How to Win the Battle for Retention

I’ve said many times that retention begins with selection. Employers are now finding out that retention requires they provide a variety of employee wellness programs. “Employers need to realize wellness programs are not a silver bullet to retain employees but should be considered the baseline minimum of what organizations provide for employees to be mentally, physically and financially healthy,” according to Erica Stanulis, Founder of Follow the Sun.

More than health benefits,  these programs are now a major contributor to an employee’s overall wellbeing. The world of work has drastically changed.  The war for talent never went away; the competition to get talent and keep it has never been fiercer. Add to that the environmental, emotional and financial stresses your employees could be under, and you now know why these programs have evolved to cover employee health from a holistic view.

There’s a lot to choose from, so decide what you are trying to accomplish first by offering wellness programs and then search the marketplace to determine who can provide what you need. Finally, you’ve got to communicate and explain all the details to your employee population.

Because of the top HR priorities of increasing employee engagement, retention and recruitment, 72% of organizations now offer wellbeing programs. These additional programs are largely due to the competition for talent being fierce and employees demanding more support from employers to help them manage their lives.  Work and life have never been more entwined than they are now, and due to economic pressures, some companies are choosing to diversify benefits offerings in lieu of paying higher wages.

A multi-generational workforce means that each group has a need for different benefits at different life stages.  Millennials and Generation Z want to work for organizations they perceive as socially responsible. Charitable giving benefits are transforming into Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns, and companies are using these programs as benefit, retention and recruitment tools.

A majority of large and small organizations offer some type of retirement plan. These often consist of a 401(k) where the employer may match the employee contribution at some level. More than half of employers offer some form of tuition assistance for employees pursuing degrees, and student loan repayment assistance, although still uncommon, has doubled since 2018 to eight percent. Interestingly, 57% of organizations offer retirement investment advice; 18% offer credit counseling services, and 36% offer non-retirement financial advice. Employees are increasingly requesting that their employers provide financial guidance and mental health programs to help them manage their overall lives.

You might think wellness and work do not go together. Because we often spend more time with our work family than we do with our real family, 58% of organizations are offering general wellness programs that cover preventative screening and treatment that target employees with chronic health conditions by providing onsite health benefits such as seasonal flu vaccinations, smoking cessation programs, weight loss programs and on-site stress management programs. For those with chronic health conditions, there can be additional mental and emotional support for the employee and extended family members. Some employers provide nap rooms or quiet rooms where employees in open offices can get away from the constant noise and collect their thoughts. Stand up desk options are now provided by 60% of companies.  Wellness programs also include paid time off options, telecommuting, flexible work schedules, eldercare, and childcare. It’s important to note that workplace flexibility encompasses an employee’s overall work/life management option for those who have small children, aging parents or a chronic illness.

Fitness centers, classes, and equipment are still a key benefit offering. Instead of simply reimbursing for an offsite membership or providing an on-site facility, some employers are adding gamification where employees and teams win prizes for staying fit. Some companies offer fitness bands and activity trackers that encourage employees to be active during the day as well as during their off-work time, but it’s important to prevent these programs from turning into a competition that excludes part of your employee population. It’s best to remember employees come in all shapes and sizes, and that yoga and meditation programs can be as effective as more active programs.

The downside to offering these programs? Budget constraints and the difficulty in determining the return on investment.  Employers worry about the potential that employees will not take advantage of the programs offered and dealing with confidentiality issues surrounding medical information. What’s interesting to note is that 62% of organizations indicate wellbeing programs have a positive impact on employee engagement, 57% on workplace culture and 39% on retention and recruitment.

The bottom line is that employers must offer some mix of these programs if they want to win the battle for retention.


Vicki Lauter is a guest blogger on behalf of PeopleResults. You can learn more about Vicki from her LinkiedIn Page.