October 29, 2013

Maximizing Employee Benefits

Over the last three years, HR benefits budgets have experienced substantial cuts because of the economy. Employers face increasing challenges regarding employee benefits:  what does health care reform mean for the company and employees; which benefits strategies will manage the budget while remaining talent competitive; how do we ease benefits programs’ administrative burdens; and what education methods will help employees learn about the benefits they have, what’s covered, and possible gaps?

It’s more than money

Take the blah out of employee benefits. You don’t have to keep swallowing large benefits percentage increases on your current offering thinking it is the right thing to do while wondering if anyone cares. Design the benefits package employees want, value, and are willing to contribute to themselves versus your traditional package. Your benefits package can be sustainable, attractive, and a competitive advantage.

What’s important

Communication through a continuous, engaging dialogue throughout the year. According to a national study by MetLife in 2011, employees who reported that their organization had effective benefits communications were more likely to be loyal to their organization, and more satisfied with their benefits and with their jobs.

  • Understand the personal value. Conduct a benefit audit survey of employees that will assess what benefits they want, what they have, what they value, and what they use. Allow a two-three year cycle so that benefits changes have time to grab a root then underappreciated benefits goes away in year three.
  • Implement benefits education prior to hire, in the on-boarding process, and throughout the year by bringing in vendors and specialists.
  • Provide total compensation statements to employees on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.
  • Budget by listening. I have forced myself to be really open minded and not assumptive. Through our surveys, we discovered employees wanted more casual days and more potlucks. These don’t cost any money. Did we listen? You bet!
  • Pay attention to consumer trends that employees are embracing voluntarily. HSA’s have portable retirement benefits, tax advantages to both employers and employees and offer flexibility in paying for health related items and services. Defined benefit plans provide a set amount of dollars that employees can spend on a menu of benefits they value.
  • Live your company’s values. Does your company culture support a healthy lifestyle changes through wellness programs and day-to-day commitment to your employees health? Does it meet work life balance needs? 

Changing employee benefits can be exhausting mentally and monetarily. Maximize your benefits package based on the employees’ perceived value versus being a slave to the market.

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

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