By Diana Leonard and Chris Sanders

The Great Resignation and labor shortages are currently plaguing many industries in America, and for the civil engineering industry, the recruiting pains are significant. The new reality is that companies are fighting for a finite amount of talent. What the Great Resignation has taught us is that employees aren’t necessarily leaving the labor force—they are leaving companies that don’t align with their personal values and looking for new jobs with employers that do.

In order to attract and retain talented people, businesses will need to edge out the competition by strengthening the relationships they have with their staff. One way is to provide meaningful benefits that extend beyond the traditional offerings.

Perks that might have been effective in attracting talent only a few years ago, such as coffee bars or weekly free lunches, are no longer resonating the same with employees today. Now people are placing a premium on gaining a better work-life balance, opportunities for career development, and feeling supported by their employers. This is where designing benefits offerings meant to meet the real needs of your staff can make a big impact.

Be an Empathetic Employer
Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, and companies that truly recognize this will stand out. For example, consider a single dad whose eldest son just made the football team. With games starting at 4 p.m. on Fridays, an inflexible schedule means that he won’t be able to make the games. Now imagine if he went to his HR team and worked toward a mutually beneficial solution, shifting work hours on Fridays and allowing him to meet his work obligations and make the games. Now the company has built substantial loyalty and trust with this employee.

Alternatively, consider a working woman whose mother lives in a different state and is in declining health. When she learns that her mother needs a hip replacement, it becomes a major strain: where to begin with insurance, rehabilitation facilities and cost, as well as in-home care assistance? Most of this coordination can only be accomplished during working hours. Something as seemingly straightforward as caring for a parent from afar can be so difficult that it causes this person to fall behind at work due to the mental and emotional strain as well as the time commitment to provide the best care. Instead of being up front, the woman hides this situation from her employer for fear of being reprimanded for her reduced productivity.

Employers can provide resources to support these employees, but it begins with understanding their needs.

Offer Support in Creative Ways
Currently, 73 percent of employees at U.S. companies are respon­sible for caring for a child, parent, extended family member, close friend, neighbor, or even pet. Conventional working hours across all industries often dictate that they spend their time at work coordinating care for their loved ones—calling care facilities, reading reviews, researching alternative care options, and more, all while they’d prefer to be more present at work. When they save those responsibilities until after work, then they are not fully present at home. By understanding your employees’ unique situations, you can recognize what resources, tools, and support they need.

In order to create an inclusive organization when supporting employee caregivers, consider redefining who your benefits and offerings affect. Is it only the employees who work for the company and their direct dependents or spouse? Or could it be more broadly defined to help all employees feel more supported with their caregiving responsibilities? These benefit offerings and programs can and should be customized to the pain points of your workforce.

In addition, look at the existing company policies related to families and caregiving. If employees are using their days off for caregiving, they may not be able to find time to recharge or relax. Instead, customize the leave offerings with those that are designed to be used for traditional paid time off, caregiving leave, parental leave, bereavement leave, and more so that employees can take care of personal needs and then be more present when they do return to work. When considering what family or caregiving-related benefits to implement, one option is a concierge service with more personal care and attention, as caregiving is a deeply personal experience.

Talk to Your Employees—and Listen
One example of a company going a step above on designing benefits is Carollo Engineers. Carollo Engineers uses a one-on-one approach to effectively understand their employees’ needs. As part of onboarding, the HR team meets with every employee individually and confidentially to go over every aspect of their benefits. This helps the team get to know them personally, and to help the company learn about unique situations, as well as potential needs that may be going unmet. Not only does this approach help identify shortcomings in support, it also creates a positive feedback loop where employees are aware of the company’s commitment to their well-being, and they are not afraid to ask for help or raise their concerns.

Employees have been balancing caregiving responsibilities all along, yet the pandemic shed a light on their needs. As we continue to search for talent, designing a benefits strategy that supports this critical group of your workforce is non-negotiable. In doing so, you will increase worker retention and keep employees happy and confident in their workplaces.

About the authors
Diana Leonard is a Certified Profes­sional Services Marketer with more than 20 years of experience leading brand strategy, marketing, and communications for civil engineering firms specializing in the water sector. As the Manager of Media and Communications for Carollo Engi­neers, she leads the development of communications campaigns that build brand awareness and complement the firm’s business development efforts.

Chris Sanders is the Vice President of Strategic Development at Cariloop and supports Cariloop’s Customer Experience team and focuses on continued growth and innovation so that Cariloop can reach more caregivers and their families. As a caregiver himself for his family, he joined Cariloop after he saw the value of a Care Coach helping his grandfather.

About the companies
Carollo Engineers is an environmental engineering firm specializing in the planning, design, and construction of water and wastewater facilities. Learn more at https://carollo.com/.

Cariloop provides a human-powered Caregiver Support Platform to help working caregivers and families plan for and manage the care of their loved ones by pairing caregivers with a dedicated, experienced Care Coach to guide them through the many decisions they make over the length of their caregiving jour­ney. Learn more at https://cariloop.com/.

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