I hear the word “value” in all sorts of association conversations lately:
- “Is my association delivering value to my members?”
- “What’s my association’s value proposition?”
- “What are our guiding values?”
I’m sure you’ve participated in discussions like these, and you may have answered all of the top-of-mind value questions long ago. I’d like to suggest, however, that we often miss a critical topic in our discussion of association values – what value do we offer our staff members?
It’s a critical question at a time when recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented employees is more difficult than ever. A recent Gallup study reports that just 15 percent of workers globally are engaged with their work, and a five-year study from The Engagement Institute estimates the reduced engagement of the remaining 85 percent costs companies between $450 billion and $500 billion each year.
Losing talented staffers costs associations in terms of money, skills, and institutional knowledge. Keeping them means discovering what they truly value about working for your association and making sure they have it.
Why Traditional Perks and Benefits for Associations May Be Outdated
In the last century, employers used pensions and healthcare benefits to attract and retain employees. When President Franklin Roosevelt froze wages and salaries of all workers in the United States during World War II, his executive order exempted “insurance and pension benefits” from the moratorium. Therefore, if companies couldn’t offer higher salaries than their competitors to attract employees, they could offer increasingly generous pension plans and life and health insurance plans. After the war was over, these benefits were codified into the American work life.
Today, quite a bit has changed about the American workforce, and it bears little resemblance to the workforce of the 1940s. In an analysis of the U.S. population, the Brookings Institute recently reported that three decades ago, 80% of the population identified as white. By 2019, that percentage dropped to 60.1 percent. As the population diversifies, so does the workforce.
Race, however, is only one marker of workplace diversity among many others. As an example, we now have five distinct generations working together – from the silent generation to Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Gen Z. Five generational cohorts means five different needs for benefits. A Boomer is probably looking at retirement from a totally different viewpoint than a Gen Z worker, and 401(k) plans have different meanings for members of each cohort. One single traditional benefits plan might not be the best solution for your employees, but you can’t possibly offer five different packages to suit your various age cohorts. Or can you?
What Can You Offer Without Going Broke?
One of the recent trends in human resources is to offer a menu of benefit options and let the staff member construct their own package. Most offerings like this start with a core package of salary and a retirement plan paid for by the company. Then, the company offers a menu of benefits an employee can add to their core package. Paying for benefit add-ons can be the responsibility of the employee, the company, or a combination of the two. These benefits can include:
- flexible work arrangements (beyond just pandemic-related work-from-home options) such as four-day work week, ROWE, or job sharing
- financial wellness programs
- better health insurance benefits, including dental and vision
- paid time off; more vacation time
- mental health benefits
- family-friendly benefits for family planning, new parents
- professional development benefits
- student loan & tuition benefits
- financial literacy training
- pet-friendly benefits
- social responsibility benefits
- free snacks & coffee
Each association should conduct its own needs assessment to determine which benefits resonate with their staff members.
Your Benefits Should Reinforce Your Culture
Our definition of culture:
Organizational culture is the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and “stuff” that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued inside an organization.
Your benefits package should arise from your culture. Choosing your benefits from the perspective of strengthening your culture should ensure that you choose wisely. And it’s okay to drop some benefits and add others as your association changes.
Is Professional Development the First, Best Benefit?
Although we can list a large number of possible benefits for your association, one particular benefit may be very attractive to your staffers and relatively easy to provide. I’m talking about professional development. Why?
According to a Gallup report, 87 percent of millennials report “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in their current job or when looking for a job. In contrast, a smaller percentage of others surveyed (69%) reported the same interest in professional development. A majority of both groups, however, indicated that opportunities to grow at work were important in their decisions to stay or leave a company.
You can identify areas where extra help may be needed by asking your staff members. Or check to see where execution may be weak. Closing skills gaps will help throughout the association. Challenging teams to stretch for new goals, with appropriate training to support them, will give them new confidence and greater satisfaction with their jobs.
Get Outside Help for Your Association
You may have the resources to conduct professional development internally, but if you don’t, you’ll need to recruit outside help. We’re not doing business in 1945, so why should the value you offer your employees get stuck in the last century?
Recruiting and retaining talented employees is vital to your mission, and business coaching can help improve strategy, execution, and culture. Our coaches can work either with individuals or with the whole management team. The group process involves a series of monthly calls (and quarterly deep dives) to work through strategic topics. Group level coaching also includes an Align online dashboard tracking and reporting process against goals – so everyone can see their efforts producing results in real-time.
If you have questions about business coaching, we are here any time. Our culture-driven coaching program gives you actionable strategies you can use today to build a more dynamic and agile learning organization. Find out more about business coaching and the Rockefeller Habits for associations.
Photo by Christin Hume