Employee acquisition and retention can be tricky tasks, especially when you’re dealing with new generations that have different values and expectations about their jobs than their parents and grandparents. These challenges are perhaps most apparent in the changing landscape of employee perks and benefits, which recently made headlines in a Washington Post report about a potential tax break in the works for companies that assist their employees with education debt. If passed, the tax break would be available to companies that provide employees up to $5,250 a year to repay student loans and other debt associated with education. Student loan debt is a major concern for new entrants into the workplace, which provides employers an opportunity to help out their employees and stand out from competitors trying to attract the same talent.
Assisting with education debt is just one example of the relatively new benefits and perks companies are offering their employees. In previous blog posts, we’ve explored how to better engage millennial employees, and this week we’re going to take a look at different employee benefits programs you should consider offering to entice the best talent to join your team (or stick around if they’re current employees).
Health and Wellness Programs
It goes without saying that a healthy team will perform better than an unhealthy one. That’s why many companies offer health and wellness programs ranging from something as simple as having a masseuse in the office a couple times a month, to more comprehensive initiatives that encourage employees to use pedometers and other wearable gadgets to monitor exercise. The trick is to develop a unique program that will resonate with your employees. For example, if you have employees with families then they may be interested in education on healthier eating or exercise regimens that they can bring home and share with loved ones. There is no one right way to set up a health and wellness program, but it’s important to make sure you’re encouraging a positive experience for employees. Working in an environment that facilitates healthy lifestyles is a great benefit, but not if participation in the program adds more stress on top of workloads. With a successful health and wellness program, you could see your staff performing better and reporting less stress thanks to their improved health.
In addition to physical stress, financial stress can be a major contributor to reduced performance in the workplace. However, the solution isn’t as simple as offering your employees 401k matching, the reason being that many of your employees may not even understand what a 401k is. If you offer 401k matching as a benefit, you should also consider incorporating financial education into the mix. Financial education programs (like health and wellness programs) can be customized to fit your company culture. You could bring in a financial advisor to your office to lead group workshops or one-on-one sessions reviewing retirement investment and budgeting advice, or you could send your employees to educational classes to pick up some financial management and decision-making skills. Doing so can not only help your employees feel better about their financial situations (relieving stress and allowing them to focus on doing their jobs), but also learning key management skills that could help them perform their duties more efficiently.
There are a number of healthcare insurance options available for you to offer employees, such as purchasing a group plan through the state health insurance marketplace (which in Connecticut is called Access Health CT); purchasing a private plan or simply contributing to employee plans through reimbursements. Offering a health plan can reassure your employees that they’ll be taken care of in case of a medical emergency, and the number of options available to businesses means you can do so without excessively impacting your bottom line. For a more in depth look at healthcare plans, check out our previous blog post on the 4 Healthcare Insurance Options for Small Businesses.
Bonus Tip – Communication!
Whatever you decide to offer your employees, it’s essential to be thorough in how you communicate the availability of benefits to your team. After all, why offer an employee benefits program if you don’t encourage them to participate? One of the biggest obstacles to employee use of benefits is lack of awareness, whether that’s related to the sign-up process for healthcare insurance or the existence of the benefits themselves. If you have a large team, consider using a mix of channels to circulate information about benefits and how to use them. For example, in addition to outlining benefits in your employee handbook set up an internal website where your employees can easily navigate to find the benefits they’re curious about. Holding an annual meeting to revisit benefits is also a good idea to remind employees how to use their benefits while also fielding any questions.
Written by Jeff McDonough
Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank