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DES MOINES, Iowa — Bigger paychecks alone aren’t enough to stand out in a job market where workers have increased options. WHO 13 found that employers in various industries have increased incentives to keep and attract workers at a time when Iowa has more job openings than people claiming unemployment.

Wages rose nearly five percent for workers across the country over the past year and analysts expect many workers to receive similar raises this year. (Although, inflation increased nearly 7.5 percent over the past twelve months.)

RMH Systems in Waukee works to help on two fronts: assistance with staffing shortages and commitment to make sure that it doesn’t have a shortage of its own. “We’re an integration company,” explained Ryan Pleak, vice president of automation. “A lot of times they’re (other businesses) short-staffed on engineers. So we’ll take our engineering resources. We’ll meet with customers. We’ll figure out the product spec. We’ll figure out their space constraints. We’ll try to work with them within a budget to find a solution that can at least improve it. If not take it all the way to the level to say full robotic automation.”

In that case, RMH’s robots will do the taxing physical labor that short-staffed companies can’t or don’t want to handle. They can help unfold and pack boxes or lift palettes with hundreds of pounds of merchandise. “Helping with those back-breaking kind of jobs,” he added.

RMH has about 100 other workers, the human ones, in its Waukee operations, too. And company leaders say they had had success in keeping those workers on the job and keeping them satisfied. Pleak is an example. “Twenty years,” he proudly said about his service at the company.

Human Resources Manager Chris McGuire said the company believes and trusts its workers to find future co-workers. “We trust that employees aren’t going to offer up a family member or a friend to come and work here that might upset the culture,” McGuire said.

But the company didn’t doesn’t have many openings, unlike McGuire’s human resources counterparts in the industry. She is part of a group of human resources professionals and said that she routinely hears frustration from others about the struggles of finding qualified applicants. “They’re all screaming for employees,” she said.

RMH also provides additional incentives for employees like golf outings, holiday parties, and paid time off to volunteer. But McGuire said that the biggest commitment is trust. “I think that more than salary, more than benefits, people just want to feel like they are engaged and empowered to add some value to their company,” she said.

Here are some of the incentives other companies are now offering:

  • Happy Medium, a digital agency in Des Moines, offers a “mental health hour” every week to employees, where they can take an hour away from work to do whatever they need. That is along with unlimited personal time off and fully paid parental leave.
  • Additional / Unlimited PTO, fitness center memberships, hybrid work schedules, free meals, additional continuing education opportunities and enhanced clothing and equipment allowances are also among the new incentives now offered, according to Allee Wenger, Director of Marketing & Communications at the Ames Chamber of Commerce
  • Employees at Holmes Murphy, a risk management and insurance brokerage firm with an office in Waukee, got a handwritten note from Chairman and CEO Dan Keough to make sure that everyone was managing during the COVID-19 health crisis.
  • Personal commitment to employees is an emerging benefit that Creston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Gerharz has noticed. She emailed, “The area that has struck me is that I see businesses humanizing their employees more than I did before. They are actually getting to know for example who Bob or Barb or Dave or Debbie etc. really are. I have had two employers call with questions about employees who are having issues with older relatives and asking where they can go to seek help with for example food inadequacies or activities. One company is working with their union in trying to find ways in the contact to raise salaries that have already been negotiated but are now somewhat behind what the current market is offering.  I think more and more businesses and people realize we are all in this situation together.”

Workers are increasingly demanding flexibility from their employers after dealing with the family and health demands of COVID-19.

David Leto, President of the Palmer Group, believes that successful companies are those that listen to their employees and meet their workers’ needs for growth and development.

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