Employees and job candidates are looking for more than a paycheck today, and HR leaders need to respond accordingly if they hope to continue attracting, hiring, and retaining high-performing people. One answer: Draw outside the traditional benefit lines to invest in employee programs and benefits that promote personal development.

High on the list of what employees want is a culture of caring. They want to work for companies that go beyond core benefits and believe in the value of helping employees flourish not only in their current role, but in their careers and in their personal lives. Here are four examples of how you can insert personal development into your hiring and retention strategies.  

1. Company-provided Upskilling and Reskilling

Skills training is among the top perks younger workers are seeking in a new job. According to a 2021 Gallup survey, 66% of workers between ages 18-24 ranked learning new skills as the third-most important perk when evaluating new job opportunities. The only perks that ranked higher were health insurance and disability benefits. A January 2022 report by Cengage Group, an educational content, technology, and services company for schools and libraries, found that employees participation in online training is at an all-time high.

Reskilling and upskilling also yields dividends for the company. First, it’s cheaper than hiring new people for the same skills. Second, The World Economic Forum has projected more than 1 billion people globally will have to be reskilled by 2030 to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies. 

2. Coaching and Mentoring

A 2019 survey by the Human Capital Institute and the International Coaching Federation found that companies with a strong coaching culture reported higher outcomes ranging from higher customer satisfaction to greater regulatory compliance to more effective change management.

3. Mental Health for Everyone

Employees are increasingly leaning toward companies that embrace emotional safety at work and offer preventive programs for mental, emotional, and behavioral health. One in five US adults has experienced a mental health issue, which makes a strong argument for preventive rather than reactive mental wellness programs. And that was before the pandemic. A 2021 research project into employee resilience by the mental health platform Unmind and the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), found that:

  • 45% of employees had experienced symptoms of burnout in the previous 12 months
  • 38% felt their mental health and wellbeing was negatively affected by the pandemic
  • 31% were placing importance on looking after their mental health and wellbeing the previous 12 months

4. Holistic Health Strategies

Employees have always grappled with several challenges in their lives, at work and at home. Now, they’re looking for companies that help mitigate or even prevent some of those crises. In addition to taking a broader approach to employee mental health, MetLife research recommends three other steps to boost employee wellness (and improve your employer brand to job seekers):

  • Promote total physical wellbeing, including such perks as discounted gym memberships, stipends to reimburse workers for purchasing at-home exercise equipment and subscription to websites or apps with a variety of exercise classes for all fitness levels.
  • Provide resources to boost financial wellness. MetLife’s study found that 81% percent of employees feel major financial stress, a leap from 52% before  COVID-19.
  • Create social outlets. Research from the Academy of Management says social interactions like daily small talk helps employees feel more positive and leads to an increased sense of wellbeing. Ways to keep the conversation flowing, even in hybrid work environments can be as simple as creating hobby groups and implementing virtual chat software

The challenges employees are facing today aren’t unprecedented, but employees are more empowered than ever to work for companies that take a more proactive approach to developing a culture of caring.