How to Design the Right Employee Benefits Program
by Caroline Boyland June 14, 2022
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The Need for a Top-Tier Employee Benefits Program
In today's competitive job market, long gone are the days when any job opening was greeted with a long queue of eager applicants. Inflation has caused many employees to search for jobs with better salaries and benefits. The great resignation has created an even more volatile job market where employers scramble to keep their best talent. To be competitive when hiring, employers need to provide an attractive and well-rounded offer to candidates that includes an engaging company mission, a path for career growth, competitive pay, and a great employee benefits program.
Benefits are often managed as an afterthought, but they are becoming increasingly essential both when attracting talent and retaining it. Budgeting for a competitive benefits package and being intentional when designing it is critical.
So, as an HR team, how do you design a benefits program that will attract top talent and keep them happy, healthy, and engaged?
Employee benefits beyond healthcare
When we think of employee benefits, healthcare is often the first thing that comes to mind for most of us. And while offering comprehensive and affordable health insurance is a key part of any benefits program, it's not the only thing to consider.
Other important factors to take into account include:
- Paid time off: Employees need time to recharge, both for their own sanity and to prevent burnout. Offering a generous paid time off policy, including vacation time, sick days, and personal days is one way to show your employees that you value their work-life balance. Many organizations are now introducing “Unlimited PTO”—meaning, employees don’t have a set number of PTO days, but instead can take unlimited days (so long as it’s done so respectfully). Unlimited PTO is a wonderful way to show employees that you value their time, but it’s key to ensure employees are leveraging the policy, as many employees often express that they feel that they actually take less time off with this policy. Whatever your PTO policy may be, it’s critical that as a business, you encourage and celebrate employees who take advantage of PTO days for some much-deserved vacation time.
- Retirement plans: Helping your employees save for retirement is not only good for them; it's good for your business and is one way to encourage employees to stay with your company long-term. Employers can offer 401(k) plans, pensions, or other retirement savings plans.
- Wellness programs: Designed to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent disease, these can include gym membership discounts, fitness challenges, health screenings, smoking cessation programs, and more.
- Mental health support: With the stress and pressure brought on by the pandemic, many employees have taken an introspective look at their mental health. Organizations who provide mental health support and benefits can stand out from competitors who don’t prioritize mental wellbeing. Mental health support can look like health benefits that cover therapy sessions, access to mindfulness and meditation apps, and/or incorporating quarterly “mental health days” where employees are encouraged to forget about work for the day and spend time on any activity that supports their mental wellbeing.
- Childcare: This benefit is becoming increasingly popular as more employees balance work with raising a family. Childcare benefits can include on-site daycare, subsidies for off-site daycare, and flexible work schedules.
- Tuition reimbursement: Many employers offer this benefit to encourage employees to further their education and skills development.
- Paid parental leave: This can help new parents transition back to work after the birth or adoption of a child and make them feel that your company supports them in managing their responsibilities as a parent.
- Workplace flexibility and perks: After a year + of working from home, many employees are hesitant to go back into an office setting. Offering a flexible remote work policy is one benefit many employees are drawn to. Whether that looks like fully remote, optional office attendance, 1-2 days mandatory in the office, or something else entirely, many businesses are evaluating what the workplace looks like in 2022. If you are leaning towards bringing employees back into the office anywhere from 1-5 days a week, workplace perks can help ease the transition for employees who are reluctant to return. These perks can come in the form of occasional free lunches or happy hours, pizza Friday’s, bagel breakfasts, you name it. Anything that makes an employee more excited to come into work (or save money on lunch!) can work wonders when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
The best benefits programs today offer a mix of traditional (health insurance, retirement savings) and non-traditional (paid time off, wellness programs) benefits designed to appeal to a wide range of employees.
When it comes to benefits, the little things matter
Employee benefits, though critical, can also be expensive. But some small, low-cost benefits can have a significant impact on employee morale and engagement.
- Free or discounted products and services: Offering your employees these extras is a great and easy way to show appreciation for their work. This could include anything from free tickets to company-sponsored events to free company merchandise or samples.
- Daily perks: Low-cost items such as a quality coffee machine in the breakroom or free snacks can make a big difference in employee morale.
- Flexible work arrangements: Employees are increasingly searching for jobs with flexible work arrangements that allow them to balance their work and personal lives better. This could include telecommuting, flexible work hours, or compressed work weeks. If the nature of your work makes it challenging to manage, some softer policies like letting them start and end their day an hour later or taking a longer lunch break can still have a big impact.
These are just a few examples of low-cost benefits that can make a great difference. The key is to get creative and think outside the traditional benefits box.
Benefits communication is key
Once you've decided what benefits to offer, it's essential to clearly and concisely communicate the program details to your employees.
Too often, companies spend significant amounts of money on benefits only to have employees be unaware of them or not understand how to take advantage of them. When communicating your benefits program to employees, be sure to explain the rationale behind the benefits you've chosen. Help them see why you've selected your benefits and how they can help them in their day-to-day lives.
Employees should be able to understand what benefits they are eligible for and how to access them. This means providing them with clear and concise information about the program and making sure that the program is easy to use and navigate.
Finally, don't forget to keep employees up-to-date on any changes or updates to the program and to remind them periodically of the benefits available to maximize participation.
Ask the experts: employee feedback on benefits
Not all employee groups are the same, so it's crucial to tailor your benefits program to the specific needs of your employee group.
Employee needs may be different by company location, or they might also change over time. Younger employees might value wellness programs and flexible work arrangements, while older employees might be more interested in a retirement savings plans.
The best benefits programs are the ones that are tailored to the specific needs of your employees. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it's important to survey your employees to find out what benefits would be most beneficial to them.
Keep in mind that your benefits program should also be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of your employees.
Offering a competitive benefits package is one way to set your company apart from the rest and show your employees that you value their well-being.
By taking the time to design a benefits program that meets the needs of your employees, you can be sure to attract and retain the best talent for your business.
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