Give to Receive: Attracting and Retaining Talent 

by Cristina Heta 


If you look back in time, up until the 20th century, a job was just an exchange of  money for hours of labor.  Then, in the early 20th century, companies began to offer on site doctors for high risk jobs, and payments for sick days. And, by the 1950s, corporations used health-insurance as a hook to attract sought after workers to their companies.  That was the beginning of employees going to work for something more than just money; working was the only way to get health insurance (sound familiar!?).  It wasn’t until the last 20+ years that companies looked for new ‘goodies’ to give to their employees, as a way to not just attract, but to retain them.

In today’s work environment, your business is competing with other businesses for talent rather than for workers.  Talent needs to be offered money, plus a series of perks and treatments that make them feel more than a mere worker. So, what are you offering to compete in this market and attract and retain your talent?

By now you should be convinced that you certainly need to give to receive in exchange. Here are four tips to help you come up with what I call ‘your giveaway package’: 

1. Create a strategy to help you choose what to give

As a business owner, you want to spend as little as possible and get as much return on investment as possible from every dollar you spend. I get it, I’m a business owner too.  So it is a must that you strategize on what you offer. This means having a clear understanding of what your options are and then deciding which ones to offer based on the following: what they will add to your company culture, who they will attract and what they will cost.  Understanding your options means opening your eyes to the broad list of possibilities that go beyond money and health benefits. Click on this sample list  to see what other companies are offering. You will find traditional offerings like 401k or dental plans, and more original ones, such as ‘bring your pet to work days’ or ‘monthly groceries delivery service’.  Feel free to use this list as you read along and mark the ones you think are a better fit for your business. 

Once you’ve educated yourself on your options, think about your company culture. Your giveaway package should be aligned with and contribute to your company culture. Giving employees ‘paid volunteer days’ indicates that your company values giving back to the community. Offering a monthly ‘happy hour’ in the local tavern shows you hold employee relationship building and having fun in high regard. 

Then, you want to visualize the type of candidates you want to attract to your company or the employees that you want to retain.  If you run a law firm with twelve attorneys on staff, providing them with tuition assistance may not be a perk they’ll benefit from, but offering them, instead, door-to-door car service, to/from the courthouse, would make them feel valued, as you intended. Try this tip: aim to offer a giveaway package that attracts a diverse candidate pool by including, let’s say, perks that appeal to different generations. It is great to offer babysitting services, but could you also offer elder care services and/or pet services? The more inclusive your package, the richer your candidate pool, and the more diverse your workforce will be. 

The last step on your strategy is to find out how much each giveaway will cost you and, based on that information, decide what you can afford to give so as to remain competitive and stay within your budget. 

2. Pace your giveaways

Large businesses do a great job at pacing their giveaways; smaller companies, not so much. Small businesses focus on giving as much as they can from start, often to compete against large businesses. And, in an effort to make their giveaway package as enticing as possible and attract talent,  they put out their entire giveaway package from the start.  Unfortunately, this is not a good strategy if you want your giveaway package to help you retain talent as well.  Instead, you may try to  incorporate a timeframe by when some of the giveaways come into effect. For instance, add a paid vacation day each year on the day of their anniversary, or free shipping for three packets during the holidays after two years,  or even a 401K match after five years.   However, note that for this to work as a retention tool, the initial offering has to be appealing. Otherwise, this can be perceived as a penalty rather than as an enticing benefit, and you’ll end up becoming unattractive to the talent pool. 

3. Incorporate an element of surprise

We are all children at heart, and one thing all children like is surprises.  Just think about it, it’s common sense. We all get happy when we receive something unexpected that we like. If you just give your employees what you tell them, it’s only a matter of time before what they are getting becomes so expected that they feel entitled to it. I know, ‘entitlement’ is a word that bums me out too. Yet, it’s reality and is also part of the society we live in.  Plan your giveaway package in a way that you keep something under your sleeve, so you can reward and surprise your employees on an ongoing basis. This element of surprise will help contribute to your employees’ satisfaction, which can lead to higher engagement and productivity.  It can be something as simple as tickets to a sports or entertainment event. 

4. Review and renew your offerings

Deciding your giveaway package should not be a once-and-done exercise. Part of the strategic approach we mentioned earlier should  include a timeline for when you will review and assess the effectiveness of your giveaway package, both as an attraction tool and as a retention tool.  

The quality and quantity of candidates interested in working in your business, is the first measure of effectiveness of your giveaway package as an attraction tool.  If you are not getting the right candidates through the door, it could be an indication that you need to either offer something more or different, and you will need to review your offering package. Is it the money you need to adjust? Is it the benefits? Is it the perks? Is it something else unrelated to your package?

There are many factors that contribute to employees deciding to stay or leave a company, such as management style, job satisfaction, or sense of purpose.    However, giveaways (money, benefits, perks…) are consistently proven to feed employees’ satisfaction and impact retention.  The most efficient method to measure whether your employees are satisfied with the giveaways they receive, is by asking them recurrently (once a year or once every two years), either directly or via survey.  That catalog gift they get every year for their birthday may have done the trick the first two years, but may have become outdated by now. It’s not just about them saying, ‘yes, it’s an OK gift’.  The last thing you want is to spend money and not get a return on investment. So, ‘yes, it’s ok’ is not good enough. Review and renew your offerings often enough to wow your employees! 

In summary, giving is the best tool to receiving in exchange.  Be generous within your capabilities. Be strategic to ensure you get a return on your investment. Pace your giveaways to entice retention. Keep something under your sleeve (accounted and budgeted for in your strategic plan, of course) to happily surprise your employees.  And, measure the effectiveness of your giveaways every one or two years, asking your employees and making changes as needed. 

I wish you lots of success putting together or revisiting your giveaway package.

Happy giving!

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