How To Provide Well-Rounded Benefits As Employee Expectations Shift

Post written by

Shobin Uralil

Co-Founder & COO of Lively, Inc - a modern Health Savings Account (HSA) platform.

Employee culture, recruitment and retention are huge parts of how your company is perceived. With the changing job market, staying ahead will have a direct impact on your company’s growth. As the co-founder and COO of a health savings account platform, I've seen the importance of providing well-rounded benefits to employees today.

Whether you operate a small to medium-sized business or a booming enterprise, I've found a few ways you can you rein in benefits so they don’t balloon into an unsustainable cost (and still recruit top-tier candidates).

But first, what changed?

It’s not just you. Employees have changed dramatically. What they want and how they think about job security is different than it was 10 years ago. To give you a reference point, more than half of millennials were looking for a new job in 2016, according to Gallup (registration required). This has forced employers to take a new approach when it comes to their benefits offerings. Recruiting and retaining employees is taking more time and more money. So what benefits really matter to this new employee demographic?

In my company's recent inaugural Wellness & Wealth Survey, we found that healthcare was more important to Americans than salary. Nearly 40% of employees surveyed chose healthcare as the most important benefit when deciding between a new job or staying in their current role. Healthcare benefits topped a competitive salary, 401(k), unlimited time off, student loan assistance and even childcare.

Employees' focus on healthcare benefits has forced employers to alter their benefits offerings in order to retain and attract candidates, as shown in the 2016 Strategic Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. I believe this survey, along with my company's recent survey, shows this trend not only continues, but could also be accelerating.

How To Build A New-Age Benefits Plan

Many companies do not have an endless benefits budget, so if offering the best benefits for the best value is a top priority for you, here is how I suggest you approach your benefits offering:

• Get personal. When you overhaul your benefits offering, start with your current employees. Get their feedback. Find out what their top concerns are, and do your best to address those concerns. You might find out that 401(k) matching is more important than catered lunches, for example. Your employees can help build your company culture, which in turn can become one of your most valuable assets. In my experience, this type of culture can help increase retention and employee satisfaction and bring in more candidate referrals.

• Create flexibility. Look for opportunities to add health plan options. Sometimes, a choice is all you need. Offering health plans that allow employees to determine their coverage needs helps them feel that they are not stuck in a corner. Furthermore, find plans that work together. This can add value for employees in the form of tax savings and lower out-of-pocket costs.

• Find benefits that don’t expire. A 401(k) is the gold standard for employer-sponsored retirement. These are funds that go with employees from job to job and never expire. HSAs follow that same logic, but for healthcare. With a more mobile workforce, employee-owned benefits create long-term value (and savings) for employees. Look for benefits like these that last a lifetime. (Full disclosure: My company provides HSAs.)

• Make it easy to understand. Benefits plans can feel impossible to navigate. They can frustrate employees to no end. Without any cost, if you can translate these benefits and show their value to employees, you will set your company apart. Show employees the real cost savings your benefits offer in plain language.

You still need to ensure your plan offerings are cost-effective. Compare your plans in the aggregate. If you have a cost per employee in mind, you can easily create healthcare bundles that are contained within that budget. Add on companywide benefits, such as 401(k)s, to create a well-rounded offering.

How To Measure Benefits Plans And Costs

No matter the changes in the market, the goal remains the same: to increase employee productivity and revenue. The good news is, technology is giving you a nice tailwind here. You have more measurement tools at your disposal to keep track of employee satisfaction and overall productivity. Although, it should be clear that an old-fashioned, in-person meeting can’t be ignored.

You are still stuck in a competitive job market with rising benefits costs that are making your job even harder. Looking at lower cost but higher flexibility options (such as a high-deductible health plan, or HDHP, for example) is a good place to start. There is no question that this unbalanced equation could force you to invest more time or money (or sometimes both) to stay competitive in the job market.

Thinking 10 Years Ahead

With health plan options changing each year, you need to be extra diligent in your approach. Ask your benefits broker for help.

Keep educating employees. Their benefits perspective is just as important as the benefits you are offering. New benefits can increase employees' confusion, and you might be the only resource they have. Be sure to ask your benefits provider if you need help here; they should have educational materials that can help with employer education.

Engage your employees and ask what they want to ensure each year your benefits are strongly aligned with their needs. Keep exploring options. Your benefits plans will never be set — and that’s a good thing!

When it comes to benefits and the changing job market, no matter your role, you are going to become more of a human resources expert than you might have expected, and that's OK. As it turns out, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Forbes San Francisco Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners in Greater San Francisco. Do I qualify?
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Employee culture, recruitment and retention are huge parts of how your company is perceived. With the changing job market, staying ahead will have a direct impact on your company’s growth. As the co-founder and COO of a health savings account platform, I've seen the importance of providing well-rounded benefits to employees today.

Whether you operate a small to medium-sized business or a booming enterprise, I've found a few ways you can you rein in benefits so they don’t balloon into an unsustainable cost (and still recruit top-tier candidates).

But first, what changed?

It’s not just you. Employees have changed dramatically. What they want and how they think about job security is different than it was 10 years ago. To give you a reference point, more than half of millennials were looking for a new job in 2016, according to Gallup (registration required). This has forced employers to take a new approach when it comes to their benefits offerings. Recruiting and retaining employees is taking more time and more money. So what benefits really matter to this new employee demographic?

In my company's recent inaugural Wellness & Wealth Survey, we found that healthcare was more important to Americans than salary. Nearly 40% of employees surveyed chose healthcare as the most important benefit when deciding between a new job or staying in their current role. Healthcare benefits topped a competitive salary, 401(k), unlimited time off, student loan assistance and even childcare.

Employees' focus on healthcare benefits has forced employers to alter their benefits offerings in order to retain and attract candidates, as shown in the 2016 Strategic Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management. I believe this survey, along with my company's recent survey, shows this trend not only continues, but could also be accelerating.

How To Build A New-Age Benefits Plan

Many companies do not have an endless benefits budget, so if offering the best benefits for the best value is a top priority for you, here is how I suggest you approach your benefits offering:

• Get personal. When you overhaul your benefits offering, start with your current employees. Get their feedback. Find out what their top concerns are, and do your best to address those concerns. You might find out that 401(k) matching is more important than catered lunches, for example. Your employees can help build your company culture, which in turn can become one of your most valuable assets. In my experience, this type of culture can help increase retention and employee satisfaction and bring in more candidate referrals.

• Create flexibility. Look for opportunities to add health plan options. Sometimes, a choice is all you need. Offering health plans that allow employees to determine their coverage needs helps them feel that they are not stuck in a corner. Furthermore, find plans that work together. This can add value for employees in the form of tax savings and lower out-of-pocket costs.

• Find benefits that don’t expire. A 401(k) is the gold standard for employer-sponsored retirement. These are funds that go with employees from job to job and never expire. HSAs follow that same logic, but for healthcare. With a more mobile workforce, employee-owned benefits create long-term value (and savings) for employees. Look for benefits like these that last a lifetime. (Full disclosure: My company provides HSAs.)

• Make it easy to understand. Benefits plans can feel impossible to navigate. They can frustrate employees to no end. Without any cost, if you can translate these benefits and show their value to employees, you will set your company apart. Show employees the real cost savings your benefits offer in plain language.

You still need to ensure your plan offerings are cost-effective. Compare your plans in the aggregate. If you have a cost per employee in mind, you can easily create healthcare bundles that are contained within that budget. Add on companywide benefits, such as 401(k)s, to create a well-rounded offering.

How To Measure Benefits Plans And Costs

No matter the changes in the market, the goal remains the same: to increase employee productivity and revenue. The good news is, technology is giving you a nice tailwind here. You have more measurement tools at your disposal to keep track of employee satisfaction and overall productivity. Although, it should be clear that an old-fashioned, in-person meeting can’t be ignored.

You are still stuck in a competitive job market with rising benefits costs that are making your job even harder. Looking at lower cost but higher flexibility options (such as a high-deductible health plan, or HDHP, for example) is a good place to start. There is no question that this unbalanced equation could force you to invest more time or money (or sometimes both) to stay competitive in the job market.

Thinking 10 Years Ahead

With health plan options changing each year, you need to be extra diligent in your approach. Ask your benefits broker for help.

Keep educating employees. Their benefits perspective is just as important as the benefits you are offering. New benefits can increase employees' confusion, and you might be the only resource they have. Be sure to ask your benefits provider if you need help here; they should have educational materials that can help with employer education.

Engage your employees and ask what they want to ensure each year your benefits are strongly aligned with their needs. Keep exploring options. Your benefits plans will never be set — and that’s a good thing!

When it comes to benefits and the changing job market, no matter your role, you are going to become more of a human resources expert than you might have expected, and that's OK. As it turns out, there really is no such thing as a free lunch.

Forbes San Francisco Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners in Greater San Francisco. Do I qualify?

Co-Founder & COO of Lively, Inc - a modern Health Savings Account (HSA) platform.