How employers can build a worker-centric business — and why they must


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

It’s all over the business news and top of mind for most employers: Employees are harder to retain and nearly impossible to hire.

What’s equally as troubling is that traditional benefits and compensation programs seem to have less of an impact on an employee’s decision to remain at a company or accept a new job.

The labor disruption, which started in 2020 with pandemic-related furloughs and layoffs, has shifted into a full-blown labor shortage.

But is it a labor shortage or a shortage of good jobs? Business Insider quoted a survey from that found “of about 1,000 people who voluntarily resigned from at least two jobs since March 2020, 92% said the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren’t passionate about.”

People are reevaluating what they value and want in a job and finding it’s not just about salary.

The good news: This is not a problem across the board. Many businesses that have survived the carnage and not experienced these catastrophic losses. In these cases, employers have made their benefits and compensation program so strong that it would take an act of Congress for employees to leave their job.

These organizations have tailored their benefits program to meet the needs of employees and their families by using available data to make valuable investments in safeguarding their workforce.

Normal best practices is a thing of the past. To survive our new reality, a company must make intentional efforts to exceed what its competition is doing. The simplest way to achieve this is to pay attention to your audience and your people:

  1. Survey
  2. Know the competition
  3. Act

Survey: An employer can throw everything but the kitchen sink at its workforce, but if it’s the kitchen sink the employees truly want, the employer will be spending a lot of time and money and still lose their most valuable workers.

It doesn’t take much to get a pulse on the specific needs and wants of your employees. The key is to survey, act, and then survey some more. Some might not want to “open Pandora’s box,” but can you afford not to? You might be surprised by what you discover. Free survey templates are available online that can be customized for your needs.

Know the competition: Knowing what your competition is offering to attract and retain employees is imperative. When looking at other companies in your industry, don’t just look at your immediate competition.

If you’re a midsize company, look to see what the larger companies in your field are doing (as well as the smaller ones). Benchmarking data is great to see how you stack up in your industry. What are you doing well and what you can improve?

Do larger companies offer higher salaries but also require longer work hours that lead to employee burnout and high turnover?

Many companies are finding success by focusing on work/life balance, offering innovative benefits such as unlimited PTO or an Employee Assistance Program, for example.

These types of benefits might seem like a disruption, however boosting employee morale and keeping your workforce intact will indeed outweigh it. Giving your employees more autonomy leads to increased productivity, fresh perspectives, and better mental and physical health.

If you can’t add these types of benefits, perhaps relax some of the more restrictive company policies, and add more flexibility to work schedules.

Act: The most important step. Collecting all the data and surveys in the world won’t make a difference if there’s no follow-up.

In fact, it will have an adverse effect if you openly survey employees and then do nothing with the information. Employees will ultimately lose trust in a company and interest in what their employer is asking when their input is falling on deaf ears. Make the most of the intel you learn from talking to your teams.

Enlist the support of your team members to implement new strategies. Part of empowering your employees is letting them be part of the positive changes you want to make. They’re in the trenches every day and have a good understanding of what might need to change — and how to make that happen for your business.

• Communicate what you plan to change. Keeping your teams informed lets them feel like an active part of the process.

• Part of re-surveying (which we mention above) includes checking-in to make sure the things you’re shifting are indeed having a positive effect on everyone.

Implementing these measures may be out of your comfort zone — even frightening for some — but this is the time to be bold if you’re to survive this highly unusual time.


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

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