Anyone looking at workforce numbers today is wise to be concerned. The two oldest generations—"Silents," born before 1946, and Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and1964—are poised to retire in the coming years, and the younger generations—X and Y—that will replace them are much smaller. According to a study by Ajilon Finance, in 2006 two workers left the workforce for every one entering.
The economic downturn of 2009 isn't going to be permanent, so the impending long-term worker shortage begs the question, “How do I at least keep the best of my current, non-retiring workers who are much easier and less costly to retain than replace?”
Determining the key to satisfied employees is no small task given the variety of employee attitudes on the subject. However, one commonality that surfaces among all employees is the desire to feel valued as a whole person rather than just as a workhorse.
One creative way to address work/life balance is to offer what hotels have been providing their guests for years—concierge services. Concierges can offload simple and time-consuming chores from employees, giving them time back to enjoy with their family and friends or do with as they choose. Even just running to the supermarket to pick up groceries, or taking a car for servicing, provides a very real time saver.
The three most popular services, according to Best Upon Request, a concierge services provider, are:
1. Personal shopping.
2. Automobile services.
However, many other services are available, such as:
Personal services such as gift wrapping.
Event planning for birthday, graduation or special event parties.
Transactional services (one concierge ordered 330 pies for employees just before the Thanksgiving holiday in 2008).
Corporate support, such as conducting a fund-raising campaign for the United Way.
One example of travel planning is helping with family vacations. The concierges make airline reservations, find hotels and procure rental cars. Many times they find great bargains, saving the employee more than just time.
“Most adults spend more time at work than they do at home. It is important that our work environment is a healthy one in that associates feel engaged and appreciated,” says Jack Weiner, president and CEO at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Michigan. Will Wagnon, CEO of MountainView Hospital, adds, “We are very pleased to offer concierge services to our employees. We are always looking at ways to enhance our employee experience, and this gives us a chance to help our employees find more time away from work to pursue their interests.”
Jennifer Cook, a registered nurse at University Hospital in Cincinnati, says that her employer-provided concierge service lets her be in two places at once. “When I moved, they went [to my home] and waited for the phone and cable company to come so that it made it possible for me to be at work that day,” she says.
But more than just ‘feel good’ results have been accomplished. There's quantifiable return on investment (ROI), too.
Several clients have documented substantial decreases in employee turnover, which they attribute at least partially to their concierge program. For example, Bronson Healthcare Group in Michigan reported that after making concierge services available, there was an overall employee turnover drop of 54 percent while nursing turnover fell 49 percent in the same three years.
Employees who use concierge services report, according to Best Upon Request, that they save an average of two hours for each fulfilled concierge request. Half of them say they put that time back into their work.
Best Upon Request’s survey results show that 93 percent of employees say concierge services help reduce their stress, and 92 percent say that concierge services help them balance their work and personal responsibilities.
Side Benefit: Improved Profitability
A consequence of having satisfied employees is improved financials. Says Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, “There is one key to profitability and stability during either a boom or bust economy: employee morale.”
Studies are showing this to be true. Research by consultancy Press Ganey Associates shows, for the health care market, a high correlation between employee and patient loyalty (0.575) which, in turn, reduces turnover costs and increases patient admissions. The Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement based at Northwestern University claims that “happy employees have a positive impact on company revenue and profits,” finding a one-unit increase in employee satisfaction leads to a 0.31-unit increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.28-unit improvement in financial performance.
Investing in work/life initiatives such as concierge services can make a real difference in the way employees feel about their value to their employers. This feeling of appreciation helps employees decide to stay with their current employers rather than leave for greener pastures. One concierge services customer from Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Michigan recently wrote, “Thank you for having the creativeness and insight to bring this service to Crittenton. Getting help in life, being taken care of are as important to my well being as being able to pay my bills. Now, you have provided a degree of both. Thank you for an unbelievably wonderful employee benefit that I will continue to use and appreciate to the fullest.”
Tillie Hidalgo Lima is president and CEO of Best Upon Request Inc., a Cincinnati-based provider of concierge services.