Co-pays, premiums, PPOs: They may not be the most glamorous part of the HR professional’s portfolio, but in an increasingly competitive recruiting landscape, staying on top of your benefits is more important than ever. That’s easier said than done, with federal regulations and mention employee expectations shifting all the time. Just this year, as we all know, the maximum allowance for pre-tax 401K savings has changed, as has the limit for commuter and parking reimbursement. The challenge for us in HR is not only to keep track of changes in benefits, but also to communicate those changes to employees--ideally without confusing them--and to even get benefits to work to our advantage while retaining key talent and respecting the bottom line. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your company is getting the most out of its benefits package:
- Make sure your employees know--really know--how great they’ve got it. When your engineers are being wooed by startups with deep pockets, you want to make sure they understand that paychecks aren’t everything. Perks count, too. For instance, how many of your employees could guess the cost of their monthly medical premiums? At Vibrant, we make it a habit of presenting employees with Total Benefits statements, which are individualized and demonstrate the total value of their non-salary compensation, including the amount you pay to cover employee premiums, investments made in development and training, and even the value of vacation, holiday and sick days. These can also provide an opportunity to build the HR relationship with employees. If the size of your staff allows, schedule five-minute meetings to review the statements, and you’ll gain new insights into employees’ questions and concerns. (See #3.)
- Grow with your employees, and understand their needs as they evolve. When I first joined Vibrant about six years ago, most of our employees were in their mid-20s. Many were single, few had dependents, and for the most part our benefits package reflected their lifestyle. Needless to say, that’s changed dramatically. More employees are married now, more have families, and we need to constantly reassess our coverage and solicit feedback to make sure we’re addressing the priorities of our overall population.
- Keep communication channels open. Make benefits part of the regular conversations managers have with employees, and employees have with each other. Consider putting together a monthly or weekly e-mail blast that highlights a little-known fact about benefits or answers a question that your team frequently hears. You might want to save surveys for large-scale benefit audits--I’ve found they can unnecessarily skew expectations--but make sure your staff is listening to employees at all times.
- Build events and programs into your strategy. Employees sometimes don’t realize that happy hours, pantry snacks and water coolers are part of a deliberate effort to make the workplace enjoyable. Market these to employees as you might to prospective recruits, and make them part of your conversations about why it’s great to work where they do.
The important thing is to remember that benefits are dynamic: The landscape is always changing, as is the population we’re serving. While maintaining an internal focus--communicating regularly, listening closely--we also need to keep an eye on the horizon, reading professional newsletters and reaching out to peers to maintain an understanding of policy changes and industry trends. After all, perks aren’t just for employees--when they benefit the business does, too.