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CFA, investment adviser and portfolio manager, Manulife Securities Inc.

Workplace well-being programs are increasingly becoming a competitive imperative. Research has shown that the best- performing companies on financial performance metrics are about 11 times more likely to offer holistic well-being programs than their lower-performing competitors.

Based on a study by Deloitte, despite the apparent growth in workplace well-being programs, there is still more to be delivered if employers would like to raise productivity or at least deliver what employees want.

Today, if your employee offerings includes only the traditional benefits of life and disability insurance, health and dental coverage and retirement savings, you are at risk of becoming undifferentiated.

Gone are the days of cookie-cutter plans based on standardized offerings. Employees are a business’s most important asset, so creating a workplace plan that delivers what employees care about is important for delivering on the business owner’s objectives of improving performance through reducing turnover, absenteeism and attracting top talent.

Employees care about flexibility, transparency and personalization. Integrating these needs into the workplace strategy is critical for success.

To address employee turnover, let’s look at the largest generation in the work force, the millennial generation, born from 1981 to 1996.

For seasoned business owners and human resource professionals, retaining millennials can seem like a daunting task. Although it may seem like millennials have a constant case of the “grass-is-greener” career syndrome, your business is more likely to have success with employee retention if you understand what they value.

Research shows that millennials value free time, quality of life, new experiences and lifestyle enhancements more than material possessions or career success. I don’t totally agree with this research, but it would be inconsiderate to totally ignore it altogether. What are the solutions you can offer as an employer?

Let’s go through two items on the list of what is valued by millennials, starting with free time – that is easy, flexible work schedules are highly desired. Maybe starting at 10 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. will help employees accommodate their family life or possibly get in a workout before the workday.

In regard to quality of life, millennials are nervous about rising health-care costs, and most believe they will live longer due to medical advancements. A dual strategy of improving your medical benefits plans through a preferred pharmacy network combined with improved finances via a health-care spending account could be considered.

With the increasing awareness of mental health efforts through initiatives such as Bell Let’sTalk campaign, employee mental health has been an area of growing concern for business owners. Mental health issues can cause approximately 500,000 Canadians to miss work and are associated with 30 to 70 per cent of disability claims and costs to employers’ benefit plans.

A focus on support is critical. A combination of mental and financial counselling along with employee health initiatives could alleviate concerns. Access to valuable counselling services could be made available to employees and their family, as a tax-free benefit to the employee and a tax-deductible expense to the employer. Gym memberships or lifestyle-linked benefits could be sponsored by the employer, with the view that workouts improve both physical and mental health and thus reduce absenteeism.

Lastly, employee stress is increasingly caused by finances and is an unproductive distraction from work. So, providing a valuable savings-matching program, along with financial counselling resources, can help access professional advice and reduce stress.

In today’s strong economy with low unemployment, differentiated workplace plans help firms appeal to current and prospective employees and keep top talent engaged.

A well-articulated workplace strategy does not just include compensation and benefits. Today, you must reward employees with a more holistic and customized benefit package that may include things such as flex time, career and life counselling, maternity leave enhancements and supportive daycare options.

Therefore, in order to attract and retain employee talent, it is becoming more important for employers to make benefits packages front and centre during hiring and in employee communication efforts.

Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.

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