Executive Insider

Fostering Retention: ‘The New Normal’ Innovative Benefits to Offer Your Workforce

Karen Ferrell

In a distributed workforce that includes multiple employees working in different locations, the role of the CEO is more complex than ever. As we unravel the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and enter new valleys marked by staggering economic inflation, there’s more stress and illness in our world. The most responsible leaders will cultivate environments where people feel comfortable discussing their challenges and provide resources for people dealing with these struggles.

How can business leaders foster a healthy culture, a strong sense of community, and high workforce retention in a job market that is becoming more remote and stressed by the day?

Benefits Matter

Benefits are more important to today’s workforce. The traditional employer-sponsored healthcare options are no longer sufficient because employees are significantly savvier when navigating new jobs in the marketplace. They’re paying closer attention to their benefits as a whole and their out-of-pocket costs. 

Employers are focusing more on scientific advancements that offer insights into health and provide personalized treatments, such as genetic testing. An individual’s genetic insights are vital healthcare information, providing lifetime guidance for early detection and precision treatment.

Employees who receive coverage from their employers for genetic testing view them as caring and concerned for their overall well-being. 

Other factors, such as flexible time off, are becoming increasingly important to the workforce. In a world where remote work is rapidly becoming the accepted norm, the standard two weeks of vacation time appears more archaic to most.

Additionally, continued learning has always been important for advancement in the workplace, and we see that it extends beyond traditional advanced education reimbursement programs. Employees want to know what their futures will look like and will gravitate toward companies they feel will invest in them beyond their current expertise, roles, and responsibilities. At Genomic Life, managers meet with team members annually to develop a structured plan that helps them meet their goals and reviews progress quarterly.   

Fostering Community and Culture 

People want to work for a purpose. Leaders must cultivate a culture where everyone is valued and empowered to use their talents to advance a mission. Employees want to actively participate in a company’s culture, where they are heard and feel that their ideas matter.

Clear, open, and two-way communication is essential in building community within the workplace – whether an employee is fully remote, hybrid, or back in person full-time. Making it a priority to meet one-on-one with employees provides an opportunity to learn about concerns, hear what’s important to them, and get to know one another. 

As a CEO, it’s important that our employees know who I am and what excites me about the organization. Meaningful information can be covered in a brief 30-minute meeting, and the connection can foster trust. 

It’s also critical to develop and maintain a healthy workplace culture. It’s been said that the true culture of a company is indicated by the worst behavior you tolerate. It’s easier to keep those bad behaviors in check with this perspective in mind. When we open our Monday all-hands meetings, we discuss one of our company’s values and how someone either witnessed it in action or was reminded of it. It’s a helpful way of holding each other accountable and reinforcing positive behavior. 

From a more practical perspective, work-from-home guidelines benefit from documented policy and consistent implementation. With some of our employees wanting to travel and work internationally, we’ve made it a policy that they must work our hours of operation. In such cases, it’s essential to lead by example and follow the established protocols for working remotely because you can’t expect people to do what you aren’t willing to do. 

As we influence culture and connection, we also must consider diverse perspectives.

Embracing Diversity

At Genomic Life we recognize the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This imperative is embodied in our mission of opening access to genomic medicine for everybody. Employers can offer new access opportunities to close the inequity gap for all of their employees. We understand that each person is unique and requires a personalized healthcare plan based on their genetic baseline. 

More employers are emphasizing DEI initiatives within employee health benefits. A 2021 Employer Health Innovation Roundtable report showed DEI was a new and essential priority in the benefits space. It moved from number eight to number three priority.

Genetic testing can help decrease disparities in healthcare as genetic conditions are more common than previously known. Taking a genetic test and understanding the results empower an individual to take preventive action to avoid disease or improve outcomes.

Key Takeaways for Leaders 

More than ever, we need to listen to employees and prioritize their humanity over their scope of work. As leaders, we must continue developing a culture where our employees are recognized for their ideas and contributions and feel heard and seen. We must think of the bigger picture as it relates to our workforce’s health, both physically and mentally. These efforts include consistently building trust, offering innovative benefits, and embracing diversity at all levels.


Written by Karen Ferrell.
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Karen Ferrell
Karen Ferrell, Chief Executive Officer of Genomic Life, a healthcare innovator striving to make affordable, clinical-grade genomic testing available to everyone. Karen leads the strategic direction and ensures the operational effectiveness of Genomic Life as it accelerates the use of clinical-grade genomic testing as part of proactive health for everyone. She brings extensive experience in delivering strong financial results for publicly traded health plans and private equity-backed healthcare companies. Karen received an MBA from the Graziadio Business School at Pepperdine University.


Karen Ferrell is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn.