Employee benefits are a complex and ever-changing aspect of HR that can be difficult to navigate. However, benefits are very important to the well-being of employees and are useful in recruitment efforts. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2018 Employee Benefits Report revealed that, “92 percent of employees said benefits are important to their overall job satisfaction”. Two-thirds of all organizations polled indicated that they had already increased the number and value of benefits being offered to employees. Across the board, SHRM advised, “organizations that use benefits as a strategic tool for recruiting and retaining talent report better overall company performance and above-average effectiveness in recruitment and retention compared with organizations that don’t”.
Employee benefit requirements
Of course, there are some benefits that are either required or expected by most companies. Health insurance with minimal required coverage is still mandatory for employers with 50 or more full time (or the equivalent of part time) workers. This coverage includes health insurance for adults, and dental insurance for children under the age of 18. Health insurance must cover maternity and reproductive services. Employers must also abide by ACA, ERISA, COBRA, HIPPA and GINA laws pertaining to health information, paid time off, and more. Everything else is at the discretion of employers. Most offer at least one choice of dental and vision care for employees, paid time off, retirement savings, and basic life insurance for the employee.
When it comes to managing your group employee benefits in 2019, there are some factors you need to know.
What benefits are employees looking for in 2019?
This year, employees are looking for more than just the standard benefit packages. Many are focused on extra perks. A 2018 study of over 1,100 U.S. working adults conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Glassdoor found that employees value benefits (secondary to salary) and they seek out companies that are transparent about such things. Almost half (48 percent) of the workers said that attractive benefits and perks were an important factor when evaluating a job offer. These perks included things like gym memberships, paid time off, and work flexibility. But other preferences included a great work life balance, easy commutes, and a positive corporate culture.
In another poll, Intuit, the well-known accounting software company (Quickbooks), found that employees respond well to benefits such as transportation and parking assistance (particularly in cities), free meals and nutritional support, and corporate discounts that help employees stretch their earnings further. Other perks that are appreciated can be things like in-office massage therapy, office pick-up of dry cleaning, mail and shipping services, and more.
A growing number of companies are offering access to telehealth services, which reduce costs and increase access to care. Advisory Board revealed in their Virtual Visit Consumer Choice Survey that around three-quarters of Americans welcome virtual health solutions. Preventative care can be encouraged by employers too, by offering free diagnostic screenings and a corporate wellness program.
Outside the norm, employees expect more perks
Something that should be considered when planning your 2019 employee benefits is the demographics of your workforce. Most organizations have a multi-generational workforce, with more older workers staying onboard and younger workers in different lifestyle phases. Covering multiple generations effectively can take some creative thinking, and a high degree of flexibility.
Older workers in their 50s to 60s are heading for retirement and they may have more health concerns at this time. Design the healthcare package to address these needs. For example, a lower deductible health care plan combined with supplemental benefits like hospital indemnity coverage, cancer care, preventative care incentives, and health club benefits may be the perfect mix. Focus on ways to help employees put away extra money for retirement with a generous corporate match of retirement savings.
Younger workers in their 20s to 40s are seeking lower cost benefits because they typically earn less and have more expenses (such as raising a family or buying a home). A good benefit package for this group can include high deductible/low premium health insurance coupled with a health savings or flexible savings account. Focus on providing a generous amount of paid time off and parental leave for work life balance, as well as the option to work from home. Or give employees the option to work shorter hours or fewer days. Housing discounts with local apartment or real estate companies is always a welcome perk. Onsite services, such as a gym or daycare, can be a welcome benefit for those strapped for time.
Should your company add new benefits?
As part of the employee benefit planning and design process, it’s important to test the temperature of the company before adding new benefits. There are a few easy ways to do this. Human Resources can create an entirely new employee survey or include a few questions about benefits in their annual end-of-year survey. Employees can also submit their ideas directly to the employee benefits administrator, including feedback and suggestions for improvement. Exit interviews can also be a good source of information because employees leaving tend to be more candid about what they did or didn't like in terms of benefits.
Some other interactive ways to find out what employees are looking for in terms of benefits include lunch and learns, which may be as simple as asking a benefit expert to come in and discuss the various perks that employees have, or a more in-depth session with a financial advisor, wellness practitioner, or medical billing representative.
Focus groups can be helpful for gaining more objective feedback from new employees, and even candidates who are outside of the organization. Participants can be asked a series of questions and given brief information about a possible new benefit to be offered. Their reaction is then observed and feedback is gathered. The most positive results may indicate it’s time to add a new benefit to the package.
Remember that all candidates are seeking an employer that carefully thinks out and offers the best possible benefits that are relevant for job seekers. If you want to attract the best talent, think beyond salary. Sometimes small tweaks to your benefit package can make a big difference when it comes to hiring, job satisfaction, and long term retention.