Unemployment in the United States is at its lowest level since man set foot on the moon.

But while this is good news for the economy, it can provide a pain point for businesses as it means filling vacancies becomes much harder with a dramatically smaller pool of people to draw upon. Even worse is when good staff hand in their notice to head to a rival business – as the next best place to find employees is by poaching them from competitors.

Poaching provides firms with a huge headache – good staff are suddenly gone and not easy to replace. Worse, they are taking their expertise of your business with them – to your rival across town. And it is not plain sailing even for the poacher – after all, what is the main reason someone is going to leave a secure job? For more money of course. So the poacher has to be willing to hand over higher wages, which is going to hit their bottom line.

All in all, the employee has the upper hand in times of low unemployment – your firm suddenly needs them more than they need that particular job, as their skills and experience are suddenly in high demand – and can attract remuneration to match.

What to do?

The simplest answer is not necessarily the best – but many firms will just accept that they have to fight fire with fire and offer higher wages themselves, either to keep the talent they have from leaving for a rival, or to play their competitors at their own game and go poaching themselves.

But there are other ways to attract and retain good staff – and workplace benefits is a great way to go about it.

Many employees do not actually want to change jobs – it is as disrupting for them and their families as it is for your business, and comes with all the fear of the unknown. If your workplace is otherwise a generally good place to be and until now your staff turnover has been low, there are better ways to sweeten the pot for your team.

While the headline wage or salary is, of course, a fundamental part of attracting or retaining staff, it is by no means the whole deal – quite literally. Workers have themselves and their families to consider – and if your package of benefits is good enough then it can more than offset a slightly higher pay level elsewhere. Take life insurance, for example – this is a cheap and easy bolt-on to your benefits package that can give your staff personal peace of mind knowing their family is protected. It is often extendable onto family members as well.

And there are plenty of ways to offer it to your team as well – everything from a fully comped benefit to fully at the employee’s voluntary cost by simple payroll deduction. The same is true for disability benefits, both short and long term – offering these benefits to your people can make your deal a much stronger proposition. After all, most households will struggle to pay the bills if the breadwinner is out of work for more than a few weeks – and you have just given them financial security for a few dollars a month.

And if you have not reviewed your health insurance plan, it is a good time to see if you are competitive with your rivals – with health costs rising sharply, families are acutely concerned about the cost of being ill.

So while many firms see health insurance as just another burdensome cost to be minimized, a firm looking to attract the best talent can turn it to their advantage – by looking at it as an investment in quality labor rather than sunken costs, health insurance can easily be used to keep good staff who will be very reluctant to forego low premiums, copays and deductibles for a few cents more an hour elsewhere.

Use the benefits package as a tool to recruit and retain your people, not as another area to look to cut corners, and your firm will keep the cream of the workforce.  Noble Davis has been in the consulting business since 1987.  If you and your business could use some assistance when it comes to designing a plan that fits your employees’ and company’s needs, we would be happy to help.  Get in touch with us.