In a stabilized economy underpinned by steady job growth, jobseekers have far more employment opportunities than just a few years ago. They are more apt to evaluate a potential employer with the same intense scrutiny as the company doing the hiring. That’s why attracting top employees goes well beyond pay and standard employee benefits.

After they come aboard, the best employees are engaged, productive and go above and beyond in their typical job to grow a business or develop innovative solutions. The business benefit of these highly motivated employees is clear — they can increase customer ratings by 10% and profits by 21%, according to Gallup. But with the unemployment rate at 4.4%, it’s getting more difficult to recruit and retain top talent.

[Image: Bloomberg]
[Image: Bloomberg]

A competitive salary is, of course, a big driver in recruiting talent and getting them in the door, but a much more complex mix of factors keep employees at a company for the long haul. These factors are a variety of tangible and intangible events and activities measured not just by dollars, but also happiness, flexibility, education and development opportunities and recognition.

Here are benefits and activities that aid recruitment and retention of star employees:

Onboarding and training. First impressions matter. This goes for not only the interview process, but an employee’s first few days on the job. A comprehensive onboarding program includes information on company policies, benefits and background of the company, but also training about the industry and the actual work employees will be doing.

For example, at Corporate Synergies, we have an extensive onboarding process and training program that includes modules like compliance, insurance 101 and employee relations, as well as several modules that are geared toward selling. We recently developed a leadership program that supports our commitment to helping employees grow in their careers. We’re putting into place a system that helps our management identify employees who show the potential to lead by extending themselves beyond their typical role. It’s a way to make sure our talent is continually challenged.

Culture and work-life balance. Focusing on company culture and making work-life balance a priority drive employee engagement and retention. Building a positive culture around openness where we are amenable to new ideas and try to learn from each other can drive good conversation and help to move an organization forward. Similarly, ensuring that employees have a good work-life balance also helps to keep everyone happy. Being cognizant of employees’ needs will only help to drive loyalty and progress as a company.

Employee recognition programs. Recognizing employees when they go above and beyond is essential, and employees agree: 74% say that recognition is important to keeping them happy, according to SHRM research. We use a three-tiered program that ranges from a “way to go” card thanking an employee for their good deed, to an “Advocate award” with a monetary reward or an “Advocate of the Quarter award” that includes a gift card for a weekend away. Recipients are recognized during quarterly town hall meetings.

Events. Events are another way for employees to bond outside of their normal work environment. A kick-off event each year is one way we bring all of our employees together to get them excited for the coming year. This year’s kickoff included bowling and go-karts and brought all of our employees together from across our various offices.

Worksite health and wellness. Wellness programs are an important way to keep healthcare costs down. It also is a way for employers to show employees they care about their well-being. Wellness programs promote getting healthy and foster camaraderie, and mounting research shows that these benefits are expected by employees.

Our wellness program is based on a point system with three tiers. Employees earn points by competing in fitness challenges and getting recommended preventive checkups like a skin cancer screening, a physical, eye exam or teeth cleaning. If employees use our health insurance, they can get a discount on their premium. If not, they’re still encouraged to participate in well-being activities and can earn gift cards for moving into higher tiers.

Employee engagement survey. You’ll never know how employees feel if you don’t ask them, which is why engagement surveys are so important. We’ve found that a survey conducted every 18 months elicits the best responses on questions around our rewards program, benefits and culture.

Mentoring. Nearly 90% of millennials say that job growth potential is important to them, according to Gallup. That’s why, for example, we’ve created a program that partners new employee benefits and property and casualty consultants with our senior insurance advisers. For the first two to three years on the job, junior consultants participate in “ride-alongs” with their mentors. There’s nothing more valuable than observing first-hand how our senior staff educates prospective clients on our service model. It’s good for our business and it gives our new consultants the support they need while learning the subtleties of a very complicated industry.

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