Two Thrifty Ways to Make Every Day Labor Day

At many companies, Labor Day is simply a one-day work break marking the transition from summer to fall. This year, why not use the holiday as it was intended by celebrating the contributions of workers whose dedication keeps businesses running every season of the year?

Many employers continue to dig their way out of the recessionary environment and don’t have funds on hand to honor workers with bonuses or expensive Labor Day events. That’s no problem, though, because two gestures most coveted by employees cost businesses nothing at all.

Don’t be stingy about saying “thank you”

Workers at all levels have something in common – they want their efforts to be noticed and valued. It’s no surprise that raises have been hard to come by lately, but the eyebrow-raising news is that simple words of appreciation are almost as rare.

A recent John Templeton Foundation report revealed that people are less likely to say thank you at work than anywhere else. What’s more, leaders aren’t the only guilty parties: 74 percent of workers never or rarely thank the boss, yet 71 percent would feel better about themselves and 80 percent would work harder if their leaders expressed gratitude to them.1

Some bosses withhold kind words because they believe it makes them seem stronger, but they may be undermining their own success. According to the report, less than one quarter of workers (18 percent) believe a grateful leader can be considered weak. Instead, most workers (93 percent) believe a grateful boss is more likely to be successful due to employee support.1

Because an attitude of gratefulness can be contagious and contributes to employee morale, productivity and fulfillment, encourage company leaders to say thank you when kudos are deserved. It will go a long way toward making employees feel their efforts are valued.

The thrifty way to boost employee benefits

It may surprise you to learn that 59 percent of workers who participated in the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report said they’d choose a job with robust benefits over a job with a slightly higher salary.2 That’s not to say that the average employee would turn down a generous raise. It simply shows that the dizzying array of changes to company-paid benefits and the impending implementation of health care reform have workers concerned their families might be underinsured and under-protected.

The U.S. recession hit workers where it really hurts: in their wallets. While employees struggled to make ends meet on stagnant or even lowered incomes, many were also asked to pay increased portions of their workplace benefits costs.

As businesses concentrate on shoring up their bottom lines and staying strong for the future, many continue to increase health insurance deductibles and co-payments. In some cases, they’re eliminating benefits altogether.

There’s no doubt that companies must control costs to stay afloat. But while they’re looking for ways to trim expenses, some are overlooking their most important assets: The workers whose hard work and skills keep them in business.

During the depths of the recession, as positions were cut and new ones were hard to come by, many workers made conscious decisions to remain in their current jobs until the financial skies began to clear. Now, as the economy gets moving again, the majority are polishing their resumes and looking for new opportunities. In fact, a recent Right Management survey revealed that a whopping 86 percent of employees plan to actively look for new jobs in 2013.3

Companies should know it’s not just rank-and-file workers eying the exits. In 2012, 32 percent of employers lost their top performers to other organizations, and 39 percent of companies worry the trend will continue.4

Smart employers are identifying low-cost ways not only to combat turnover, but also to pluck the best and brightest new workers from a stream of job applicants. The Aflac survey showed benefits have a major impact on the success or failure of worker retention efforts, meaning employees are less likely to spend their off-hours scouring job-search site sites if their companies demonstrate concern for their welfare.

One cost-conscious way employers can show they’re interested in worker well-being is by offering voluntary health insurance benefits. Sixty percent of employees whose companies provide access to voluntary coverage told Aflac they’re not likely to look for new jobs within the next year.

The good news for businesses is that voluntary insurance premiums are worker-paid. That means companies can make voluntary coverage available to employees with no direct effect on their organizations’ bottom lines. At the same time, workers can select from a menu of plan benefits and premiums and enroll in the options that best meet their families’ needs and budgets.

In addition to expressing sincere thanks to their workers this Labor Day, smart companies will consider bulking up their benefits plans with voluntary options. After all, workers covered by voluntary benefits plans give their employers higher marks on job-satisfaction indicators such as worker engagement, contentment and productivity. They are also more likely to believe their companies are known as great places to work and to recommend their workplaces to job-seeking friends.


1 2012 Gratitude Survey conducted by Penn Shoen Berland on behalf of the John Templeton Foundation – - accessed Aug. 20, 2013
2 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, - accessed Aug. 20, 2013   
3 Right Management employee survey, - accessed Aug. 19, 2013
4 Career Builder, Nearly One-Third of Employers Are Concerned About Top Talent Leaving Their Organizations, – accessed Aug. 19, 2013