Employee retention and engagement are rapidly becoming essential business conversations, ubiquitous across every industry. An evolving business landscape driven by trends like technological breakthroughs, changing consumer habits, and globalization creates a massive impact on hiring strategies as well as trends in supply and demand of talent. With this is mind, a conversation about employee benefits is equally critical. After all, a recent report from Aflac revealed that 80% of employees believe that an improved and well-communicated benefits package at their current jobs would make them more likely to stay with their employer rather than searching for something new.

But we’ve found that many employers default to the same benefits packages they’ve always offered, without realizing just how instrumental it is to their employees’ engagement and wellbeing. It is absolutely vital to understand what benefits employees actually care about if you want to stay ahead in the current business climate.

Healthcare Benefits

A recent Mercer workplace survey found that a massive 93% of respondents believe that healthcare benefits are just as important as their salary. Furthermore, a MetLife study reports that 73% of employees gain peace of mind by having employer-provided healthcare benefits. Finally, add in the new ACA compliance rules that require health insurance coverage, and this quickly becomes the most important factor in the benefits discussion.

The challenge is that it’s obviously not as simple as providing a one-size-fits-all healthcare package for your whole staff. What benefits employees actually care about depends heavily on their life stage and corresponding lifestyle. This can be loosely defined by their generational parameters.

Millennials, for example, are generally in good health. Great healthcare benefits are not necessarily #1 on their priority list of what they want in an employer. Plus, if any of your employees are 26 or under, they have the option of being covered by their parents’ health insurance plan. For those over that cut-off age, as long as you provide them a generous level of support and resources, they’re going to be comfortable conducting their own research to determine the right choice for them.

For Generation X, on the other hand, their needs are going to require flexibility. They’ll often be faced with the health needs of children and possibly elders as well, not to mention their own health. Baby Boomers are in a somewhat similar boat, possibly with children under 26 in addition to older parents whom are dependent upon their help and care. Boomers’ own health is generally on the decline at this stage, increasing potential expenses, and so their healthcare coverage needs are quite the opposite of most Millennials.

No matter which generation your employees belong to, offering too many options may be just as detrimental as offering too few. You want to avoid limiting or overwhelming your employees, so provide a flexible yet concise selection of well thought out healthcare packages that meet the various needs of your unique workforce.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are nothing new in the array of typical perks available to employees. However, it is interesting to note statistics that show Americans are more dependent than ever before on their employer’s 401K for retirement income. In previous generations, people relied more upon savings and home equity, but this is a rapidly declining practice.
What this means is that companies need to be much more conscious of their employees’ needs when picking out retirement plan options. As with healthcare benefits, generational differences do exist, and not only in the level of risk each employee is willing to take on.

The Society for Human Resource Management provides an interesting breakdown between the generations and their retirement needs. In particular, Boomers are more likely to keep working after retirement age, mostly due to their being the hardest hit in the economic downturn of 2008-9. For Generation X, however, as the first generation to see the wide spread implementation of employer 401Ks, many are fairly prepared for retirement, but they are also the most likely to have taken advantage of 401K perks that may affect that readiness. Finally, Millennials, the true digital generation, are frequently turning to do-it-yourself options for retirement saving, especially with the rise of consumer financial technology.

Once again, this is another case where one-size-fits-all will not work. You need to run a careful analysis of your workforce needs before deciding upon the best route.

Other Employee Benefits

Career Development Benefits: Employee training programs and other opportunities for professional development are becoming steadily more popular in many workplaces. It increases employee engagement and workplace morale, and in general provides a greater sense of meaning of an employee’s job. It’s an excellent way to improve employee loyalty and retention.

Preventative Health and Wellness Benefits: Depending upon the demographic of your workforce, there are a number of benefits that may help their overall wellbeing and consequently their engagement and productivity. These include benefits such as smoking cessation programs, weight loss programs, fitness center memberships, and more.

Flexible Working Benefits: Flexibility is one of the most sought after perks. From remote work options to shift flexibility, split or shared shifts, telecommuting days, and more, there are many paths an employer could take to afford their employees more flexibility. Many companies have found that this benefit improves job satisfaction, work-life balance, and overall productivity.

Benefits in the Big Picture

The aforementioned MetLife study found that employees were four times as likely to be highly satisfied with their job if they were very satisfied with their company’s benefits. The Aflac survey reported that 80% of respondents believed their benefits directly impacted their level of engagement on the job.

This evidence is highly compelling for companies to analyze exactly what their workforce desires and needs in regards to employee benefits. We’ve listed some of the most important benefits, but ultimately each company’s workforce is unique. At Synergy, we work with clients to determine the specialized needs of their staff and design corresponding employee benefits plans that make an impact. Tell us more about your company needs to find out if outsourcing benefits administration is the right solution for you.