Industries across the spectrum are struggling to find and retain employees in today’s labor landscape. The promotional products industry is no different. Most of us have heard this sentiment expressed anecdotally, experienced it personally, or simply sensed it must be the case based on a confluence of global, economic and social difficulties that the average worker has to contend with.
But it also bears out in raw numbers. The Conference Board, dedicated to helping companies anticipate the future, conducted four surveys with companies of varying sizes across different industries, dating back to April 2020, the most recent of which showed the gravity of employee retention in 2022.
Eighty-four percent of organizations hiring professional and office workers claim to be having trouble finding talent. Nearly the same percentage is applied to manual service workers. Additionally, 64% of organizations with many professional and office workers claimed difficulty retaining talent, which is more than double what was reported in the April 2021 survey. These numbers are again comparable when applied to manual service workers.
Keeping employees happy, not only in their roles at a company, but in their lives, is a key to retention. That takes more than salary. It takes thoughtful and evolving benefit packages.
“Employees have learned that they have choices in how they work and when they work,” says Kathleen Quinn Votow, CEO of TalenTrust and author of DARE to CARE IN THE WORKPLACE: A Guide to the New Way We Work. “They want their employers to listen and respond to their needs.”
As part of our ongoing coverage of The Great Resignation’s impact on the promotional products marketplace and the way companies are adapting to it, PPAI Media has conducted a straw poll among member companies to help the industry understand competitive benefit packages, work-from-home policies and approaches to the labor market’s challenges. What kind of benefits can smaller companies offer to compete for talent with larger organizations? What type of standard should larger companies set in terms of employee benefits?
In the first of a two-part series, we meet HR personnel and decision-makers from six companies who share their approach to be benefits. In Part Two, to be released Wednesday, we’ll take a look at some creative ways these and other companies help employees achieve better lives, and why that’s so important.
PPAI Media: Are there any benefits, whether unique or traditional, that your company offers that your employees have expressed strong gratitude towards?
Britt Chavers, Human Resources Coordinator, Goldner Associates, D10: We strive to have a great selection of benefits and know that taking care of our people is the right thing to do. We offer a wonderful traditional benefits package including employee health, vision, dental insurances, 401(k) plus matching, indemnity insurance plans, HSA, fully remote or hybrid schedules and an extremely generous PTO policy.
Geoff Brown, Vice President, KG Specialties LLC, D3: Hiring people has been challenging, so we offer incentives to our employees. If they refer anyone from their network of friends/family and it sticks, then they get a check. In addition to an above average wage, we have a time share that all our employees have access to.
Melissa Slattery, Human Resources Manager, Brandvia Alliance, D10: We offer paid flexible time off instead of accrued paid time off; that seems to be going well.
Stephanie Bass, Director of Global Human Resources, BAMKO, D11: We offer every team member an annual charity match of $300. Philanthropy and giving back to the communities we live in are core to who we are as a company, and we want to help support the causes that are near and dear to our team’s hearts.
Sierra Brodleit, President, ChicoBag Company, S3: We have continued covering 100% of employee medical premiums and provide every employee with a “healthy lifestyle benefit” to either upgrade their health plans, cover dependents, or add dental, vision, life, gym membership or other benefits in line with their lifestyle. We also have a weekly half-hour yoga class via Zoom that is a favorite for many.
*Sarah Burgin, Vice President of Human Resources, Cap America, S10: We strive to offer benefits and perks that our employees find beneficial and are grateful for, and we would like to say that we have taken an employee‐centered approach, meaning that we ask our employees what benefits they value and what types of benefits are important to them. Like most companies, benefits such as medical, dental, vision, life and 401k are a standard component of what we offer. Based on information and renewals, we are competitive with these benefits amongst our peers and our employees recognize that. We also offer a tuition reimbursement program for employees, scholarship program for dependent children of employees, and internships that are beneficial and enriching to the employee and employer.
*Since responding for this article, Burgin has transitioned roles at Cap America to vice president of finance/controller.
PPAI Media: Have there been new policies, like work-from-home, that you have implemented in the past few years to accommodate the varied needs of your employees?
Chavers, Goldner Associates: For our Nashville headquarters, we created a more generous work-from-home policy where we are physically in office only on Wednesdays and then work from home the rest of the week. The policy has been very well received with our employees, and they are happy with the flexible hybrid schedule.
Brown, KG Specialties: We encourage whole health, so if our employees need a day off or need to work from home, we’ll support that. We also fuel our employees’ dreams, so if they’re passionate about volunteering and need a day off to do that, then we celebrate that.
Slattery, Brandvia Alliance: We are moving forward with a hybrid work environment where employees can work-from-home or the office based on their team and their particular job function. Without this flexibility, I think we would lose a portion of our workforce, so it is a necessary change. It is going very well, and the employees are very happy with it, so it is a win-win.
Bass, BAMKO: Yes, all our employees are now permanently work-from-home except those who have indicated they wish to return to an office on a flex schedule. There is no requirement to report to an office.
Brodleit, ChicoBag Company: We have always tried to embrace flexibility as part of our culture, but we now have the majority of our workforce flexing their time or 100% remote, depending on their preference and role.
Burgin, Cap America: Cap America is currently working with NetSuite to enhance our business, as well as moving towards the flexibility of working remotely. We would like to be able to have the option to work from anywhere for the departments that have that flexibility. While we will not be able to do that companywide, we are exploring and are excited to be able work remotely in the future. This is an extremely exciting initiative for Cap America.
PPAI Media: Have you noticed any increased difficulty in finding or retaining workers in the past two or three years?
Chavers, Goldner Associates: It’s been more difficult hiring and the process takes longer, but we’ve had success at sourcing and retaining top quality candidates. We pride ourselves on having long tenure with our employees due to the remarkable culture we’ve fostered through the past 70 years. We are a flexible company who is willing to adapt as the landscapes continue to change.
Slattery, Brandvia Alliance: Like all companies, we are affected by The Great Resignation. I don’t think we are disproportionately affected, but it has been challenging to hire and retain employees for all levels of jobs.
Bass, BAMKO: We have always set a high bar when it comes to bringing on new team members, so with the added obstacles of increased competition and a shrinking talent pool, we have faced some recruiting challenges. That being said, we have brought on some phenomenal talent over the past few years and have no doubt we will continue to hire the best of the best.
Brodleit, ChicoBag Company: We have fortunately been able to fill open positions when needed, but we have noticed a decline in the number of applicants.
Burgin, Cap America: Since we are event driven, we first felt the full force of these issues during COVID. Unfortunately, we had to lay off some employees, which was short lived, thankfully. Since then, we have significantly grown in employee count and sales, and the flow of interested applicants has slowed down starting about two years ago. With the employment market being extremely competitive, we have deeply examined our internal pay structure based on the external market. After doing so, we significantly increased wages and continue to monitor our internal and the external market for necessary changes that may need to be made.