Total Rewards | Let’s Dive Into The Benefits Piece!

Article Contributed by Meredith Wise

The struggle to attract and retain the talent you need continues! While you are probably knee deep in analyzing your compensation package, don’t forget your benefit options! Research has shown that it is the total package – compensation, benefits, culture and growth opportunities – that employees and applicants are searching for.

For many of us, our benefit packages have been in place for years. They consist of health care options, dental insurance, life insurance, LTD, STD and sometimes vision insurance. Some employers have added other voluntary benefits such as pet insurance, auto/homeowner options, cancer or long term care to name just a few. Some of us still have Flexible Spending accounts while others have moved into HRA’s or HSA’s to assist with paying for the benefits package. To compete in today’s job market, our benefits packages have to offer choice and flexibility. Our baby boomer employees are seeking to maximize their retirement benefits. Gen X employees are interested in retirement planning, healthcare and work-life balance benefits. Millennials would really like to see student loan repayment assistance, flexible work schedules and parental leave. While Gen Z, those just entering the workplace, are interested in job security, flexible work schedules and work styles. With what seem like competing interests and tight budgets, what’s an employer to do?

Here are some ways to get started

  • Get employee feedback on the benefits you are offering. You can survey employees, hold focus groups, analyze participation and utilization, or just talk with your teams. Which benefits are most valuable to them? Which ones provide the greatest flexibility and ability to customize? Use this data to overhaul, fine-tune or tweak what you currently offer.
  • Consider offering or improving benefits that focus on physical, mental and financial well-being. The pandemic has exacerbated the pressures our employees are feeling. We need to make it easier for them to access the wellness tools they may need. Consider adding an Employee Assistance Plan, financial counseling, retirement planning, student loan repayment options or counseling, gym memberships or other fitness benefits to your package. Communicate the mental health benefits which are part of your health insurance plan. Educate employees on all of these opportunities for assistance and encourage their use.
  • Benchmark and analyze your paid time off, flex scheduling and flexible workplace policies. Every generation is asking for greater workplace flexibility and more paid time off. How do your policies compare to the marketplace? Are employees encouraged or discouraged to use their paid time off benefits? Are your policies easy to understand and use? Anything you can do to increase flexibility and the availability of PTO will enhance employees’ perceptions of your benefit package.
  • Involve your insurance agent or broker in these discussions. What options or suggestions do they have to provide flexibility, minimize or at least not significantly increase costs, ease recordkeeping, and communicate more effectively with employees. What have other clients of theirs implement that has been well received? Tap into their expertise.

These actions will provide you with information and data you can use now to enhance the benefits portion of your Total Rewards package. Most can be accomplished with minimal financial investment however, they potentially will have a significant impact on your ability to attract and retain the workforce you need. 

Let me close with one last consideration. Do you remember Cafeteria Plans? Not just the POP and FSA components but a fully defined, complete Cafeteria Plan. One where the employer indicates that each employee will be provided a set amount of dollars to use for the benefits they choose. Yes, a full Cafeteria Plan can be expensive to implement. However, what is the impact to your bottom line of turnover? Increasing time-to-fill your openings? When you look at those costs, a Cafeteria Plan might not seem so expensive. A full Cafeteria Plan might just provide the flexibility and customization your employees are seeking. One more option to explore!