Are Your Benefits Packages Still Relevant?

If your company's benefits packages aren't competitive, you'll have a hard time competing for top talent in the candidate pool. Worse, you'll start hemorrhaging employees as they are lured away by more attractive offers from your competitors. You may even be forced to replace these top-tier workers with talent from the bottom of the barrel. To avoid this nightmare situation, you need to prove to your employees that you care about their well-being.

Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their benefits plans, according to Global Employee Benefits Watch 16/17, a new study from benefits software firm Thomsons Online Benefits. With that many unhappy workers out there, companies that fail to engage their employees and find out what benefits they really need are bound to suffer from high turnover and low productivity.

What Employees Need

Employees need to know that the things that are important to them – family, health, the future – are also important to the companies they work for.

"There are a number of basic benefits that provide a sense of security and protection to employees," says Chris Bruce, cofounder and managing director of Thomsons. "One major area where this comes into play is benefits that help employees prepare for changes in life circumstances that can lead to financial uncertainty. Protection for one's family, such as life insurance and disability benefits so that employees can make sure they are financially secure if they are unable to work, is still top of mind for today's workforce."

Bruce also says that, depending on the country, medical insurance is "a key benefit that employees want today." Retirement benefits are also highly sought after.

"Employees want security in knowing they will have income when they choose to stop working," Bruce adds.

What Employees Want

While the basics like health insurance, life insurance, and retirement packages are still pretty much a given, many companies have also started to use benefits as a tool to attract and retain top talent – and you should, too.

"Often, employees see greater value from 'fringe' benefits," Bruce says. "These benefits are often linked to lifestyle choices. For example, at Thomsons Online Benefits, we have two personal trainers who come to the office every Wednesday evening and take a group of our employees to a local park to train. For those that take part, this is their favorite benefit and something they would really miss if they left the company."

In addition to fringe benefits around the office, employees want the freedom to break out of the nine-to-five mold.

"We also found that flexibility is a critical benefit sought after by today's workforce," Bruce says.

According to Thomsons' research, 35 percent of U.S. employees find flexible work schedules have the greatest impact on job satisfaction – second only to annual salary increases, cited by 40 percent of U.S. employees.

"Additionally, more than a third of employees in the U.S. noted they wanted unlimited time off more than a salary increase, but this is a benefit less than 13 percent of employees currently receive," Bruce notes.

The good news is that businesses these days seem to understand how important it is to offer appealing benefits programs.

"Over the past 30 years, companies have taken cost and risk out of their programs and, in doing so, have specifically targeted choice and access as ways to return value to the employees," says Bruce. "This shift in benefits approach has led us to the fourth generation of benefit philosophy and design – something we can best describe as 'on-demand benefits.' Companies want to provide their employees with the best possible experience of working for them. However, with the increasing diversity and ever-changing needs of the workforce, companies must drive toward greater choice to do so."

Engaging Employees Is Key

So, what's the best way find out what sorts of benefits employees are looking for? It's simple: Try asking.

"Engaging employees continues to remain the No. 1 strategic objective for 80 percent of human resources and reward professionals, according to the survey," Bruce says. "The report also revealed that 92 percent of these professionals believe benefits play an important role in achieving engagement. When asked about factors impacting benefits engagement, 60 percent cited the quality of communications as the No. 1 factor."

Despite the best of intentions, however, many businesses are still missing out on key opportunities to engage their workers.

"Almost 70 percent of employees in global organizations want to hear about benefits around key life stages, such as marriage or home purchase, but only 46 percent of employers use these moments as an opportunity to engage with their workforce," says Bruce.

This is a mistake, because communicating benefits frequently and at the right times can boost employee engagement.

"Companies that say they have an engaged workforce are 25 percent more likely to communicate at least every two months regarding benefits," Bruce explains. "Taking this continuous approach also helps employees understand the value of their benefits packages and how [these packages] can support them and their families in their everyday lives."

Your employees are the lifeblood of your organization. They are the cogs and wheels that keep you in business. Take a look at the benefits you offer to your workforce and make sure they're still timely and relevant. Your employees and your bottom line will thank you.