McHenry County employers strive to keep workers happy

Officials: Compensation is vital, but other perks help ease stress

WOODSTOCK – Concerned they might lose their employees to the stress accompanying an impending switch in electronic filing systems, a few hospital directors emailed Centegra wellness manager Celine Pope in March, asking for help.

Pope and Wellness for Life coordinator Jenny Hendricks sprang into action. They decided to build Paragon Peace rooms in each hospital, offering things such as guided meditation, yoga mats and healthy snack food leading up to and during the crucial first week of transition, which started May 6.

“The peace room was to be a place where the associates could relax and reset,” Hendricks said. “We provided materials for them to help take a break from the stressful workday.”

Hendricks and Pope know the energy of healthy, happy employees can vibrate through a workforce, yielding higher quality and more consistent work.

Although a sluggish economy makes it tough for many to give raises, employers are looking for other ways to keep employee morale up.

Sometimes it’s helping relieve stress during a tense couple of weeks. Other times, it’s as simple as an unexpected free lunch or facilitating a party for an employee’s milestone.

“I think we’re going to find that HR is going to be looking for very creative ways to help in that area,” said Denise Benages, president of HR Midwest.

Increasingly, Benages said, employers are seeking out ways to engage their employees.

That’s one goal of the HR team at McHenry County College – getting employees invested in each other, and by extension, engaged and invested in the vision of the institution.

“Overall, you want the team to succeed,” said Sandra Moll, MCC’s director of employment services and affirmative action. “You’re giving yourself a vested interest in the university.”

Moll admits that factors such as contract agreements and employee benefits play a large role in the ultimate contentment of an employee. In a 2012 study by the Society for Human Resource Management, employees ranked “opportunities to use skills and abilities,” “job security” and “compensation/pay” as the top factors influencing job satisfaction.

But Moll said there are other things employers can do to ensure workers’ happiness.

MCC recognizes employee achievements with a “star” program and by acknowledging those who’ve gone out of their way to help out in the company newsletter.

The college also has a social committee called “Harmony,” which collects money from employees for gatherings to recognize special events in employees’ lives, such as a birth or marriage.

“It’s about retention,” Moll said. “If you’re happy where you work, and if you’re happy with the environment you work in, and if you’re acknowledged for your contributions, then I certainly think that’s a better workplace for the employee.”

In addition, both the college and Centegra provide seminars on healthy and happy living, and offer weekly exercise classes.

“There’s a whole department here that our jobs is to create a healthy environment and offer education to the employees,” Pope said.

Benages, who runs the HR website, said nothing can take the place of pay, but HR efforts cushion the blow of an employee who feels unfairly compensated.

“If the compensation isn’t there, you have to enjoy where you work,” she said.

Most important factors contributing to job satisfaction

On a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2012, employees selected the following factors as “very important”:

• Opportunities to use skills and abilities: 63 percent

• Job security: 61 percent

• Compensation/pay: 60 percent

• Communication between employees and senior management: 57 percent

• Relationship with immediate supervisor: 54 percent

• Benefits: 53 percent

Note: The 600 respondents could rate each factor by importance from 1 (very unimportant) to 4 (very important).