Perks, benefits, culture

Perks, benefits, culture

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Contributors: Emily Bednarz | Published: July 2, 2024

So, you’ve recruited your dream do you retain them? Given recruitment challenges in Nova Scotia (see our Cover Story), it is more important than ever for employers to develop effective retention strategies. We spoke with local industry leaders to learn how employers can hold onto their superstar employees—from offering desirable perks and benefits to fostering an energizing and welcoming workplace culture.

The rise in remote work has changed what used to be a regional competition for talent into a national and global one, says Shardeigh McGillivray, Partner at Venor. “A strong employer value proposition helps attract, engage, and retain top talent,” she explains. “It encompasses the total work experience, including the tangible and intangible rewards and benefits that an employee can expect from working at a company. While the compensation plan is important, employees are focused on the big picture—like work-life balance, career development, culture, and corporate social responsibility.”

Jeff Theriault is Partner at Theriault Financial Inc. and Amanda Greek is Sales Associate. The Theriault team recently worked with a small restaurant in Halifax to introduce a benefits plan. Since introducing the plan, the restaurant’s turnover rate was reportedly reduced by 40%.


At Theriault Financial Inc., Jeff Theriault (Partner) and Amanda Greek (Sales Associate) witnessed the recruitment landscape shift from an employers’ market to an employees’ market, especially post-pandemic. “Employees expect more from their employers and in many situations, if employers do not provide more, employees will start looking for their next workplace,” say Theriault and Greek. “When employees know their employers care about them, they often stop looking elsewhere.”

Part of demonstrating care for employees means providing benefits like health insurance. “In our conversations with clients and prospective clients, employers frequently say that new hires will not sign on unless they have access to a benefits plan,” say Theriault and Greek. “A properly designed, comprehensive benefits plan is now a crucial component in the work environment, and when coupled with a retirement solution, it can turn a job into a career.”

Theriault Financial works with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce to provide health insurance benefits under the Chambers Group Insurance Plan. The plan focuses on small to medium businesses and has expanded over the years to meet the needs and expectations of the workforce. “Employee needs in mental health awareness have increased dramatically, and Employee Assistance Programs have responded by providing more options,” say Theriault and Greek. “As an example, the Chambers Employee Assistance Programs provides ten hours per year of virtual or face-to-face mental health counselling, as well as nutritional and financial counselling.”

Time is money, especially in a competitive recruitment market—and high turnover rates come with a cost. “The time needed to recruit and train new employees when you have constant turnover far outweighs the time needed to plan a tailored benefits and retirement package,” say Theriault and Greek. “We recently worked with a small restaurant in Halifax that struggled with employee turnover. Since introducing their benefits plan, their turnover rate has reduced by 40%.”

Shardeigh McGillivray (left) is Partner at Venor, a local recruiting firm. Thivjan Tharmaratnam (center) is Executive Director at Inclusion Nova Scotia, and Pratibha Popat (right) is Employer Services Manager at TEAM Work Cooperative.


What’s the difference between benefits and perks, and how do they contribute to a welcoming and engaging work environment? “Benefits are an expectation of what employers should be doing, and perks are those added rewards that acknowledge employees’ contributions and value to the organization,” explain Theriault and Greek. “You need to be doing both to create a supportive work culture.”

Employers should make employees feel valued for their contributions, says Pratibha Popat, Employer Services Manager at TEAM Work Cooperative. “One of the best ways to do this is by recognizing employees for who they are and what they do,” she says. “Employers can also establish opportunities for career advancement, be open to offering flexible work schedules, and encourage work-life balance among all employees.”

A recent report showed that 60% of Gen-Z workers said that work-life balance was the most important factor when looking for a new job—only 40% said compensation rates were the most important factor.

Embracing work-life balance may mean that employers offer a hybrid work environment where possible. “Employers must realize that hybrid work is here to stay,” says McGillivray. “A flexible schedule that offers both in-office and at-home work is key to fostering the balance everyone is seeking right now, and it can also boost productivity by eliminating distractions and commute times associated with a physical workspace.”

Ultimately, employers need to be flexible to stay competitive in a tight job market, says McGillivray. “Flexibility is crucial in a market where employees have more influence and options,” she explains. “With many organizations offering hybrid work environments, employees are now more likely to ‘shop around’ and find an employer that meets their needs.”

Thivjan Tharmaratnam, Executive Director at Inclusion Nova Scotia, highlights the importance of opportunities for employee development. “Employers should acknowledge and appreciate employees’ contributions, achievements, and efforts,” says Tharmaratnam. “This can be done by offering professional development opportunities, training programs, mentorship, and career advancement paths.”

McGillivray agrees. “Investing in talent development is important for many reasons including driving innovation, succession planning, attracting top talent, building a positive culture and overall enhancing employee engagement,” she says. “An investment in talent development increases job satisfaction and loyalty and reduces turnover rates.”

Workplace Culture

A recent study from The Muse found that across generational lines, the top reason employees search for a new job is because of toxic, unhealthy, or unsupportive work environments. That same study found that 75% of those workers planned to look for a new job within the next year.

Fostering a healthy workplace culture is crucial for retention, says Tharmaratnam. “A positive culture fosters employee engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty, which contributes significantly to retaining talent,” he adds. “A recent survey conducted by Glassdoor showed that two-thirds of all workers value company culture more than salary in terms of job satisfaction. Also, feeling valued by colleagues, specifically a direct manager, is critical in creating a good workplace environment and retaining talent.”

Popat adds that employees are more likely to stay with their current employer when they feel part of a team. “Employees want to feel connected to their work, coworkers, and the company’s vision, mission, and values,” she says. “Having a strong and healthy workplace culture can often position an organization as an employer of choice, even if they cannot always offer competitive wages or benefits.”

Popat goes on to describe an experience she had working with a Deaf client, who had been searching for a job for over two years. Popat helped her secure an interview at a local hotel. “I accompanied her to the interview to assist both the client and the employer in a seamless exchange of communication,” she says. The client was offered a job on the spot.

The employer went on to work with TEAM Work Cooperative to train their staff about Deaf Cultural Awareness. “Moreover, the employer implemented additional support measures, including a buddy system to ensure the client’s safety and wellbeing, and the whole hotel staff started learning ASL on their own so they could support their new colleague,” says Popat. “The client felt she was a part of a team and had a sense of belonging and loyalty throughout her employment, and she stayed with the organization for many years.”

The story demonstrates how good communication is often at the heart of a healthy workplace. “Employers need to create an environment where regular, open, and honest communication is encouraged,” says Tharmaratnam. “Doing so will support a culture of collaboration, where everyone is working towards a common goal.”

Tharmaratnam adds that a culture is shaped from the top down. “Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping workplace culture,” he says. “Lead by example, demonstrate integrity, empathy, and respect in your interactions with employees, and consistently uphold the organization’s values.”

Above all, employers need to be flexible. “Being curious, open, and willing to learn is a huge step,” says Tharmaratnam. “It can feel intimidating to think of changing a workplace, and it can seem like there are endless hoops to jump through before a workplace is inclusive, but the journey starts with an attitude shift. When employers understand that they may not know every answer to every question and are willing to go and find a solution, that is when things begin to change.”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight

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