The lines between work and personal lives are blurring for many employees. They’re seeking balance between the two, and are finding value in the ability to choose the specific benefits that best meet their needs at this point in their lives. And employers are learning that, when chosen and implemented effectively, benefits can demonstrate leadership’s concern for the well-being of employees, reinforce cultural values, and foster deeper employee engagement.
According to James Berkeley, Director of Berkeley Burke International, however, there’s still a disconnect. “The decisions made regarding what benefits to offer are often based on subjective viewpoints, viewpoints that are far removed from the actual needs of employees.” Rather than assuming you know what your employees want, Berkeley suggests you ask them. Though answers will vary, many people are interested in more benefits in these areas:
- Healthy Living and Wellness Benefits. Susan Combs, President of Combs & Company, “The biggest benefit that employees ask for is gym membership reimbursement.” Wellness programs like WalkingSpree–which creates walking clubs, assigns teams and creates competitions – are another great way to motivate and engage employees to live healthy (thereby reducing your health care costs).
- Flexible Work Options. Telecommuting and other forms of flexible work options make employees healthier and happier. And as Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs points out, studies show that, “Employers who offer flexible schedules and alternatives to the traditional nine-to-five not only see higher productivity, but also save on health-related benefits they already offer.” Stanford University conducted a big study that showed that telecommuters were four percent more productive than office workers, working more hours and taking a larger workload.
- Commuting Relief Benefits. More and more are looking for commuting relief benefits from their employers. Incentivize carpooling; use services like Transit Chek so employees can purchase transit tickets with pre-tax dollars; Or promote healthy living and alternative commuting options by installing bike racks your the office.
- Perks You Can Afford. Great perks aren’t just for the guys in Silicon Valley. Many companies–big and small–bring in a massage therapist who offers chair massages to employees. Convenient and relaxing, this perk costs the employer nothing and might just keep employees in the office longer. Others adopt reward programs like BetterWorks where employees are given an allowance to spend on discounted food from local restaurants, dry cleaning, gym memberships and more.
Clearing The Great Leadership Hurdle
By offering benefits that are actually competitive, an organization can set itself above the competition–and build a strong culture of engagement and motivation. But as Eddie Trieber, CEO of HRI, points out, “Getting there requires the support of leadership–and there are a few common concerns that need addressing.” Leaders are often focused on Costs, Immediate Benefit, and Employee Utilization. It’s up to you to deliver on these key points.
Address the issues of cost by reminding leadership how little (if anything) creative benefits cost the organization. It might also help to frame benefits in terms of investments–not costs–in new employee acquisition and retention. And educate your employees. Actively promote offerings in your recruiting strategy. Use open enrollment to re-educate employees. Add FAQs and educational content to the employee self-service portals in your HRMS.
About the Author: Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—an online resource for reviewing and comparing HR and recruiting software. For further reading, you can find this full article on Kyle’s HRblog.