How voluntary benefits can set your company apart

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Offering employees voluntary benefits is a way to set your company apart from competitors as the job market continues to thrive. For companies large and small, benefits can be used to attract new talent and, importantly, retain the talent you have by offering non-traditional benefits beyond typical health insurance.

The variety of voluntary benefits has increased steadily over the last several years. This is, in part, due to the wider age range of employees in the workforce. Some businesses employ up to four generations of workers, all with different needs.

A younger worker, for example, might be interested in a benefit that complements a high deductible health plan by covering out-of-pocket cash expenses; another option is student loan repayment benefits that help employees pay down debt, which is about $37,000 for new college grads. On the other hand, a company with an older demographic might be interested in benefits that preserve assets for retirement, such as permanent life solutions or long-term care benefits.

See also: Student loan repayment programs are ‘the next 401(k)’

But determining the right mix of voluntary benefits requires research to ensure employer offerings meet employees’ needs. While it might seem like a hefty task, eliminating complexity with a simple survey is the best way to get feedback from employees.

Ask your employees: “Could we do a better job of providing voluntary benefits?”

If more than 20 to 30% of employees answer “yes,” follow up with a short survey.

The first question in the next survey should be, “What is the benefit that you want or need most,” or “What is missing from our benefit portfolio offering?” When it comes to benefits, a “need” typically predicates a “want.”

Next, ask employees to rank voluntary benefits in order of importance. These could range anywhere from accident, critical illness, vision, dental, disability and long-term care to student loan repayment, pet insurance, financial counseling, enhanced employee assistance program plans, legal plans and group medical bridge coverage.

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The results of this ranking survey can help you determine which voluntary benefits you offer. Obviously, when surveying your employees, a higher response rate will give you better direction on which benefits to offer your employees. Employers should conduct the survey electronically to make it easier for employees to complete it, which also provides better tracking capabilities than a paper survey. Employers can also create an email campaign with several touch points as reminders and include an incentive to increase response rates.

See also: How to avoid the approaching voluntary benefits thunderstorm
Finally, after voluntary benefits have been added to your portfolio, make sure employees know what’s available to them. It’s not enough to give them a packet on their first day on the job letting them know that you offer long-term care benefits or pet insurance, for example. Those forms will get lost in the mix of more time-sensitive needs like filling out a W-4 or direct deposit forms. The same goes for open enrollment.

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