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Creative Ideas for Offering Truly Competitive Benefits

Steve Uslabar, Strategic Risk Advisor

You’ve no doubt heard countless news stories about the labor shortage, especially for highly skilled workers. What’s not being discussed as readily are creative solutions to the problem.

Clearly, offering competitive wages is a major factor. What holds equal weight for many potential hires is a competitive benefits package. However, nearly every employer promotes “competitive benefits” on its career page and job recruiting sites. It begs the question: What is a truly competitive benefits package and how can your company stand out among the crowd?

Before you start figuring out how you might restructure your benefits package, ask yourself the following three questions to determine how competitive your current benefits are:

1. How well am I articulating what we currently offer?

I’ve worked with many companies that have a fairly decent benefits package, yet they still struggle with worker retention. Often, it’s simply because the company fails to toot its own horn. If you’re not promoting your benefits package and showing how it measures up with your competition, your employees may be lured away simply because they “think” a competitor has something better to offer. Employees do a lot of research on their own, often out of curiosity. Do the comparisons for them and communicate openly and often about what sets your company apart.

2. Do I know what competitors are offering? 

Perhaps you overhauled your benefits package a few years ago and felt good about how it compared to the competition then. If you haven’t revisited it in that time, chances are it’s no longer in contention. Find out what competitors in your industry and market are doing today. Explore their careers pages, read their online reviews and job recruiting posts, and do benchmarking for your region with the help of a benefits provider who leverages data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics or Kaiser. Additionally, when doing interviews with potential employees, ask them why they’re leaving their current employer and what benefits are offered. Glean all the information you can from multiple sources.

3. Do I know why people leave our organization? 

If you keep losing good employees and don’t know why, you need to find out. Develop a process for exit interviews and ask pointed questions. Will the former employee receive higher earnings? Or did the lure of more time off to spend with family win them over? Do you have a strength that, if showcased better, would have gotten them to stay? If you’re hearing a consistent theme, do something about it and look at ways to restructure your benefits package.

Find the Balance Between Culture and Experience

Creative Examples of Competitive Benefits

Once you have a pulse on where your current benefit offerings stand and those of your competitors, you can explore ways to improve. Some obvious areas you’ll want to look at include your time-off policy, retirement plans and health insurance. Those are a given. Here, however, we’ll look at more unconventional benefit options that you might want to consider for your own company.

Student Loan Repayment or Tuition Reimbursement

Part of the reason companies are experiencing a labor shortage is because of an exodus of retiring Baby Boomers. Millennials now make up the largest segment of the U.S. labor force, and they carry with them a lot of student loans. Increasingly, employers are instituting aggressive loan repayment programs to help employees tackle burdensome debt. They’re also encouraging higher education to develop their careers by paying for tuition in relevant fields of study.

Adoption Benefits

Maternity leave laws vary by state, but employers with more than 50 employees must allow at least 12 weeks of leave for new parents of paternal or adoptive children. Some employers provide paid leave and, of course, an employer-sponsored health plan can help cover any medical costs associated with a pregnancy and giving birth. Adoptive parents, however, often have just as many, if not more costs associated with the adoption process, yet have no employer-sponsored benefits to cover those expenses. Several companies are instituting an innovative adoption benefits program to help pay up to a certain amount for adopting a child and reinforcing their commitment to family values.

No Waiting Periods

One company did its research, restructured its benefits package and knew it stood up to the test. After several interviews with ideal prospects, it still struggled to convert those candidates into actual employees. The employer followed up with one especially promising interviewee that chose to work for a competitor and discovered that the 60 day waiting period for being added to the health benefits package was a sticking point. Another company offered to provide coverage starting on day one. Along with the stresses of starting a new job, the hassle of having to file for COBRA during the interim was just one more thing to deal with and ended up tipping the scale. The employer never wanted the waiting period to be a barrier to hiring a great employee again and changed its benefits structure to reflect that.

Employee Sabbaticals

I recently worked with a company that wanted to reward employees for their loyalty. When the average stay of an employee in most companies is only 4.2 years, providing an incentive for sticking with your company for the long haul can improve those numbers. This company provided employees who worked for 10 years an entire month of paid time off in addition to their regular earned time off and other benefits, and also provided a stipend and travel allowance. They add on another week of sabbatical for each additional 5-year benchmark. Wondering if this is only reserved for major corporations? Not so. This particular company only has 20 employees and three have already qualified to receive this benefit.

Wellness Incentives

Some companies provide an onsite fitness center or walking trails to help employees stay healthy and destress during or after a hard day’s work. Constructing such amenities isn’t always practical for some companies, but there are ways to get creative. Offer to pay for fitness club memberships or classes instead. The key is to make it easy and not require employees to jump through hoops. Rather than requiring tracking of how often an employee visits the gym, simply ask to see a membership card or invoice to be reimbursed. Another consideration is providing an on-site clinic for minor health needs, free on-site flu shots, nutritional counseling, health screenings and more. Conveniences like these free up time and can lead to a healthier, happier and more productive employee population.

Flexible Hours

One of the most important considerations for new hires is whether an employer will accommodate their busy lifestyles and family obligations. Because of technology and remote capabilities, flexible scheduling is quickly becoming the norm and not the exception. One study found that 85% of job seekers expect employers to support them in balancing their careers and personal commitments. Is working from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. an option so a working parent can pick up his or her kids from school, or are you a stickler for traditional 9 to 5 hours? Consider ways you can accommodate a potential hire’s individualized needs while still ensuring the job gets done.

There are many more creative ways to increase the chances of landing that ideal employee (and to keep the ones you already have). We’d love to come alongside you to share more. Plus, we can go through a comprehensive checklist of your existing employee benefits and help you discover what your competitors are doing so you can fill in the gaps. Reach out to us today to get started.