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What to consider when changing your employee benefit offerings

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Benefits can be a powerful tool to help you attract and retain the employees your organization needs to succeed, especially in a tight job market and in fields where the competition for employees is particularly fierce, like nursing, skilled trades and software development.

But while employees still want robust health insurance plans and other traditional benefits such as paid time off and retirement savings options, they’re also seeking newer benefits like financial wellness programs, help managing student loan debt, transit reimbursement and remote work options.

Before you decide to add to or change your benefits plan, consider several issues. Investing the time upfront to answer these questions from the perspective of the organization you are and the one you want to be can help you build a better plan, one that will attract the employees you want and build loyalty towards your organization.

A 2019 Met Life study found that when benefits are customized to fit employee needs, not only are employees happier, they’re also significantly more satisfied with their jobs, loyal to their employers, and engaged and productive at work. In addition, the study notes that better benefits are a top employee desire — the third highest ranked request after salary and a positive work environment — and six in 10 employees say benefits were one of the deciding factors when taking a job.

Set your goals
Before making any decisions, think about your goals. What are you trying to accomplish by revamping your benefits plan? Are you trying to attract younger workers or retain high skill employees? Cut turnover? Address employee concerns or dissatisfaction with your current benefits? Change the perception of your organization in the marketplace and with potential employees? The answers to these questions can help you decide which benefits make the most sense and which will be the best investment within your benefits budget.

Gather current employee input
Once your HR and leadership team have mapped out goals, get your employees’ insights on current benefit offerings, offerings you’re considering adding and benefits that are on their wish list. You can gather this information several different ways — informal surveys via email, benefits assessment questionnaires and one-on-one or team conversations with employees are a few options. The data you gather can be particularly helpful if the budget is limited and you need to choose which benefit additions or changes will have the greatest positive impact on morale, loyalty and recruiting.

Consider benefits that differentiate your organization
While big tech companies have expanded the spectrum of benefits by adding new offerings like pet insurance and free food at work, that doesn’t mean those will resonate with your workforce. In addition to the benefits your current employees are interested in, you may also want to think about adding benefits that address some common employee issues and concerns and would make your organization stand out from the competition. Those benefits could include the following:

  • Increased access to virtual medical care: Virtual access is not only a convenient way for employees to get care for common problems like sore throats and colds, it can also be an effective way to expand and simplify access to second opinions for serious diagnoses and surgery recommendations and mental health care.
  • Support for healthcare decision making: The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) identified greater access to medical decision support tools as one of six benefits trends for 2020, noting that 78% of large employers plan to offer these as part of their benefits plan. In addition to second opinion programs, decision support tools can include access to medical specialists who gather and review medical records, provide objective information on the full range of appropriate treatment options, as well as access to medical billing specialists who can check bills for accuracy and advocate for employees with healthcare providers when billing errors are found. NBGH notes that 73% of the employers who provide these services will offer virtual access while 60% will provide full-service, concierge-style programs designed to help employees navigate the complexities of the U.S. healthcare system.
  • Help caring for aging parents: While it’s still not a widely adopted benefit, data gathered by the Society for Human Resource Management found approximately 10% of organizations offered eldercare benefits in 2019. This percentage is likely to increase as more employees in their prime earning years are called on to help aging parents and relatives.
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