Unemployment is down. Recruiting is competitive. Employers are having to work harder than ever before to make themselves stand out. None of this is news to you; in fact, your organization probably knows firsthand how challenging it can be to attract and retain awesome employees.
The Importance of Employee Benefits
One of the most important factors for employees when they’re deciding whether they should take a job or not is the benefits package. This also means it can be one of your organization’s most important tools. Employees value things like health insurance, paid time off and employee perks, and organizations that offer a competitive benefits package can use it to differentiate themselves from other workplaces.
But it isn’t just about offering the shiniest, trendiest perks in the industry. It’s about designing and developing a benefits package that will be meaningful to your organization’s workforce. What do your employees value? What will be most useful to them? Choosing unique employee benefits that fit the needs and interests of your people will help you recruit candidates that align with your organization as it helps retain the awesome individuals you already have.
Foundational Employee Benefits
Of course, there are a number of foundational benefits that every employer must provide by law. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “required benefits provide workers and their families with retirement income and medical care, mitigate economic hardship resulting from loss of work and disability, and cover liabilities resulting from workplace injuries and illnesses.”
Paychex has a pretty good list of federal requirements to get you started (although each state has its own requirements, so make sure you check on your local laws as well):
- Social Security, Medicare and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)
- Unemployment insurance
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Health insurance (for companies with 50 or more full-time employees)
- Family and medical leave (all public firms and private firms with 50 or more employees)
Meeting the minimum requirements is important for compliance; however, even compliance can be a competitive advantage if you take the right approach. Rather than striving to simply not get in legal trouble, you can approach benefits with the intention of doing right by your employees. Go beyond the bare minimum and provide great benefits that will help your employees breathe easier (instead of stressing about health care).
Unique Employee Benefits Packages
Once you’ve established a foundation that covers your employees’ basic needs (by the legal definition), you need to turn your attention to the benefits that will improve your employees’ lives in a meaningful way and help your organization stand out.
Start by considering the demographics of your workforce and what they value. If you employ many newly graduated students, a student-loan repayment program could go a long way with them. If you have many commuter employees, you might offer public transportation passes or discounts. There are countless creative perks and benefits you can offer to your workforce. It’s up to you to determine what will mean the most to them.
Here are a few ideas:
- Student loan repayment
- Public transportation passes
- Vacation reimbursement
- Unlimited PTO
- Pet insurance
- Gym passes or onsite workout facilities
- Flexible work hours
- Rented workspace for remote employees
- Childcare facilities
- Stipend to improve remote/home workspace
- Free food and drinks
- Laundry services
- Employee discounts on company products/services
This is by no means an exhaustive list. And simply because one company provides a certain perk doesn’t mean it would have the same value and impact at every organization. Your organization must develop the best benefits package for your unique workforce and their unique needs.
Connecting Values and Benefits
To do this, it’s vital to connect your benefits and perks to your organization’s values-driven culture. There should be a larger “why” behind each piece of your benefits plan. For example, one of the values here at BambooHR is Enjoy Quality of Life. Our HR team used that value as a guidepost while developing the employee benefits package, and they continue to use it as they add new perks or adjust existing ones.
With that value in mind, they developed the benefits pillars (pictured below) that define quality of life, including:
- Physical health
- Career excellence
- Social and emotional wellness
- Financial fitness
- Community well-being
Then, for each pillar, the BambooHR team categorized the benefits and perks that support it. For example, to support financial fitness, BambooHR reimburses and rewards employees for taking a money-management course. To support social and emotional wellness, BambooHR offers the paid vacation benefit, where employees are reimbursed up to $2,000 for going on a vacation.
While choosing the benefits for your own workforce, connect each one with a core value in your company culture. Then, communicate that connection to your employees so they understand why those benefits exist. Not only will this help them appreciate the benefits offered, but it will also encourage them to use each one.
How to Communicate Benefits
According to a survey from HR.com, 61 percent of HR professionals agree that there is an appropriate amount of communication around benefits for employees in their organization; however, only 23 percent agree that employees take full advantage of the resources available to them to fully understand and use the company’s benefits plan. This disparity suggests that these communication programs may not be as effective as we would like to believe.
How can your organization do a better job communicating what benefits are available and the value they add? We have a few suggestions:
- Educate new employees as part of the onboarding process
- Provide a resource (like a wiki) where employees can find their own answers
- Train employees on how to use these resources
- Let employees know who to contact if they have questions
- Advertise benefits internally
- Host educational breakout sessions on individual benefits during open enrollment
By better communicating your benefits plan, employees will feel empowered to use what’s offered. And when they use the benefits and appreciate them, they are more likely to talk about them. This can help other employees and potential candidates alike learn about the benefits and how valuable they are—which in turn can transform your retention and recruitment efforts.
Ready to develop a better benefits package for your organization? Check out these other helpful resources:
- The Best Employee Benefits and Perks (HR Experts Weigh In)
- The Definitive Guide to Successfully Onboarding Your New Employees
- 2019 Compensation Best Practices Report
About the Author
Tori Fica is a copywriter for BambooHR, the leading HR software solution for small and medium businesses. Through research, analysis and writing, she creates content to help HR professionals think and work more strategically. Her focus is providing in-depth, actionable ideas based on the latest trends in HR.