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Are Your Human Resource Events and Policies Hitting the Mark?

By Tom Weber

July 7, 2023

After three years of nearly continuous workforce turmoil, employers were hoping for relief in 2023. However, the unfortunate truth is that this post-COVID time has delivered a uniquely challenging array of circumstances that will be difficult for the U.S. packaging community to navigate, especially from an employee well-being perspective.

It is widely anticipated there will be some economic recession in 2023. Its duration and severity is impossible to know, but the high-level effect will be the same as in most economic downturns: Employers will need to tighten their belts and make do with reduced revenues and fewer resources. On its own, this wouldn’t be catastrophic—after all, the business cycle has always had its booms and busts. The problem is that the predicted recession by Q4 in 2023 will likely coexist with an extremely tight labor market, forcing employers into an unprecedented dilemma that puts significant strains on finite resources.

Employee Well-Being for the Rest of 2023

To balance the competing priorities of sustainable business performance and employee retention, leaders will need to implement and justify the investment in creative strategies that focus on the efficient delivery of wellness benefits employees want.

Traditionally, economic recessions have caused employees to cling to their current employer regardless of how satisfied they feel in their work because they do not want to jump into an unfavorable job market.

However, if the job market remains strong during this recession, and workers are not as worried about their ability to find employment elsewhere, they will not be willing to accept cuts to benefits packages and wellness programs companies typically make during tough times. Due to these unique circumstances, employers will need to devote more, rather than less, energy to employee benefits and well-being initiatives. Qualified employees are worth their weight in gold, and the realities of a long-term U.S. labor shortage mean that replenishing your employee head count once the economy recovers is no longer a sure thing. The brewing question for businesses in the coming year is how to satisfy elevated employee expectations around well-being, mental health, and flexibility without breaking the bank.

In the past, employee well-being would have been a different discussion from business profitability or performance. But today, intelligent employers position their people—or employee well-being—at the center of their business strategy. Forward-thinking leaders recognize that employee wellness is a prerequisite for business success.

With tight financial resources in mind, your engagement and well-being team should compile data from people leaders, industry experts, and employers across various industries to support business growth and power employee potential. Over the course of gathering this
information, your team should be able
to identify trends that leading organizations are embracing to boost employee well-being without overspending. The following bullets outline how each challenge provides an opportunity for employers to lean in and get strategic in solving short- and long-term workforce obstacles:

  • Build a people-first culture.
  • Find the balance between managing costs and supporting employee needs.
  • Empower health, benefits, and financial literacy.
  • Replace a one-size-fits-all approach with customized solutions.
  • Tap into “purpose” as the secret weapon for higher employee engagement.

Reports consistently show that organizations that prioritize employee engagement and well-being experience up to a 21% increase in profitability due to higher retention rates and lower absenteeism.

Aligning Employee Well-Being With Business Objectives

To react quickly to support the needs of struggling employees or appeal to a shrinking talent pool, some employers have scrambled to meet the moment without thoroughly evaluating the needs of their business and people.

This results in many leaders finding themselves looking ahead unsure of where to focus their time and investments with the overwhelming number of options available. Additionally, factoring in the gap between solutions, employers want to combat health risks, drive costs, and satisfy employee interests.

Many businesses find themselves in the perfect storm of poor return on investment and unhappy employees. Studies show that employees who understand and are engaged with their benefits are 99% more likely to feel valued and appreciated and 78% more likely to be happy with their job. But without a clear business strategy built on a shared vision of communication and employee engagement, an organization is unlikely to see success. Leaders should avoid:

  • Short-term programs implemented quickly without defined metrics to measure success.
  • Insufficient time allotted to define processes and communications to effectively gain adoption and participation.
  • Overspending on programs that go unused or creating redundancy.
  • Misalignment with overall company goals and long-term workforce strategy.

When building holistic, people-centric benefit programs, many employers succeed by focusing on impactful, data-driven offerings rather than short-term perks. It’s wise to use data to develop a plan, such as:

  • Surveying employees regularly to understand their needs.
  • Evaluating the use of existing benefits and programs.
  • Analyzing health risk and cost data (either through your medical carrier or a third-party analytics platform).
  • Thinking critically about the diversity of your current workforce and desired future workforce. (A person’s ZIP code can impact their well-being more than genetics.)
  • Providing innovative benefits that tangibly improve well-being inside and outside of work.
  • Defining short- and long-term success metrics and tracking these over time.

Organizations that have responded to the call to fulfill their workforce’s needs have realized measurable cost savings by reducing turnover, absenteeism, and health care costs while fostering an engaged and highly productive workforce.

In summary, a strategic employee well-being and communications plan that is practical at scale and flexible enough to support individual needs will ultimately drive positive gains in performance, cost containment, recruitment, and retention for the long haul.

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If you have any questions, contact Taryn Pyle, director of education and talent development, at or Chelsea May, education and training manager, 703-836-2422 or

Tom Weber is president of WeberSource LLC and is AICC’s folding carton and rigid box technical advisor. Contact Tom directly at