0 Comments | May 12, 2010

Spice Up Your Employee Benefit Package

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If your company is like most, your employee benefit plan has become a bit flaccid over the past couple of years. Where’s the first place most execs cut costs when the going gets a bit rough? Yep. Benefits.

What’s the big deal? Every other human resources employee benefits shop has had to do the same thing, right? It’s not like you’re alone in this “Great Recession.”

But the times are changing, again. While you might not be feeling it quite yet, the recovery has begun. Small businesses – widely regarded as a reliable economic bellwether – have been hiring since mid-2009. The “jobless recovery” isn’t quite as jobless as many believe, which means two things:

  1. Your top talent is more valuable now than a year ago.
  2. You need to employ high-return employee retention techniques.

Among the best practices for employee retention are so-called “employee retention wellness programs” – a unique double-duty category of employee benefit packages. The moniker comes from such programs’ pedigree as employee benefits related to health/wellness, designed to lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and reduce workplace stress.

But these programs also have exceptional value as employee retention techniques. This is due to three key factors:

  1. Nearly two out of three employees are quietly searching for jobs right now. You read correctly – almost 2/3 of your staff is peeking over the fence, looking for greener pastures, even during this time of scarcity. They know that top talent comes at a premium during a downturn.
  2. 20% of employees report that your employee benefit package is their most important stay-or-go decision consideration.
  3. If your staff doesn’t like your employee wellness benefit program, they are four times more likely to leave your company in the next year.

The point is that you’re going to have to spend some money on your employee benefit plan -which must include a high-profile and high-value employee wellness program – to keep your turnover costs under control as the recovery takes shape. And when you spend money on benefits, you should employ the following five employee retention techniques to make sure you get the biggest bang for your benefits bucks:

  1. Go for employee benefits with high perceived value. Figure out what’s important to your employees, and give it to them (within reason). There is a small but meaningful list of benefits, like Vacation Wellness™, flex time, telecommute options, and education assistance, that are nearly universally appealing for employees.
  2. If you’re not yet a believer in employee health wellness programs, it’s time to get on board. Healthcare costs are out of control, which is reason enough, but effective employee wellness benefit programs are exceptional retention tools as well.
  3. Differentiate. Develop a unique employee benefit plan “selling point” that sets your offering apart from your competitors. If you’re coming from behind in this regard, you don’t need to add everything your competitors offer and then some, you just need to make sure that your additions are meaningful, valuable, timely, and have a high perceived value for your workforce.
  4. Foster employee work-life balance. The most effective employee wellness program ideas are those that give your workforce time, space, and permission to take care of themselves and their families, cultivate outside interests, and enjoy time away from work. Wellness travel is among the most cost-effective and attractive options in this category.
  5. Make your employee benefit package fun! Don’t inundate employees with drab, dry, complicated, esoteric benefits. OK, you can make the strong argument that many of the benefits necessities are always drab, dry, complicated and esoteric, but there’s no need to stop there. Add something that grabs their attention! Make them feel part of a community, and demonstrate that your company has gone the extra mile to look after their interests.

The biggest takeaway is to consider employee wellness programs as employee retention plans in disguise. When you approach them strategically, you’ll reap twice the rewards.