The Art of Attracting and Retaining Employees


As the workforce gets younger and demographics change, companies across all industries are looking for new ways to attract and retain their labor force. In Napa and Sonoma counties, wineries and other businesses are currently competing with the cannabis and construction industries for local workers. Along with competitive wages, many companies now offer new, more meaningful benefits to their employees beyond the traditional, run-of-the-mill medical plans and benefits package. What you offer will depend on the personal desires of the candidates you are trying to attract and retain. So, your job is to identify these details and offer packages that will give you an edge over the competition. Arrow Benefits Group recently conducted research in the Napa/Sonoma wine region to produce the 2019 Arrow Winery Benchmark Report. Here’s an overview of what we found.

Trends in employee benefits

According to our research, 83 percent of wineries today make a percentage contribution toward their employee medical plan. The average contribution is 85 percent of the premium for employees only. Only 29% of wineries contribute towards a dependents premium with the average contribution from those wineries being 75%. In contrast, 17 percent of wineries currently contribute a flat-dollar amount towards an employee’s medical plans. Currently, the average is $450 of the employee-only premium.However, aside from offering medical benefits, many workers are looking work-life balance. Flextime continues to be a popular trend and creates a happier, more productive workforce, too. In one study from the Millennial Brand Report, 45 percent of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay, which we believe (and trends show) that this number will grow as the workforce gets younger.

Additionally, gift-matching programs are also a growing new trend. Not only do employees feel good about themselves when they can give back to the communities where they work and live, but they feel good about working for an employer that is philanthropic as well.

What’s the first step in reviewing your benefits package? We encourage employers to focus on the attributes of their workforce. For example, do your employees value additional education or training? Is community involvement more important to them, or are they interested solely in monetary incentives? Look closely at the needs of the people you’re trying to appeal to, and then work to tailor a company culture and benefits program specifically to them. In the wine industry, that could be something as simple as offering flexible hours, or embracing the cultural differences of the workforce.

Spanish culture and language

For employers with a Spanish-speaking population, we’ve found that it’s as important to focus on translating to the employees’ culture as it is to translate the language. Persona-based education is the practice of tailoring the message to each employee, so they clearly understand the message. For example, when explaining health benefits to employees, you must consider the differences in language. When employers provide education about health benefits, the word “deductible” is commonly used, and while it’s easy to translate into Spanish, it really doesn’t mean anything specifically on its own. So, if you just translate the word without providing a concrete example of what it really means, you’re doing your workforce a disservice, and ultimately paying for a benefit that your employees won’t know how to use.

The value of benchmarking

Routine benchmarking will give you a clear picture of how you compare in the marketplace and whether you’re offering competitive wages and benefits to ensure that your company continues to thrive. A winery doesn’t necessarily need to view the benchmark report as gospel, and employers shouldn’t just take a glance and think that what their offering is fine. Instead, use benchmarking to strategize how to be better than the competition. Attracting and retaining employees is an art. Organizations that truly succeed have their finger on the pulse of its employee culture, keep the lines of communication open and offer a solid benefits program that will always beat those who do not.

Andrew McNeil and Rosario Avila are Senior Benefits Advisors who collaborate with their clients as a team, using their different perspectives to deploy one solution. They have been nationally recognized in Employee Benefit Adviser magazine. For more information or to get a copy of the 2019 Arrow Winery Benchmark Report, contact them at (707) 992-3789, or visit

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