How your benefits strategy can boost employee engagement

As a human resource professional, attracting, retaining and motivating talent is a big part of your job. While this responsibility is by no means an easy feat, offering employees a meaningful benefits program can help make the task easier. The next time you review your company’s benefits program, here are some things to keep in mind.

Health care and retirement programs matter most

According to research conducted by leading global professional services firm Towers Watson, retirement and health care programs are extremely important to employees because many are worried about rising health care costs and retirement security. The Towers Watson 2013/2014 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found:

  • 29% of employees stated their company’s retirement care program was an important reason they decided to work for their current employer.
  • 33% of employees stated their company’s health care program was an important reason they decided to work for their current employer.
  • 45% of employees stated their company’s retirement care program was an important reason why they stay with their current employer.
  • 47% of employees stated their company’s health care program was an important reason why they stay with their current employer.

Knowing how important health care and retirement programs are to employees, it’s important human resource professionals do the following:

  • Work hard to contain rising health care costs for both the employer and employees. Some ways to control health care costs include offering health initiatives and driving a culture of wellness.
  • Offer prospective and current employees an attractive employer retirement contribution so they know the company cares about their future.
  • Help ensure employees fully understand their health and retirement benefits by communicating effectively and regularly throughout the year. Human resource professionals should keep in mind that all employees learn differently, so offering a variety of communication vehicles, such as emails, webinars and face-to-face sessions work best for a diverse workforce.

Employees place significant value on non-monetary rewards

Benefits programs not only attract and retain employees, but they also help keep existing employees engaged. Factors such as promotion and development opportunities, work-life balance and a desirable work culture all impact employee motivation.

Popular non-monetary compensation strategies to look into include:

  • Paid leave for volunteer work
  • Mentoring programs
  • Discounted memberships and tickets
  • Flexible work schedules and arrangements
  • Rewards and recognition initiatives
  • Team outings

A one-size-fits-all benefits program won’t work

When considering a change to the company’s benefits program human resource professionals should:

  • Consider a variety of factors such as the workforce’s income, career level, age, location and gender.
  • Research competitor offerings and employee preferences.
  • Remember that multiple options and the ability to customize benefits plans is extremely important to employees, especially millennials.

Before adding a benefit, play devil’s advocate

Even though benefits have the potential to positively impact employees, they can also cause a slew of problems if they aren’t designed correctly. An example of this can be found in a blog post I wrote titled, “Are parental work benefits a double standard for childless employees?” In the article, I talk about a research study that shows, in some situations, childless employees in the workplace are expected to put the needs of traditional families before their own. In many situations, the heavy focus on parental benefits causes this inequity, thus resulting in disengagement among the childless employee population.

For human resources professionals to successfully get the talent, employee loyalty and results they are looking for, it’s important benefits packages are aligned with company goals, take all employees into account and continuously evolve to better meet the needs of a rapidly changing and competitive workforce.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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