To be a successful business, you need to be able to recruit and retain talent. One way to do that is with employee benefits and perks. But depending on who you’re looking to hire and what your competition has to offer, your current approach to group benefits may not be giving you the employee recruitment and retention advantage you need.

In a highly competitive market, one size does not fit all. Organizations who put time and effort into their benefits strategy will be the talent winners.

What do employees want?

It used to be that employees were pretty happy with the standard health and retirement benefits offered by their employers. But today’s work/life reality is much more complicated, as both healthcare and retirement have become exponentially complex and expensive.

Gone are the days of 100% coverage and employer pensions. Hindered by the exploding cost of providing these things, many employers have cut back on their offerings. And employees are feeling the pinch— or the punch.

As financial realities and workplace expectations continue to evolve, employees are redefining what benefits are most important to them, and using these priorities as a guide when making career decisions. Employers who want to give themselves an edge in recruitment and retention should take note.

Employee Concerns

According to the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Towers Watson, employees have big concerns, many of which are financial. Survey respondents reported being worried about short-term and long-term finances, as well as the viability of retirement.

Data from US workers provided a stark look into this new reality:

  • 36% of employees reported being concerned about the level of debt they face
  • 52% of employees said they were experiencing short or long-term financial worries and/or were currently struggling financially
  • 66% of those who were struggling financially reported higher levels of stress
  • 76% of employees believed they’d be worse off in retirement than their parents

This study also backed up the obvious:

  • Employees with financial worries have higher levels of stress.
  • Higher levels of stress lead to poor health outcomes for employees and reduced productivity for employers.

You don’t need a doctor to tell you that high stress and poor health will also lead to higher claims on your health plan.

Long story short: Having stressed out employees isn’t just unhealthy. It’s expensive.

How employers can help

And now a bit of good news.

As an employer, you have the power to attract great talent and help alleviate financial anxiety, all at the same time.

Offering medical benefits at a low cost to your employees can relieve a considerable amount of emotional and financial stress, especially when those benefits extend to partners and family members. They can also improve the overall health and wellbeing of your team.

Paid time off policies also encourage employee wellness. As technology allows work to creep into your employees’ personal time and personal lives, it’s important to give people time off to rest and recharge. Offering sick time is important, but only granting time off when people are sick isn’t a good wellness strategy. Flexible PTO policies will be much more appealing to current staff and potential employees.

Dental and vision plans are often seen as “extras” by insurance providers and employers, but if you’ve ever suffered through a midnight toothache, dental care sure doesn’t feel superfluous. Being able to see seems critical, too. Research shows that employees value dental and vision coverage, and will take these benefits into consideration when making employment choices.

Retirement plans and contribution matching can help ease worries about long-term finances and provide a sense of security. These programs are also an effective way to for employers to demonstrate that they are willing to invest in their employees over the long term, which could make them more likely to hang around.

But too many energetic, young employees can’t even think about retirement, much less contributing to a retirement plan, because they are still so buried in student debt.

Student loan repayment programs are quickly becoming a coveted employee benefit. According to SHRM surveys, 7% of companies allow pets at work, but only 4% of employers are offering help with student loans.

When it comes to incentives, employers and employees may have vastly different ideas about what’s important. 

In a survey conducted by American Student Assistance, 76% of respondents said that if a prospective employer offered a student loan repayment benefit, it would be a deciding or contributing factor to accept the job. If you’re looking for up and coming or highly skilled talent, this is an area where you could gain a serious competitive recruiting advantage.

What’s the bottom line?

If you’re having trouble finding great candidates, it’s time to re-think your approach.

Today’s business landscape changes lightning fast. Employee recruitment and retention strategies that worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Or later this afternoon. If your employee benefits broker or strategy is stuck in the past, it’s time to get moving in a new direction.

As a business looking for new talent, you need to consider who you’re looking for, where you’ll find them, and what benefits they’re likely to value most. And you can’t do that if you’re sitting still.

 Photo by Syda Productions

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