to the new reality and those same employers are also struggling with employee attraction and retention.

There is a disconnect among the ownership and management group of many organizations. These leaders have been trying to return to the way things were pre-pandemic, wrongly believing their workforce will adapt to what the organization wants because they have no choice: the employee is expected to bow to the employer.

That’s simply wrong. Currently, it’s really the employer who needs to accommodate their employee. Management does not have the control they once had, and the time to be inflexible has passed.

Companies that have not listened to their employees (or former employees) have been losing people at an alarming rate and, at the same time, have not been able to attract new members to replace the ones they have lost. These leaders seem to not see or are not able to acknowledge current reality.

“Companies that have not listened to their employees (or former employees) have been losing people at an alarming rate and, at the same time, have not been able to attract new members to replace the ones they have lost.”

Work flexibility

According to Slack's Future Forum, 95% of employees want flexible work hours and 78% want flexibility in their work location.

Half of organizations that offer flexible work say the approach is highly effective in bringing new talent. We are seeing this reflected with our clients, several of which have had a large percentage of their workforce leave the Bay Area entirely.

For these employers, making a shift to a flexible workplace was difficult at first, but they are now seeing the dividends.

Benefits

Employers need to adjust their benefits program to meet the needs and demands of their workforce. Mental health benefits specifically have been pushed to the front of the list of priorities, due in large part to the pandemic we just experienced.

With that said, maybe it's not mental health that is at the top of the list for your organization. We are finding that employers who are constantly communicating with their employees can find out and adjust for needed changes faster, while, at the same time allowing, for employees to feel heard.

Inflation

Surging prices for gas, food and other necessities are at an all-time high. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans loaded an extra $46 billion on their credit cards during the second quarter of 2022 — the sharpest balance increase in more than 20 years.

People are struggling to stay afloat. This is an area where employers can openly discuss what struggles their employees need support with. If you shy away from talking about this with employees when they bring it up, you will be disconnected and will alienate your team.

To maintain a happy workforce, listen to their needs and see where you can help. It's way past time for employers to address the needs of their team members financially and otherwise yet the harsh truth is that some employers simply don't ever consider this. They are the boss, and this is the job, this is your salary, deal with it.

But if these leaders desire, as they should, to evolve with the current climate and not incur the inconvenience of constantly losing people and the expense of retraining new hires, then they need to pay attention to the new work climate.

Don't kill the golden goose

Everything covered here is much easier said than done. So, we are advocating an environment of open communication, where all parties can share their realities, examine each situation from both sides and consider the bigger picture.

Let employee relations be an open-minded negotiation, so everyone can find a comfortable solution to minimize unwanted exits, expensive onboardings and loss of company morale.

Conversely, remind employees to consider what they already have working at your wonderful company. Employees can sometimes lose sight of this, putting their needs above the needs of the organization. Ask them to understand that you, as an employer, cannot always meet all their needs — but together you can try.

The Power of Two

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

Read their previous columns.

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