The best members of every work team are more than just talented. They’re also fully engaged in the company’s mission and purpose. Those are the workers every employer wants. Why? Because engaged employees are loyal and productive employees. They contribute to the bottom line and customer satisfaction, have fewer workplace accidents, miss work less often and tend to stay with the company longer.
Figuring out how to get – and keep – employees engaged has challenged small and mid-sized businesses for decades, largely because achieving that goal requires a multi-faceted approach. To be engaged, employees need to feel they matter to the company. Salary levels, management engagement and culture have significant impact, but they’re not the whole story. Employee benefits, an often-overlooked expression of the value the organization places on its employees, is a key piece of the engagement puzzle.
Employees Look to Employers for Help with Financial, Personal Wellbeing
Technology and social media have blurred the lines between employees’ work and personal lives. Employees often check and respond to emails or texts after hours, for example, and, according to various national studies, spend between one and three hours per day tending to personal business at work. As life and work have merged into a single continuum, employees increasingly look to their employers for benefits that provide both financial security and health and wellness support.
Health care and other benefits provide employees with peace of mind and financial stability. For the company, benefits are strong recruiting tools that drive loyalty and underscore the value the business places on its people. Better benefits are, in fact, third highest – after salary and a positive work environment – on employees’ list of what they desire from their employers, according to MetLife’s 2019 Employee Benefit Trends Study. Further, the study showed that three in 10 employees would trade a higher salary for better benefits.
That said, not all benefits are created equal. Today’s workforce is comprised of up to five generations – from the Traditionalists generation born prior to 1946 through Generation Z, born after 1995. The benefits employees need and value can vary greatly between age groups. A rise in single-parent households and same-sex marriages and the expectation of longer lifespans after retirement also have contributed to today’s diverse benefits needs, as has the increasing number of contract workers in the gig economy.
Meet Employees Where They Are
To use benefits strategies to recruit and retain high-caliber talent and make employees feel connected to the company, management must understand the needs of each demographic in its own workplace and consider benefits that support employees financially, emotionally and physically. The MetLife study drives home this point: About five in 10 employees say better benefits are key to thriving.
For example, employers should consider:
- Offering an array of insurance/health care benefits options that meet employees’ wide range of needs.
- Focusing benefits choices on those that help employees achieve their personal and work-related goals and address their greatest concerns, which usually include personal finances, retirement and their family’s health.
- Implementing non-traditional benefits that are gaining popularity, such as flexible hours, in-house food and/or beverage bars, on-site wellness or fitness programs, spaces for nursing mothers, gym memberships and work-from-home arrangements, to name just a few.
- Allowing employees to choose the options that best fit their personal situations.
- Providing experts who can explain the benefits to employees in clear, understandable language. These resource people should be available on an ongoing basis to answer questions or help employees adjust their benefits if their life situations change.
- Making it easy for employees to enroll and manage their benefits online.
Generally, small and mid-sized employers recognize the advantages of solid benefits plans in helping employees feel cared for and engaged. Financial resources can present a challenge in providing the breadth of benefits these employers would like to offer, however. As a professional employer organization, Axcet can serve as a trusted source to give employers access to an array of benefits they could not otherwise have afforded and to provide trained, certified professionals who can simplify the selection process for employees, helping them choose the benefits that best fit their individualized needs.