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As resignations soar and the war for talent heats up amid a tight labor market, companies are turning to any tool at their disposal to hold on to their workers amid a record onslaught of resignations.
Some, as the Washington Post recently reported, are rolling out digital perks like subscription snack boxes and virtual events to make up for the loss of cafeteria cold brew taps and weekly massages. Others are offering virtual fitness memberships or meditation apps in lieu of access to the onsite gym. Plenty are rolling out extra time off—whether for tired parents or burned out workers.
But what about the more staid retirement plan? In many ways, it’s tailor-made for retaining workers, with 401(k) matches that vest over time, providing extra income and a tax-advantaged benefit employers can uniquely provide. While it hasn’t seen much change yet, benefits researchers say they expect it’s only a matter of time.
“If I had to look into my crystal ball and we were to look down to the end of 2022, it wouldn’t surprise me at all for employers to say we’re going to make these changes,” said Rob Austin, head of research for Alight, a cloud-based provider of human-capital solutions.
I spoke with Austin for a recent story about changes KPMG is making to its benefit plans. Its CEO, Paul Knopp, told me they were the most significant the firm has undergone in the last 10 to 15 years.
But here’s an important question leaders need to consider as they roll out new perks: What happens if they someday decide to take them away? Bloomberg recently reported that Epic Games, the video game company that operates Fortnite, is ending its policy of giving alternate Fridays off, causing an uproar among staff, who’d grown accustomed to the extra flexibility.
There’s the rub for all this newfound employer generosity: Whether it’s higher retirement contributions, extra days off or subscription snack boxes, people will get used to them—and won’t be happy if they’re taken away. Maybe we’re in for a worker revolution that upends the relationship between employees and their companies, and higher wages and work-from-home tech freebies are here to stay. But for many companies, the day will come when they’ll need to make tough choices.
So whether you’re making a choice about where to work based on benefits—or deciding which new perk to roll out to people—think about what’s actually sustainable, and what isn’t.
On Our Agenda
What We’re Watching This Week
FDA meeting expected to cover vaccines for kids: On all your working parent employees’ and colleagues’ minds this week will be a meeting of an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration, which is expected to discuss emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. If you’re a manager, have you thought about how you’ll give people time off to get their children vaccinated?
More earnings: Big tech earnings are ahead this week—including Microsoft, Amazon and Apple, as well as bellwethers like General Electric and General Motors. We’ll be listening for their predictions for how the global supply chain disruptions could affect holiday shopping, consumer spending and other economic factors.
On Tuesday, Forbes released its inaugural For(bes) The Culture 50 Champions, a list honoring Black and Brown industry leaders for their standout impact and service in underserved communities.
The World Series kicks off Tuesday night, with the Atlanta Braves (my hometown team!) facing off with the Houston Astros. Don’t miss the New York Times’ look at the friendship between Braves manager Brian Snitker and longtime former manager Bobby Cox, who suffered a stroke more than two years ago, and the role of institutional knowledge and legacy leaders on shaping teams today.
Five Essential Stories About Work, Careers And Leadership From Around The Web
A Times reporter started following a Chicago law firm’s return-to-work plans in the spring and found that despite all the daily reminders that many people never want to come back to the office, there is also a large and growing group of 20- and 30-something employees who really want to be there.
Also in the Times: a deeply unsettling portrait of what insiders are reportedly calling one of Amazon’s “gravest human resources problems”—how the systems that serve its employees don’t appear to be on par with those that serve its customers. Based on dozens of interviews with Amazon workers and hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the Times, the investigation looks at how the company that built lightning-fast package delivery and technology that guesses our purchasing habits can make multiple errors when handling its workers’ paid and unpaid leaves. Our contributor Jack Kelly weighed in on the news.
Any David Lynch reference grabs my interest, and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson comparing the current state of the U.S. economy to the filmmaker’s “infamously bewildering” movie Dune feels spot on: “You keep waiting for it to just be normal. But it stays weird—big economic indicators point in conflicting directions—so you have to accept that nothing is going to make sense for a while.” Of interest: Thompson’s look at the labor shortage. Is it a “pivotal turning point in the relationship between labor and capital,” or “an air bubble in history” that could pop next year?
The New Yorker’s Tad Friend asks whether MasterClass, the online seminar company whose classes are offered to employees at companies like Google, Apple and Spotify, can really help people achieve true expertise. Quote of the story goes to Paul Bankhead, the chief product officer for MasterClass: “I find myself crying almost every other week at the videos of users responding to our classes, or at the marketing trailers. All companies make Kool-Aid and feed it to their employees, but ours is the best I’ve ever drunk.”
By now, we’ve all heard how tough the holiday shopping season is going to be: Out-of-stock products, delayed shipping and slow supply chains are all expected to disrupt Santa. But how are retail managers getting the workers they need amid a tight labor market? Higher hourly wages, sign-on bonuses and new healthcare benefits are all among the tactics highlighted in this deep dive by HRDive.
The Latest Reads On Work, Leadership And Careers
Journalist Brendan Borrell’s account of the race to create the Covid-19 vaccines is not your typical business book: Instead, it’s a narrative that’s been called “absorbing,” “definitive” and “a vivid portrait of the combination of drudgery, greed, legerdemain, and brilliance that made the vaccines a reality in record time.” But for readers interested in entrepreneurial leadership, The First Shots: The Epic Rivalries and Heroic Science Behind the Race to the Coronavirus Vaccine promises a powerful look at the characters behind this extraordinary feat and the risks and challenges they faced, whether as pharmaceutical giants or bold, aggressive startups.
Key quote:“Governments often dithered, but scientists and entrepreneurs were on the ball,” reads Kirkus’ review of Borrell’s book. “Drawing on extensive interviews, the author uncovers heroes and villains, works hard, if not always successfully, to explain virology and vaccine technology for a lay readership, and excels in recounting the cutthroat pharmaceutical world in which the process of developing a vaccine can bring riches or bankruptcy.”
Work From Home
Forbes contributors on working remotely – and working smarter
Is working remotely really more eco-friendly than commuting to the office?
How to effectively communicate with your team in the hybrid work world.
What the next generation of managers should expect for the hybrid workplace, leading others and the relationship people will have with work.
Land The Job
Forbes contributors on job hunting, interviewing, negotiations and networking
Interviewing for a new job can feel like it drags on forever. Here’s why.
A recent report found 60% of women say they’ve never negotiated over pay.
Find Your Balance
Forbes contributors on work-life balance, stress, taking vacations and juggling it all
This viral anti-work Reddit subgroup is just one part of the revolutionary rallying cry taking place in the workplace.
Why we need a healthier narrative around aging and work.
Getting pushback at work? Here’s how to overcome it.