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Advantage for tough times: Creating a company that cares

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employee Benefits Program,HR Management,Human Resources

by Cynthia Cobb

Organizations that are perceived as caring companies typically look out for their employees and the communities where they do business.

During hard times, then, companies that care tend to do whatever they can to keep their employees on their payrolls. Simply put, they respect the fact that employees need their jobs.

According to the nonprofit Center for Companies That Care, compensation and benefits practices are among the most powerful tools for enhancing employee well-being. During a recession, a company that cares has to become a company that’s creative about preserving jobs and helping its employees stretch their dollars.

Bon Secours Health System in Virginia, for example, increased its minimum wage to $9 per hour—72% above the state minimum—in the midst of the economic downtown.

Helping employees & employers

Several of the 41 members of the Center for Companies That Care Honor Roll focus on keeping employees healthy during these stressful times, a move that benefits employees and employers alike. Chan Healthcare Auditors in Missouri, for instance, gives monthly bonuses of $40 to employees who stick to healthy diet and exercise regimens. Michigan-based accounting firm Grant Thornton offers employees web-based access to dieticians and personal trainers.

Other companies include employees’ families in their wellness efforts. Many are saving jobs by cutting hours or bonuses so they can avoid layoffs.

These companies know that caring is good for the bottom line. Studies have shown that when employees know they work where managers respect and support them as individuals, they give their best. They’re more fully engaged and productive. They spend less time during the workday worrying about losing their jobs or feeling stressed about the way they’re being treated.

In short, people who work for companies that treat them well will respond in kind.

Where to start

Beginning the caring process is easy: Ask employees what they need. One company did an inexpensive, informal survey of employees and learned that employees were simply in the dark about their employer’s vast menu of work/life benefits. HR made it a mission to spread the word.

You might already have programs and benefits employees want, but don’t know about. It could be that you have benefits on the books that some of your employees never needed when the economy was flush, but that could really help them now. Tell them what you have.

Times are tough, so do what you could afford. Sometimes small kindnesses make the largest impact on someone who needs a little financial help, a nod of appreciation or a nudge to make a healthy lifestyle change. In good times and bad, HR can lead that effort at your organization.

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Author: Cynthia Cobb owns the HR consulting firm 3C Cynthia Cobb Consulting and is a board member and the honor roll program director for the Center for Companies that Care. Contact her at cynthiacobb@companies-that-care.org. Learn more at www.companies-that-care.org.

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