In this day and age, employees are coming to terms with the fact that pay increases are few and far between. Still, hard work should not go unrecognized, so companies are looking for new and different ways to reward their top performers.
A good benefits package can go a long way toward keeping an employee motivated and engaged. It can also swing a prospective employee’s decision your way an edge any company could use in today’s competitive job market. And today, employees are looking for more than the traditional medical and dental benefits.
But, you can’t just offer the traditional medical and dental benefits. Employees are looking for more, so it would behoove a company to find out what their employees want and need and then give it to them.
“Offering attractive and affordable benefits in addition to traditional insurance keeps employees engaged,” says Melissa Hulsey, president and CEO of Ashton. “By creating a plan that suits your specific work environment, you end up with a happier, healthier and more productive staff.”
Smart Business spoke with Hulsey about implementing effective benefits programs.
Why are benefits so important to today’s work force?
The benefits package your company offers says a lot about the culture and personality of your business. It is important to consider three main factors when designing your plan avoiding economic hardships for employees due to illness or disability, providing employees with some form of retirement income and creating a system of leave. Good talent demands more than a paycheck and if you do not offer a competitive benefits package, your competitors will.
What benefits are most important to today’s work force?
Even with recent legislative changes, access to health care is still the No. 1 benefit for employees. Vision, dental and disability are also highly desirable. Other standard and very popular benefits include life insurance, retirement plans, flexible compensation (cafeteria plans) and employee leave. Automating the enrollment process and ease of information regarding the benefit plan is very important to employees, as well. Offering an easy-to-use, Web-based system will bring added value to an existing benefits program.
Why is rewarding employees so important?
Rewarding and recognizing employees leads to retention. We all feel the need to be appreciated. Recognition of a job well done communicates that our work is valued and respected. This sends an important message to the recipient and other team members about job performance and a company’s ability and willingness to just say ‘thank you.’ A successful reward/recognition plan includes the ability to identify good performance by communicating expectations, immediately recognizing the performance and then giving meaningful rewards.
Rewards can be as simple as posting top performers in company newsletters or on bulletin boards. Hosting ice cream socials or having the boss serve lunch are other fun ways to reward employees. Reward wheels are also very popular. Items like a free day off, leaving early on Friday, free lunch, gift cards and free car washes are posted on a wheel that employees take turns spinning. Be creative with rewards cash is always nice but sometimes simply appreciating the talent you have goes a long way in building employee loyalty.
What if an employer cannot afford to fully fund benefits?
Most benefits plans offered by small or midsize businesses are not fully funded by the employer. When deciding what benefits to fund or partially fund, a good benchmarking of your largest competitors’ benefits may help decide where your money is best spent. In today’s economy every little bit helps, so do not underestimate the importance of contributing even a small amount to the benefits that are important to your population.
What are some examples of nontraditional benefits?
Nontraditional benefits are as varied and unique as the companies that offer them. Unconventional examples include bringing your dog to work, a handyman on staff to assist with home repair while employees are busy at work, weekly in-office massage therapy, a full-time concierge and dry cleaning services. Some of the more popular options include offering paternity leave for new fathers. Allowing men to be at home with a new baby and take a more active ‘daddy’ role is a big deal to families. While this is becoming standard with large corporations it can set a small to mid-size business apart from others. Paid or non-paid this can put a feather in any company’s benefit hat.
On-site child care, child care discounts or a child care allowances are all great ways to assist parents with young children. Offering unpaid leave is a no-cost way to add a benefit. Studies have shown that employees will take six to nine unpaid days per year if available to them. Telecommuting and flextime also top the list of widely used nontraditional benefits. Another trend is moving to a completely performance-based model. In this situation there are no set hours, just very defined job expectations and goals. As long as these standards are being met employees can set their own hours and enjoy the ultimate in job flexibility.
How can employers help employees with work-life balance?
The first thing employers can do is survey their work force. Design a plan that is important to you and be willing to listen and make changes when necessary to keep it current. Secondly, be creative and have an open mind to new ideas. Companies can always pick a ‘beta’ group before rolling out a new benefit to the entire company. Work-life balance is more important now than 10 years ago, and the trend will only grow as the next generation enters the work force.
Melissa Hulsey is president and CEO of Ashton. Reach her at (770) 419-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.