Think returning to a pre-pandemic work structure is the answer? Big mistake


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

The most recent fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is the struggle to keep and maintain our workforce. Businesses everywhere are closing their doors due to an inability to hire and retain people.

This includes local popular restaurants like Crêperie Chez Solange in Larkfield, Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa, and many others that became severely stressed by this situation. Unfortunately, many of our clients are facing the same dilemma.

Large food service companies such as Starbucks, In N Out and McDonalds, have now made it a point to post an employee’s starting hourly wage as part of their Help Wanted advertising. They’re making this information public because in this market, every person is a potential new hire.

These new wages are typically higher than minimum wage, and some companies also offer other unique benefits — it seems the traditional forms of attraction and retention (salary and medical insurance) are no longer all that’s needed to attract and retain valuable employees.

What can an employer do to get out in front of these challenges? Here are four immediate tips to put your business in the best position to attract and retain employees.

Be proactive

Employers need to take the initiative when it comes to charming employees into wanting to work with you.

Benchmark your benefits and compensation against other employers in the area and adjust where needed. For example: If you’re a construction company and the benchmark data show 74 percent of local construction companies don’t offer Long Term Disability insurance, adding that piece would make your benefits program stronger and differentiate against others in the industry.

Survey your employees to make sure what you’re offering is truly what they need.

Over-communicate with employees regarding what you’re offering. If you’re making changes based on an employee survey, communicate that too!

Broadcast what you do, what you’re looking for and what you’re offering to the public.

Focus on employee mental health

Over the past year, we’ve seen emphasis put on employees’ mental health.

According to management consultant company Robert Half, 44% of employees are more burned out today than they were one year ago.

Forty-nine percent blame this on a heavier workload, while 25% say they forfeited taking paid time off in 2020. Over the past year, we have been working with several employers to help improve their mental health offerings to go beyond what an insurance product or EAP can provide.

Career development

This is particularly important for employees who are early in their careers.

Many employees won’t stay in a job if they don’t see themselves growing within the company or in the field. The pandemic has increased the willingness of employees to move on quickly when they feel unsatisfied with their prospects.

Many times, in the past year, we’ve heard about employees who switched a new industry but then left after only a few months. Their reason for leaving was often not because they didn’t like the work or the industry, but because their new company failed to put an emphasis on training and development.

New work world

Everyone has been talking about the silver lining to this global pandemic: the shift to remote work.

It’s allowed for greater work–life balance and proved that employees can effectively do their jobs from home (the authors of this article included). The ability to work remotely led many employees to relocate, often either to more affordable areas or to be closer to family, while remaining employed and productive.

One of our local clients had 50% of its nearly 40 employees permanently move out of state during the pandemic. The talent pool became a talent ocean as employers embraced their ability to hire out of area employees.

But now, as things “loosen up” and we can see light at the end of the COVID tunnel, many employers are trying to get back to the work structure they had before. We think that’s a big mistake.

Now more than ever, employees and prospective employees want to be able to choose how and from where they work. Since they can now prove it’s possible, it’s not a ridiculous ask.


We speak with a lot of employers, and majority are having issues with attracting and retaining employees, especially those who want a full-time onsite workforce. Those who have successfully navigated this shift in mindset have strategized to find new and unique ways to draw people in and keep them happy.

We are still in the thick of this crisis. Where do you want to end up?


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

Show Comment