How to Attract Talent When Health Insurance, a 401K and Unlimited PTO Aren’t Enough

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The traditional FTE job isn’t the model anymore. Some strategies to attract talent in a new world.

I have to preface this by saying I’m not very old. However, I am old enough to remember a time when the status of full-time employee was regarded as the gold standard in the employment landscape.

It boasted the highly-coveted benefits package, job security, and the opportunity to strut up the corporate ladder rung by rung. But times have changed. And until recently, I didn’t realize just to what extent.

In a quest for a more invested workforce, my work decided to swap half a dozen freelance roles for staff roles. But upon sharing this opportunity with a pool of 20-plus freelancers, very few were interested in doing the same job with the addition of full benefits.

In fact, if it weren’t for one freelancer, it would have been met with complete radio silence.

Despite commonly-held assumptions, freelancers are not just those who cannot find full-time work or those who don’t want to work full-time because they earn $93 per hour on average, according to The Motley Fool. Benefits and money aside, they’re those who have discovered much greater benefits than the benefits that employers commonly offer.

We’ve all seen markets crash and retirement accounts disappear in a day, rendering millennials reluctant to invest. We’ve seen the astronomical prices of health insurance begin to drop. And we’ve seen how much we still have to drop on medical bills even when we have insurance.

We’ve seen time off requests get denied, paid time off (PTO) go unused and we all know there’s no such thing as “unlimited” PTO.

Freelance and contract work is on the rise as people leave full-time jobs while making more money, reports The Wall Street Journal. In the process, we have come to find a new silver lining to independent work. And it’s paving the way toward a new gold standard-and a whole new way of approaching how we work.

In fact, 83 percent of digital nomads are self-employed, according to Statista-as are the bulk of those living the 21st-century dream (as seen on social media).

From the parent who has time for tumble time or toddler yoga on a Tuesday afternoon and the twenty-something trotting around the globe to the off-the-grid analyst. But it’s not just the freedom that comes with being freelance.

As the employees continue to trade the title of employee for the status of an independent contractor, employers are scrambling to find innovative ways to retain staff. The answer is often not the most evident. It’s not the unlimited PTO, student loan repayment or on-site kegs of beer.

Sometimes the answer is a bit more surprising–and unrelated to monetary incentives or quirky perks. For example, it’s how the strangest Great Resignation strategy is also the most effective or how Harvard discovered the best way to help employees beat burnout that’s far better than a vacation.

Employers that want to attract and secure top talent, should start thinking like a freelancer as a means to meet them where they are with the benefits that actually mean something to them.

Empower people to empower themselves

Employers may hold power over employees, but freelancers hold power over themselves. They are empowered to choose who they work for, what work they do, where they do it, and how they do it.

Meanwhile, the employee is told when they need to work, where they need to work from, what work they need to do, how they need to do it and who they need to do it for.

But employers can give employees the reins to reign their work.

When employers trust their employees and value the experience, expertise and character that they bring to the table, they want to give them the reins to do their work in the best way possible. This means giving them the reins to do their work in a way that works best for them. The end result is typically a better quality of work, higher productivity, and a happier workforce.

Fit work into life-not life into work

We talk about work-life balance, when in reality, what that means for most is just finding ways to fit life around work.

While we jam life and work together like ill-fitting puzzle pieces, in many instances, if you flip them around they fit together perfectly. But until we take a moment to find the right fit, we end up forcing life into work. And it doesn’t work.

For example, let’s consider working hours. We all know that there are night owls and morning people. But you don’t hear about nine to five people.

Meanwhile, the average employer expects staff to operate between those hours–even if the role is highly independent and does not require it. We require staff to work synchronously so that staff can in calls or essentially on-call should someone need something.

Production-Based Accountability

Perhaps more importantly, independent contractors are paid for the work they do-not the time it takes them to do it. [THIS IS ONLY TRUE FOR SOME ICS; OTHERS CHARGE BY THE HOUR;

There’s no question of whether or not someone did their job when the job is as black and white as whether or not they, well, did their job. The measure of a job well done comes down to the quality of work, not the quantity of time it requires to complete it. And the benefit here isn’t limited to the fact that those who are highly productive can get a lot done in a short period of time.

We feel good when we feel as though we have accomplished something – even if it’s just ticking a task off a to-list or submitting a project. But what we don’t feel good about is spending hours of our day wishing away the hours until the clock strikes five and we’re released into freedom.

People work so that they can have the life they want. But that doesn’t just mean living for the weekend or waiting for retirement. It means enjoying the work that we do and the employers that we do it for.

It might sound like a pipedream to some. But it’s entirely possible-and it exists within organizations that work to make it so. And they just so happen to be the employers that people want to work for.