The COVID-19 pandemic caused a lot of disruption for retailers across the country. Many in the industry faced supply chain issues that resulted in drastically low inventory levels or even empty shelves. Some states imposed lockdowns that crimped business and led to innovations such as improved online shopping and curbside or in-store pickup of goods. One of the biggest challenges continues to be recruiting and retaining top talent.
One of the significant culprits has been the so-called Great Resignation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2021. And the pace of those quitting hasn't slowed in 2022, with April seeing more than 4 million people resigning. The retail sector has been one of the hardest hit, with hundreds of thousands quitting every month. Companies across the board face staffing issues and have had to raise wages to get workers.
But higher pay isn't the only option or solution to help boost employee retention and recruitment. According to a 2022 Joblist study, 80 percent of employees want more robust benefits packages, especially post-pandemic. Improved benefits can be a considerable retention driver when the offerings reflect employee needs.
One such benefit that many companies have started to include in their benefits packages is fertility coverage, a top-five requested benefit, as well as benefits for surrogacy and adoption. These benefits are growing in popularity as people have families later in life, and because they can help support HR functions including diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives, since all employees can use them — men, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Fertility benefits can help couples experiencing infertility, women who want to be single mothers, or same-sex couples looking to start a family. Those treatments can be life-changing, but they may be out of reach for many would-be parents due to the cost.
Fertility benefits and family-friendly policies make companies desirable places for employment for many prospective and current staff members. When this coverage extends to everyone, it helps ensure a retailer will attract and retain a diverse talent pool.
Workplace diversity has become an exceptionally important value for many, especially for Gen Z and millennial workers who now comprise the majority of the workforce in America. Deloitte's 2022 Gen-Z and Millennial Survey found that young workers are more likely to remain at a given employer for five years or more, provided the employer has DEIB initiatives. Not only can DEIB efforts help to employ top talent, but studies show diverse workplaces also fetch top dollar. A 2022 Gartner study estimated that gender-diverse and inclusive teams succeeded over less inclusive teams by 50 percent.
An optimal DEIB program should do a few things. Firstly, it should benchmark and goal-set. Determine how diverse an employee base is at the outset of a DEIB program to measure and track improvements. Organizations should also reform hiring practices to value demonstrated skills beyond just experience at the "right" company or education from the "right" school. Doing this will help offset internal biases and open a talent pool to new and capable job seekers. DEIB programs should also enable and bolster internal resource groups established and maintained by employees belonging to one or more affinity groups. A step further is to provide intradepartmental knowledge-sharing opportunities to make the most out of a truly varied employee base.
The current job market is unlike anything retailers have seen before. The surge in people bouncing between jobs has raised costs and affected the level of customer service at stores across the country. There's intense competition for workers, and companies face more pressure to retain staff. But a bold and forward-thinking company can use this as an opportunity to make changes that will help with its long-term growth while ensuring a truly diverse and dedicated workforce. This can be a transformative experience leading to high efficiencies, reduced recruitment and training costs, and improved sales. Keeping with the status quo could lead to further challenges that could hurt revenue growth. Fertility and family-forming benefits help individual employees with their family-forming goals, help achieve company DEIB goals, and improve company culture and profitability.
David Adamson, MD, FRCSC, FACOG, FACS, is a reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon, professor at Stanford University and University of California San Francisco. He is also the founder, chairman and CEO of ARC Fertility.
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