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Taking Care of Your Employees: A Guide for Breweries & Wineries

Tips for improving employee wellness and soliciting feedback through surveys

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Business owners know that employee wellness is important. But when it comes to actually taking concrete measures to provide for employees or change existing policy, managers may feel lost or unsure of which steps to take. The alcoholic beverage industry also faces unique challenges due to financial limitations and particular stressors for service industry workers. We are deeply familiar with the challenges alcohol producers face, so in this article, we’ll share some of the strategies you can use to take care of your employees.

But before we continue, it’s important to acknowledge that employers everywhere face a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to caring for their employees right now. Employee wellness should always be a priority, but now more than ever, it deserves your attention and financial resources. The pandemic exacerbated many mental health problems for all of us. Community-wide, levels of anxiety and depression rose to unprecedented levels during the pandemic. Essential workers and anyone whose job required them to be present in person had to deal with the ongoing stress of possible COVID exposure at work. Now there are two open jobs for every one job seeker, and employers are in danger of losing still more employees to the Great Resignation.

For these reasons, though it’s fraught, this time presents an opportunity for employers. Boosting employee wellness measures can give alcohol producers an edge on employee retention, which is incredibly important in this time of heavy churn in the workforce and inflation increasing the cost to hire.

Strategies to Improve Employee Wellness

Expand Benefits

We know it’s not always possible to expand employee benefits. Providing benefits is expensive, but if you do have the option to expand the benefits you offer, now is a great time to do so. In the United States, most people rely on their employers to provide benefits like health insurance, retirement planning assistance, and sick leave. This is particularly true for employees who earn less or support families with their wages.

As benefits like generous parental leave and unlimited PTO become more commonplace, employees are increasingly evaluating benefits packages when deciding whether to pursue a job. Just as this is one way you can stand out from the crowd as an employer, it also has the potential to be a strategic weakness if you don’t invest in it. Take a look at the benefits your competitors offer to new employees. How does your benefits package compare?

Create Comprehensive Harassment Policies

The service industry is rife with harassment problems, both internally among colleagues and externally when connecting with customers. Because most service positions are lower wage jobs, these folks are uniquely vulnerable to workplace harassment and exploitation. There’s also a certain amount of harassment from customers that is normalized within the service industry. 

We think the normalization of this unethical behavior is toxic and employers have a duty to respond to it. Whether harassment happens within the organization or directly from customers, employers need to take action to protect the well-being of employees. You have both a legal and a moral duty to maintain a workplace that is safe for your employees. If you don’t already have comprehensive harassment policies in place, now is the time to create them. Make sure employees know they won’t be punished for reporting harassment and that you’ll stand by them if they do so.

Support the Local Community

Countless studies have shown that volunteering and contributing positively to one’s community can have a significant positive impact on mental health. Volunteering may increase happiness, reduce rates of depression, and even improve life expectancy. From a mental health perspective, it’s clear that providing opportunities to volunteer with coworkers has the potential to improve employee well being. But setting those mental health benefits aside– workers also prefer to work for an employer that supports causes they care about. In one survey, 66% of workers said it’s important that companies are philanthropic. That number increased among younger generations. Employees are interested in making a difference, whether that be through charitable giving matched by their employer or opportunities to volunteer with coworkers.

If you don’t already, find a way to support your local community and get your employees involved. Which causes do they care about? Where do they see a need within the community? Wherever you’re located, there are always people who need help, and it may just improve your workplace well-being to contribute through your business.

Tune In to What Employees Care About

Undoubtedly there are other policies your team can implement to take care of your employees and promote employee wellness. But exactly what works best will depend on your team’s needs and preferences. That’s why we’re including this tip — so you can tune in to what your employees care about. What your employees need most will depend on many factors including local cost of living, demographic information, and employees’ personal preferences. Truly caring for employees means asking questions, listening, and being open to suggestions. Too often, managers go into an employee retention problem viewing everything as a crisis that needs to be solved, when simply taking the time to hear firsthand from employees what they need most can be the best path.

Surveys as a Tool to Understand Employee Needs

What if you want to incorporate employee feedback into your employee wellness strategy, but you aren’t sure how to broach the topic with them? We recommend creating a short employee survey to get a better idea of what your employees have to say. Surveys make providing feedback easy and stress-free for employees, and both of those factors are key if you want to get high rates of participation from your employees. Creating a survey takes very little time, and the information you gain from it can be invaluable as you work to better take care of your employees.

Survey Success Story: Ekos Internal Survey

Here at Ekos, we recently ran a survey of our own, and we were so pleased with what we learned, we just had to share the results. According to our survey, 100% of Ekos employees are proud to work at Ekos. This is such useful information for us! It lets us know that we’re treating employees right, which is reassuring and helpful. It also provides us with this wonderful little fact that we can share on social media, as well as with any potential future employees. We know our culture is great, and now we have some proof to back that up. 

If you’re thinking of running your own employee survey and you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of survey statements (that employees rated on a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”) that we used for our own employee survey.

Survey Strategies for Success

  • Frame your questions with positivity. This isn’t a political poll or a scientific study. You don’t have to worry about making your questions completely neutral. In fact, we suggest you frame your questions with positivity. Positive questions leave room for negative or neutral answers, but they’re more approachable for employees to answer than overtly negative questions.
  • Use your survey results to attract new employees. Follow our example! For workers looking for a new job, finding a great and healthy work culture can be difficult and requires a certain leap of faith. Survey results (like ours) can ease a potential employee’s mind about the employee experience and work culture.
  • Leave some questions open ended. Give employees the chance to write their own responses to some questions. While they’re already taking the time to give you feedback, let them make suggestions as well. You can learn a lot from employees’ perspectives, since they see the day-to-day ramifications of large scale policy changes.

Survey Techniques to Avoid

  • Non-anonymous surveys or asking for too much identifying information. No one wants to share negative or critical feedback if they think their employer will trace it back to them. So don’t ask for their name or ask questions that would lead to identifying information.
  • Focusing on the management/leadership experience. Managers may be tempted to center their own experience or solicit feedback on the wrong points. Instead, focus on the employee experience and their recommendations for you.
  • Misinterpreting survey results. Don’t cherry-pick data. If you aren’t sure what to make of your survey results, your HR manager would be a good person to turn to. (If you don’t have a full-time HR person, consider hiring an HR consultant to review the information for you.)
  • Not taking action. Unless you find that all of your employees are perfectly content and have zero suggestions for you, inaction after a survey is a big mistake. Taking action based on survey results shows your employees that you took notice of their ideas, and it’s one of the most efficient ways to boost employee morale.

Prioritizing employee wellness can be a daunting task, but it’s one that is well worth your time and effort. Employee turnover is incredibly expensive, and in this employment market, losing your employees will cost you even more. Use our tips to connect with your employees and make meaningful changes to promote employee wellness every day.

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