Thursday, June 08, 2023

EDITORIAL: How to make happier, healthier businesses

| May 3, 2023 1:00 AM

Please excuse a moment of self-congratulation.

There’s a bigger message here, we promise.

Last week, The Hagadone Corp., which owns this newspaper, announced that it will open a private health clinic for many of its employees later this summer. With skilled workers in local hotels, restaurants, communications operations and more, the clinic will be both an enterprising and appreciated gem in the company’s benefits package.

But it’s more than that. The private health clinic could serve as an example of, or inspiration for, ways other local businesses can combat a universal challenge: hiring and retaining the people who make businesses succeed.

To be clear, Hagadone Corp. is a big company in what remains a fairly small town. With 1,570 employees in Kootenai County and more on the way this summer, Hagadone Corp. is capable of providing the wherewithal this new benefit will require. Few private businesses here could afford such a program for their workers, but there might be other ways they can attract and reward the people they depend upon.

Labor research shows that one of the biggest disconnects between employers and prospective employees is the lack of affordable child care. Some businesses have tried but failed to provide on-site child care, due to lack of space, lack of money, lack of qualified child care providers.

So you can’t go it alone; but what if several businesses pitched in together and, by pooling their resources, figured out a way to at least offset some of the staggering child care costs employees now face? Maybe one business has the space, another has the human resources component, and other partners could cover the child care employee costs?

Since health care is so important to virtually everyone, are there innovative ways for established health care providers and small businesses to create partnerships that go beyond what’s available today? Maybe there are retired medical professionals who would help make these new models more workable.

As Kootenai County’s population continues to swell, the demand for goods and services at all levels will similarly grow. With a recession very possibly headed our way, businesses will be further pressed to put their best foot forward — and there’s no way to do that but with talented, dedicated employees.

Better health care and child care benefits are potent paths to greater employee attraction and retention. Let’s get creative and collaborate.

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