As we enter Labor Day weekend , it’s an apt time to reflect on the reason for the holiday.

Labor around the turn of the century meant grueling conditions that could literally mean the loss of life and limb for a paycheck. Union leaders and politicians fought to rein in employers’ unrelenting demands, and since World War II ,the nation’s workers have generally enjoyed 40-hour work weeks and safe working conditions.

But that progress doesn’t mean employers can just rest on their laurels.

With the U.S. unemployment rate last reported at 3.7 percent in July — the second-lowest point in 10 years — it’s increasingly important that employers make their workplaces work for their employees.

Too often employees are deemed “replaceable,” but in a hot economy like this, employers who offer workers a paycheck and not much else make themselves the ones who can be easily replaced.

So what can they offer if not a boost in pay?

“The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead,” Bill Gates told Inc. magazine. “Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.”

While pay boosts might be one of the top demands from employees — after all, who wouldn’t like a fatter paycheck? — none of that matters if the employees don’t have the freedom or opportunities to use that paycheck and improve their quality of life.

This responsibility has compounded in recent decades as unions fell out of favor in a number of industries. The organizations that were often at the table to negotiate on behalf of employees often aren’t there in 2019, leaving workers without negotiated safeguards.

While unions can cause headaches for employers, they are usually a response to stagnant wages and what is seen as management that stonewalls any requests for improvements to working conditions.

Offering flexible weekends, hours and vacations have some financial cost, but they can make or break a relationship with an employee.

PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a study in 2013 regarding employee retention after a noticeable lack of loyalty among millennial workers. The company found a number of areas where young workers differed from their older counterparts in what they sought from an employer. Possible benefits included a more flexible work culture, leveraging technology, increased transparency on compensation, a sense of community and not approaching employees with one-size-fits-all solutions.

The study also found 15 percent of male employees and 21 percent of female employees would sacrifice pay and slow the pace of promotions in their career in exchange for working fewer hours.

Panera Bread leaders have started to raise red flags about the companies reported 100 percent yearly employee turnover rate, according to CNBC. The rate, which was once thought to be negligible, has become a major cost for the national chain.

Employers sho uld take advantage of the strong economy to gain long-term employees by creating welcoming working solutions that aren’t tied to compensa tion.

This editorial was written by Alec Woolsey, assistant managing editor of The Facts.

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