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Benefits 2.0: Looking at the Future of Talent Retention

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Family Business, Private Companies

In an environment with a booming economy and record-low unemployment, talent retention is key to the ability of a thriving business to meet customer demand. The stakes are high when top talent leaves an organization in today’s job market. Talent is always challenging to find, but with fewer people looking for work than ever in recent history, some talent may be next to impossible to replace. This article covers some basics on retaining top talent.

The Basics

Employers will struggle to attract and retain top talent if they are unable to offer the competitive benefits that have become prerequisites to attracting employees in the current job market. An organization should be looking at ways to get these programs in place sooner than later if it is truly hoping to increase its retention of top talent.

However, benefits such as paid time off, holidays, health insurance, and 401(k) plans (or other retirement plan options) are no longer enough to make an employer stand out. Today’s top talented individuals have come to expect these programs and are looking for additional employee offerings from their potential employers.

Benefits 2.0

Research by the SHRM Foundation shows that people remain at jobs because of their connections at an organization. Connections consist of not only people, but also the culture, or fit, and what employees perceive they would have to give up if they were to leave. Organizations hoping to retain and attract talent should be looking for ways to foster its employee connections; if an organization is looking to justify programs, thinking about the initiatives in terms of how they will foster these invaluable connections may be helpful.


An organization’s initiatives should be aimed at creating connections with people, both at work and outside of it. Ideally, the program will enable employees to strengthen relationships at the workplace and lead to a more enjoyable work day. Some ideas include:

  • Weekly or monthly business-sponsored social hour
  • A dedicated number of hours for participation in community organizations or causes
  • A mentorship program that allows senior employees to take junior or newer employees out of the office for one on one coaching
  • Expanded family leave


A good rule of thumb: top talent who do not like where they live and the culture of where they work will not stay for long. A culture-focused initiative is probably the harder area to identify, as the goal is to fulfill employees’ interests, which can vary widely. A majority of these efforts must be made up front during the recruiting process. Cultural initiatives can include:

  • Employing a local guide to tour recruits around the surrounding area and asking them pointed questions with the intent of determining if the community is a good fit
  • Hiring locally if possible—local recruits tend to have built-in connections
  • Sponsoring and celebrating community events that promote the organization’s values and work in the community
  • Hosting company functions at unique-to-the-area locales

What’s on the line

It is vital that organizations understand that financial incentives are a major part of why talent choose their next employment opportunity. Base salary is a first step, but there are many other ways to put incentives on the table that are too good for a potential hire to pass up. By looking at the competition within the hiring space, an organization can identify what is not being offered and attempt to fill that gap. Here are some ideas of additional offerings:

  • Tuition assistance or, even better, student loan repayment
  • Home buying assistance; getting employees into a home they love helps them to establish roots in the community
  • Opportunity to grow within the organization
  • Company trips
  • Flex time or remote work stations
  • Benefits that are scaled to tenure (PTO often follows this model)

The recruiting field is nuanced—no two employees are alike. When looking at adding incentives to employees’ compensation package, the selection of what to offer and what not to offer should be based on some actual data. One of the best places to gain this data is from current and exiting employees. Asking an employee who is voluntarily leaving (not being terminated) why they are leaving can be invaluable information in drafting future employee incentive initiatives. Asking current employees can be helpful as well. However, it is important to be cautious in the process and not over-commit to future plans or possibilities, as this may cause discontent if the initiatives are never put in place.

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