We live in a customer-centric world: the customer is always right. The customer comes first. We need to do what it takes to make the customer happy.
Putting the customer above all else could actually be stopping your business from reaching its full potential. Why? Because as Richard Branson says, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”
Branson’s employee-centric advice isn’t the ramblings of a billionaire trying to promote an inspirational book or memoir. There’s hard evidence backing his claim. Investing in your employees is critical for your business. Even though these programs cost money, the price of unengaged employees is far, far higher than you might expect.
Employee Investment Costs Less than You Think
Employee investment means more than offering flexi-time or basic health insurance. It’s even more than company trips or free lunches. Your relationship with your employees needs to reflect more than token appreciation or attempts at covering the bases. It needs to meet your team where they are.
You see, hiring great employees isn’t hard if you know what you’re doing. New research says that most businesses find the biggest challenge is in keeping employees.
Some leaders fall into the trap of believing they don’t have the time or money to invest in their employees. That’s not true, and the numbers reflect it. As a whole, U.S businesses spend $2.9 million every single day looking for replacement workers, and that’s just the HR funds. It doesn’t count the delays to customer projects, loss of productivity, and loss of future business. So if you think you can’t afford employee investment, ask yourself this: can you afford the cost of replacing them?
Investment is a Demand not a Perk for Gen Z
Employee investment is a smart idea for promoting employee engagement among current workers. But the ‘smart investment’ will soon be a demand.
The next and largest generation of workers are about to hit the labor market in full force: the oldest Gen Zers are leaving college and ready to take on the world. Like the millennials before them, they have different priorities when it comes to their career. Gen Zers don’t want to punch in and out: they want to be invested in their work and know that they are contributing to something that’s in line with their values.
If you want to attract the best of this very-online generation, then you need to be able to speak to their priorities. According to Dynamic Signal, Gen Z is more worried about work-life balance and personal well-being above all else: 39% of say it’s the most important thing about their role.
Only 13% rank income as their greatest priority when looking for a job. The common benefits already available (e.g., health insurance, student loan help, and supplementary insurance) will still be important. But they’ll also demand more personalized voluntary benefits.
For example, offering lifestyle options like wellness programs will be important, particularly for workers with chronic conditions for whom navigating the U.S. healthcare system is already difficult thanks to constant government changes to policies, the ongoing care shortage, and other crises.
But these need to go further than offering office yoga once a month. Mindfulness can include things like thinking carefully about what food you stock in the office kitchen and providing options for people who need to be careful about what they eat as well as allowing medical leave whenever they need it. Enabling workers and supporting their health with education about diet and lifestyle changes will make a difference to new recruits.
Research by Deloitte also found that Gen Z is taking a new approach to learning. In the face of the depreciating market value of a college degree, Gen is reevaluating the necessity of traditional education. Yet, they’re also more proactive in seeking out learning opportunities and chances to upskill.
Your willingness to invest in them through means beyond funding an MBA will make a huge difference in your ability to attract and retain talent, which will become increasingly important in the next few years as Baby Boomers continue retiring by the millions.
Strategic Investment Makes All the Difference
Are you ready to go beyond basic benefits and help your employees be the best they can be? Investing in your team requires a strategy rather than a one-off program.
For example, when you can create your health and wellness benefits, you should use a three-to-five-year plan that outlines your goals for each benefit. For example, you should have a goal for your in-house movement program and a strategy for enabling employees to practice mindfulness.
All of these can help employees improve their health in ways that insurance coverage and one-off programs can’t. What’s more, you can target and re-target them to meet your employees’ needs. In this way, your benefits are living and breathing along with your employees, so they’ll always be relevant.
Investing in professional development in the same way is also crucial. One way to offer this is through the development of Individual Development Plans (IDP), which recognizes each individual’s values and goals and helps them get the most out of their time at work.
Keeping up with these plans will also help your HR team determine what’s working as they plan employee development and training programs. You could even go a step further and create a Chief Learning Officer (CLOs) role, who can lead the company’s educational and training programs based on the (CLOs) training in education and pedagogy.
Whether you believe in Richard Branson’s advice or you have some concerns, it’s important to ask yourself: young or old, whether they stay or leave, can you afford not to invest in your employees? The answer is almost always no.