Why Aren’t Employers Giving PR Employees the Benefits They Want?

By now, the “war for talent” has been well-documented. We’re facing a shortage of talent. Employees hold all the cards. Employers need to adapt in terms of what employees really want in the new economy.

Except, here’s the problem: They’re not doing that.

Not even close.

Why Aren’t Employers Giving PR Employees the Benefits They Want?

According to Ragan’s 2020 Salary and Workplace Culture Survey, employers seem to be going through the motions when it comes to attracting and retaining key talent.

What am I talking about?

For starters, the survey found that a full 57% of respondents got a 1-3% salary increase in 2019. I’m so motivated just hearing that number! How do you expect to keep star employees motivated when you’re giving them, essentially, what amounts to a cost-of-living increase? If attracting and retaining talent is truly key to a company’s success, this just isn’t going to cut it.

Personal story: I worked for a health care company earlier in my career. This company offered the standard 1-3% increase each year. These increases were doled out to employees based on performance, believe it or not. As though the employee who received the 3% increase was saying “Man, I got a 3% increase! I’m going to work even harder next year to get 3% again!” This was extremely demotivating and actually was a contributing factor in me (and most likely many others, at the time) looking for other opportunities.

But, we know pay isn’t the only factor in attracting and retaining key talent. Benefits play a central role in 2020. Unfortunately, the gap between what employers are offering and what employees want could not be wider.

The Ragan survey asked respondents what they wanted, in terms of benefits, from their employer? Here were the top results:

Professional development – 63%

Ability to work from home – 63%

Free coffee – 62%

Flex hours – 55%

No surprise there, right? I’m constantly AMAZED in talking to friends and colleagues that companies refuse to pay for PRSA, IABC and MIMA memberships. I mean, we’re talking about $ 300-400! Worse, they’re usually not open to funding trips to professional development conferences and events either. Want to up your content marketing chops by going to Cleveland to hit Content Marketing World? That’s usually met with “why don’t you find a local event instead?” It’s time to start taking professional development seriously. It’s not a “nice to have”–it’s a MUST HAVE. This data is reinforcing what we already knew.

Or, what about the ability to work from home? Another huge perk almost every employee would value. I can’t think of one person I know who wouldn’t want to have the flexibility to work from home every now and then. Yet, companies simply refuse to adopt this cultural shift–for many reasons (namely, they don’t trust employees). This one feels like the easiest perk for employers to provide–with a huge upside. I mean, what’s the downside for employers here? Less real estate costs, potentially? More satisfied and fulfilled employees? I’d love to hear real, honest reasons about why more companies can’t do this. It just seems ludicrous in our field to not allow employees to work from home once in a while.

On the other side, here are the top benefits companies ARE providing employees in 2020:

Medical insurance – 98%

Vacation – 97%

Dental insurance – 95%

No one is complaining about receiving medical coverage and vacation time. But, we don’t see the most coveted benefits (professional development, flex time, ability to work from home) anywhere on this list–not at all.

What’s more, a key benefit on the compensation side is only offered to 15% of respondents–profit-sharing.

Companies don’t seem to be taking recruitment and retention seriously. Not really. Not when you see stats like these. Not when you hear stories like I do from colleagues complaining about not having the ability to work remotely, not getting paid what they’re worth, and not getting what they need in terms of professional development.

Now, that’s not to say this isn’t happening at all. Agencies like Bellmont Partners, locally here in Minneapolis, do encourage employees to work where they need to, as long as employees get their work done. Or, my friend Heather Whaling’s agency in Columbus, which “focuses on delivering high-quality results instead of billable hours.” Really smart.

So, it is happening–just not in big numbers. Not in the way it needs to if companies are going to attract and retain the talent they need to succeed in the next 10-20 years. It’s working…for now. Mostly because the Boomers are still in charge. Once that changes, over the next 10-20 years, I think you’re going to see a big shift in the way companies treat employees. Time will tell, of course, but that’s my thought–and hope.

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