With the rise of big tech and an ever-slimming talent pool, employers are scrambling to attract and retain talent. Current trends in the job market are definitively against them; schools are barely able to churn out enough graduates to suit demand for leading software, computer, or robotics engineers to suit industry demand. Even available would-be employees are hesitant to uproot their lives for the sake of a job halfway across the country, regardless of whether the position offers a competitive salary. Compensation matters, but it isn’t necessarily the deciding factor in a candidate’s decision to come onboard.


Prospective benefits, on the other hand, just might be.


Today, much of the conversation surrounding recruiting and employee retention revolves around the subject of worker experience and what can improve it, particularly work life balance. This shift might seem odd, even laughable, to those who worked in HR twenty or thirty years ago, when compensation was the main dish while health or life benefits served as the cherry on top. The situation nowadays is somewhat different; the vast majority of today’s workforce is looking for more than a coin-operated, total-compensation contract. They want to feel valued; they are searching for employers who can meet needs beyond the financial value prop.


The logic is simple. If a company can build a support system and environment that provides its base with services that tangibly improve employees’ lives in and outside the office, those workers will need to think long and hard before they sacrifice those benefits and move to another employer. Thus, a company that takes the time to engineer its non-monetary perks will be able to both attract and, as important, avoid unnecessary turnover costs and retain experienced high-performers for longer than they might have with a total compensation model.


HR professionals need to shift their perspective from total compensation and hone in on a more holistic and human-centered view of employee needs. They need to consider the particular needs of their workers and wonder: “What support or benefit can I offer to my employee base that will make the idea of leaving hard to consider?”


It is a question that demands no small amount of creativity.  


Appealing to a Prospective Employee Base: Millennials


When it comes to career planning, Millennials stand as ideologically far away from Baby Boomers as they possibly can. Younger workers tend to cycle through jobs quickly; according to one recent Gallup poll, 21% of surveyed Millennials have shuffled jobs in the past year — which, for comparison, is more than three times the percentage of non-Millennials who report doing the same. Attracting Millennials might not be difficult, but convincing them to remain in that role even when they spot a potentially lucrative option elsewhere will constitute a significant challenge for employers.


Millennials will leave for a higher paycheck — so what can companies provide beyond money?


While specific offerings will vary on the capabilities of a given business, benefits that bolster day-to-day convenience will likely appeal to younger workers. Pet friendly perks constitute a particularly strong draw for younger workers; by partnering with pet insurance carriers like Nationwide and TruPanion, employees have the chance to save up to 90% on unexpected veterinary bills. For a younger employee who lives in a “pet family” (i.e., someone who might not have children yet but does worry for the health of a dog or cat) an employer-subsidized pet insurance program could stand as an attractive and useful perk.


Appealing to a Prospective Employee Base: Gen X Women


Many women in Generation X, however, do have families and demanding lives outside of their careers. They might not need pet insurance or ask for day-to-day conveniences, but they deeply value thoughtful work-from-home policies and leave options that allow them more time and flexibility to care for their families. IBM, for example, has a phenomenal recruitment and outreach program for women who left the workforce for a year or two to care for their children and only need a little guidance to polish their skills enough to meet current needs. The company has found a way to not only help skilled women who might have otherwise dropped out of the talent pool, but also cultivate positive, long-term relationships with those they draw back into employment.


Alternatively, those who don’t have families already might look for benefits that empower them to have children later in life. According to a 2015 report from the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, a full 48% of women delay starting families to focus on their careers. This pause comes at a cost: the chances of conceiving drop to just 20% every month even fertile women over the age of thirty. Together, these statistics imply that many women in the workplace struggle with infertility: a condition that can cause significant psychological stress and negatively impact their working performance.


Businesses can simultaneously help resolve this stress and gain a competitive edge by making fertility a part of their benefits package. By partnering with a company like Progyny — an organization that offers a host of reproductive counseling services — employers can position infertility care as a draw for potential workers. This particular perk is attractive; the RMANJ study mentioned above also found that a full 68% of women would be willing to change jobs for infertility coverage, and 90% of those already struggling with infertility would do the same.


Implications for the Future of Hiring


Companies need to start thinking of their employees as humans with niche needs, rather than as generalized assets. Those in business today face a mounting hiring crisis: the talent pool is growing ever-more shallow, and employees today are not interested in a compensation-total model. Companies who take the time to delve into the needs of their employee base and determine which benefits will make them feel valued and cared for will have a better shot at obtaining and retaining staff long-term.


The driving idea behind sophisticated benefits design is surprisingly simple:


Develop a clear picture of employees’ unique concerns and create a plan to resolve them.


If employers can accomplish that, they won’t have to battle their competitors for talented employees — the workers will come to them.