Flexible Benefits

Employers everywhere are unwrapping the standard brown-bag benefits packages, tossing out the old standbys and replacing them with a much more flexible, richer, broader, attractively wrapped packages — complete with the perks on the top. It’s not just the benefits themselves that are being enhanced, but the delivery and distribution methods that are just as important.

We don’t have to look very far to figure out why employers are scrambling to rearrange, enhance and tout their newly remodeled benefits packages. It’s the two “Rs” that have plagued human resources over the last several years — recruiting and retaining. Secondary to the “Rs,” but no less important, are reducing time, administration and other tasks that are notorious for eating up too much valuable time from the HR professional.

Who’s In the Driver’s Seat?

Employees have been the leaders in driving this radical change in benefits. In fact, they will define just how far an employer will go to offer benefits. Until recently, benefits were considered “extras”…not something at the forefront of an applicant’s mind when choosing a job. They were “nice to have,” with a few modest expectations.

But there has been a significant shift to a feeling of entitlement for the entire spectrum of benefits — from core to voluntary to perks. Over the last few years, employees have found themselves in the distinct position of dictating their needs and wants — and actually realizing results.

Do Your Homework

Does that mean give them all the benefits you can? Not quite. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm employees — offering too many choices, benefits they’ll never use — and essentially giving them more work to sort through everything. As the employer, you need to show your employees you’ve already “done your homework.” You know what they want and need. Considering this, just throwing an exhaustive laundry list of benefits an employee’s way isn’t the answer. Customization is key here.

It’s a simple concept in theory — keep the current employees happy, and at the same time entice prospective quality employees. The only snag is that employees keep upping the ante and changing the rules, just when employers think they have it all figured out. Taking some time to research your specific employee base (via a survey and/or focus groups) will give you the best idea of what they want and what will make them happy. You may think that offering long term care as a benefit is a real plus; but if your employee population consists of young talent who have no elder parent to care for, nor do they even want to entertain the thought that one day they too will grow old, it flops, and could be more damaging to employee morale than not offering the benefit in the first place.

Once you’ve done your research, you know your employees’ hot buttons and are able to use that to effectively build targeted benefits programs. For the most part, many issues will be the same across the board. But make sure to pay attention to those that may be unique to your employee population — these could be important when you consider attracting and retaining your ideal workforce. Taking that initial time upfront is what will ultimately pay off in the end, getting you one step further on the road to becoming the “employer of choice” and strengthening the employer-employee relationship.

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