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Is your company suffering from a labor shortage? Are you turning down work or failing to meet goals and leverage growth opportunities because of a lack of qualified workers and high turnover among entry level employees?

Over the past two years, the Women's Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation has met with dozens and dozens of business leaders and each of them described the same untenable situation; they struggle with attraction, retention and engagement, especially among their lower-wage employees.

Vacant positions, employee turnover and absenteeism are disruptive and expensive and there is a clear competitive advantage for organizations that succeed in retaining and motivating their lower-wage employees.

Over the course of this project, we have gleaned some top-line learnings. When you are reviewing your policies, keep an eye out for these issues:

 

Reimbursements:

Any policy that is reimbursement based (tuition reimbursement, transportation reimbursement) is probably not accessible to your lower-wage employees who often don’t have the cash up-front to pay for a service. Consider co-investing with the employee or providing the benefit outright.

Investing in the Immediate Needs of your Employees:

Contributing to your 401(k) is not a priority when you are struggling to put food on the table or make a critical car repair. Often, our benefits are geared toward long-term financial stability, when short-term needs are often a bigger priority for your lower-wage employees. Consider adding benefits like an emergency fund, student loan repayment or childcare subsidies to meet the urgent needs of your workforce.

 

Benefits for Part-Time Employees:

Many lower-wage employees piece together several part-time jobs to make ends meet. Most likely, none of these part-time positions offer benefits, which creates a precarious situation for the employee. Consider extending as many benefits as possible to your part-time employees to create support and stability.

Time of Service Eligibility Requirements:

It’s not uncommon to see turnover rates exceeding 80% in the lower-wage bands. If benefits are meant to support the employee, yet the time of service eligibility to receive them exceeds your average length of employment, the benefit cannot have the desired effect. Consider shortening or removing the time of service eligibility requirement so employees can access stabilizing benefits as soon as possible.

 

The bottom line: Listen to your lower-wage employees and seek to understand their needs. Change policies and practices to reflect what you’ve learned. The Employer Toolkit will give you many options to consider. As you support, stabilize and invest in your employees, they will bring their best to your organization.