The invisible perk employees actually need

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Pawternity leave, unlimited vacation and margarita Fridays — these are the perks that so many clients use to compete in today’s talent war. Sure, perks can create hype, but they fail to address employees’ greatest need: care.

Making sure employees feel cared for every day when they come to work is the most impactful benefit an employer can provide. Care might seem like a fluffy or intangible thing, but Limeade Institute research shows that this is simply not true.

When employees feel cared for, they are nine times more likely to stay at their company for three or more years and seven times more likely to feel included at work. They are also four times less likely to suffer from stress and burnout, and twice as likely to be engaged at work.

But the question remains: what exactly is care? Care is the provision of what’s necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance and protection of something. It’s looking after and providing for the needs of someone or something.

It’s not about ping-pong tables and happy hours, although those can be nice, it’s about those day-to-day moments and human interactions — like when an employee meets with their manager, sits with a colleague in the lunchroom during break or runs to the pharmacy during the workday to pick up a prescription for their sick child.

These are the moments that make employees feel truly cared for by their company. Do they feel valued? Do they feel supported professionally or otherwise? This is care.

The good news is, most companies do care for their people — they just don’t know how to show it in an authentic, scalable way. But it’s possible and many companies already have the building blocks in place. A good way to start is by infusing messages of care into your programs. Remove the parts that feel punitive and mandatory and replace them with opportunities for individual, whole-person improvement that reconnects employees to their purpose — at work and in life.

Create environments where employees can bring their whole selves to work and develop opportunities for employees to voice their feedback and opinions. Then put changes into action. Be transparent. Seek feedback and keep putting the effort in.

If you’re not sure where to get started, here are some areas to focus on:

Start with the basics. Evaluate things like health insurance, fair pay and safety measures. Are your employees’ basic needs in these areas being met?

Show your employees they are valued. Not only should employees feel like they can bring their true selves to work, this effort should be encouraged and valued. It should be cultivated. Are you actively seeking communication and feedback from your employees? Create a space for this.

Elevate Purpose. Look for ways to connect personal purpose to organizational purpose. Evaluate if your corporate social responsibility program matches your values or develop opportunities for employees to bring purpose to their community outside of work.

Care is invisible. It’s a feeling. But it’s also a legitimate business strategy that can result in incredible business gains. Benefits professionals have the power to establish this feeling through the programs they implement.

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