Navigating Benefits

What Employees Want: Getting Personal About Benefits

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Posted by October 27, 2016

As an employer, it’s important to offer a competitive benefits package to help your employees lead healthy lifestyles. Knowing what employees want can go a long way toward creating an outstanding compensation and benefits package—a tool that can both attract and retain workers.

Do Employers Know What Employees Want?

Employers may think that they have a good idea of what employees are looking for, but they can be mistaken. With the Affordable Care Act putting more pressure on employees to select health benefits, one might think solid health insurance would be a priority. But, depending on the employee, it could as easily be the opposite.

In a 2015 survey, the Employee Benefit Research Institute revealed that, “20 percent of employees would accept fewer health benefits in order to have better wages.” A similar study, conducted by Glassdoor in 2015, showed that 79 percent of employees prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase, especially younger employees (aged 18-34), who place more emphasis on work perks than those preparing to leave the workforce (aged 55-64). While these surveys support similar findings, they also highlight that not every employee wants the same thing. It’s important to remember that employees are individuals with unique needs and priorities. Getting to know your employees as a small business owner can help you tailor your benefits package so it’s more attractive to your workforce.

How You Can Stay in Touch With Your Employees’ Needs

In any organization, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle of things and lose sight of what employees want. Yet, in order to maintain a strong workforce, leaders must find ways to stay connected to what matters to employees. How can you get acquainted with your employees on a personal level and make sure the benefits package you offer is the best fit for their needs?

Understand the Emotional Connection

Most employees will stay with a company when they believe their personal and professional needs are being met. According to a 2012 survey, the top reasons why working Americans stay with their current employer are benefits, pay and having a job that they enjoy and that fits their lifestyle. In many cases, the closer a job is to the heart of an employee, the more engaged in work that employee will be.

When management understands this, they can tap into the unique emotional reasons why an employee stays loyal to the company, and figure out what it takes to keep them happy.

Get to Know Your People

As a leader, you have the opportunity to learn about the incredible people who work for your company. Spend time with your employees outside of scheduled meetings. Walk around the office and express an interest in the work they do. Use first names with your employees and insist they do the same. Keep the workplace casual and friendly. Have a pizza party once a month or bring in a healthy breakfast as a treat for your employees.

Not only will these events give you the opportunity to engage with your employees on a personal level, they’re also a great way to express your appreciation for the work they do.

Notice the Little Things

Once you get to know your employees better, you’ll start to notice things such as the way they perform at work, how they have decorated their work areas with pictures of their pets and kids, how they celebrate accomplishments and how they treat each other and customers. Select a different employee to take to lunch each week and drop all the employee/employer labels.

This can help open up the doors for honest conversations about benefits and potential gaps in your current package.

Encourage Open Communication

Create a workplace where every employee is respected, listened to and feels they are a valuable part of the team. During staff meetings, which need to be held on a regular basis, give everyone a chance to talk about concerns, including ways to improve the benefits at work. Sometimes an employee will bring something up that others are afraid to talk about, but once it’s been aired, positive changes can take place.

Consider that different employees may prefer different methods of communication. Some employees may be happy to share their feedback in person, while others may prefer to submit ideas and comments anonymously through a form on your company website or a traditional comments box.

Monitor Benefit Use

It’s possible to analyze your current benefits package to see how many employees are participating (by looking at the claims data), and how employees are using their benefits (ER visits vs. preventative care). Take an informal survey of your employees a couple times each year to find out if they are happy with the benefits, making use of them or need some additional benefits or perks to sweeten the deal.

A 360-degree survey administered by a third-party vendor can be useful for gauging employee satisfaction with the benefits package and for gathering general feedback. Narrow down the results in a report focused on compensation and benefits, and use this data to make positive changes to the current package. An alternative method is to use a low-cost survey resource such as Survey Monkey to develop a benefits-oriented survey. The Recruiting Division provides some expert tips on what survey questions you can ask.

By following the above steps, it’s possible to get closer to an ideal benefits package that employees will value and take part in. Getting to know your employees on a deeper level may seem scary at first, but it can also be fun and highly beneficial to the future success of your company.

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