5 ways this business leaned into employee benefits to recruit in a competitive market

As a business owner, Oscar Renteria finds it easy to empathize with his hundreds of employees who tend to the prestigious grapes of Napa and Sonoma valleys. He’s been in their shoes.

Renteria, through his Renteria Vineyard Management, a Principal® client, provides agricultural labor to many of the industry’s top labels while also producing his own fine wine.

Renteria began in this business literally from the ground up—trimming vines as a teenager alongside 15 aunts and uncles and 36 first cousins.

“I was born in this valley to two migrant farm workers,” he says. “I worked in the vineyards, so I have appreciation for hard work.” (Learn more about the background of this family business.)

About five years ago, Renteria made an intentional move to enhance and refocus his company culture. While no small task because it involves so many intangibles, he says, the time investment is worthwhile. He’s marked progress through lower turnover.

“We’ve become an employer of choice and, in turn, we've been able to look for employees of choice,” Renteria says.

Here are five lessons Renteria (both the business owner and his firm) learned from their employee benefits pivot.

1. Use employee benefits as a differentiator.

Renteria a few years ago added long-term disability insurance as a new employee benefit to respond to market demand.

“Offering a great benefit package is important and essential to recruiting top-level talent because it's a highly competitive market,” Renteria says. “If you're going to stand out, I think these are necessities in order to attract and retain.”

Employees themselves agree, rating improved benefits as a top way to recruit and retain, after competitive pay and feeling valued.1 The top benefits employers plan to add or increase in the next 12 months to help attract workers include caregiving support and dental/vision insurance.2

2. Upskill employees to help retain them.

Renteria operates its own academies to teach specific skills such as pruning, machine operation, and leadership.

“We do a tremendous amount of training,” Renteria says. “Not only do you want to recruit the very best employees, you also want to tap into their potential for personal growth and technical innovation. Help them become beacons of success within the company for newer employees.”

Upskilling gives employees a greater sense of purpose and autonomy while also helping to improve retention. More than half of employers (54%) and employees (55%) say that upskilling is a key concern for hiring and retention.3

“I love hearing how employees have grown because of opportunities for professional development, training, and all we've been able to provide as a company,” Renteria says. “I don't think there's any more fulfilling feeling.”

3. Keep your company culture and employee benefits consistent with each other.

Renteria frames success for his company in more than financial terms.

“Is this a place where people want to be?” he says. “Is this a place where people can grow with opportunities to develop professionally and personally?”

If his employee benefits follow through with that holistic goal, Renteria says, that means he can retain more experienced workers in the vineyards from one season to the next. Employees can feel more financially secure when supported by insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits to help handle crises and avoid debt.

Carina de la Cruz, a field manager who oversees a crew of workers, says the employee benefits provide a sense of security for her and her children and demonstrate her company’s commitment. “I try to give my best to my company because they give me something back,” she says. “It's why I work so hard: Because they work hard for me, I work hard for them.”

4. Don’t just offer employee benefits. Explain and promote them.

As an employer, offering benefits is just the start if you want those benefits to show their full value.

“Once employees have a given benefit, I think it's important they understand how they can access it.” says Blanca White, chief financial officer for Renteria Vineyard Management.

For instance, in its first year of rollout, Reteria’s employee assistance program (EAP) was little used.

“We work with a culture that’s very proud, and they don't see those types of benefits as something that they would use,” Wright says. But the company persevered with consistent and culturally sensitive messaging to explain how an EAP can support mental health and well-being. In four years, Renteria has seen 50% greater engagement with its EAP.

“Whether it's for themselves, a spouse, or another family member, more employees are seeing the value of the EAP and using it,” Wright says.

Renteria isn’t the only company facing this challenge. Recent Principal research found that 19% of employees nationally are unsure whether their company even offers an EAP. A hopeful sign: While 23% of employers say stigma associated with an EAP discourages its use, only 6% of employees agree.4

5. Customize benefits and perks to your business and employees.

Renteria can’t compete by offering remote work to most of its employees, Wright says, which makes other benefits even more important.

The company partners with local nonprofits through the Farm Worker Concierge Service to help connect employees to additional resources (including help with basic housing and food access) and build a greater sense of community.

The Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation also offers classes to specific groups of workers, such as first-time homebuyers. Completing a given course may qualify a Renteria employee for a $200 gift card as an extra incentive. Employees also continue to receive their wages when they take English classes—an example of company policy supporting company values.

Renteria Vineyard Management shows how a business can help employees build financial security by catering to their unique needs. Recent Principal research shows that the financial security of Hispanic employees saving for retirement lags the average: 40% of Hispanic employees say they can enjoy life because of how they’re handling money, compared to 50% overall.5

“Depending on an employee’s need, we'll consider customizing anything for them,” Renteria says. “Whether it's for their kid's education, their need to acquire a driver's license, coaching for their own personal development—if they ask for it, we'll help develop a plan.”

Learn more: Four ideas to figure out the benefits your employees really want.

Graphic of a leaf. A family business grows with good benefits

Oscar Renteria’s father and company founder, Salvador, immigrated from Mexico as a barber and in the early 1960s adapted his mastery of shears to trim grape vines instead of hair. The company now led by his son employs more than 100 full-time and 500 seasonal workers—leveraging employee benefits to its advantage in a competitive corner of the job market.

“The thing I love most about this business is people,” Renteria says. “There's no better feeling as a business owner than giving employees opportunities and good benefits and seeing them realize their potential.”

What's next?

  • Take a look at your own approach to employee benefits with the Principal® Benefit Design Tool. Compare what you offer with businesses of a similar industry, size, and region.

1 Principal August 2022 survey of 126 full- and part-time employees.

2 Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM July 2022 survey of 500 employers.

3 Principal August 2022 survey of 126 businesses (mostly with fewer than 500 employees) and 126 full- and part-time employees (of different businesses).

4 Principal May 2022 survey of 128 businesses (mostly with fewer than 500 employees) and 128 full- and part-time employees (of different businesses).

5 Principal Retirement Security Survey of 725 retirement plan participants, July 2022.

Disability insurance has limitations and exclusions. For cost and coverage details, contact your Principal® representative.

Renteria’s viewpoint may not be representative of other clients' experiences. Renteria Vineyard Management, Farm Worker Concierge Service, Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation, and Farm Worker Concierge Service are not affiliates of any company of the Principal Financial Group®.