As talent markets tighten, organizations should always be on the lookout for new strategies to attract and retain talent. While top-notch compensation and culture will always be critical elements of any talent strategy, comprehensive employee benefits could just spell the difference between onboarding the best and brightest and watching them sign on with your fiercest competitors.

Here are five steps HR leaders can take to transform employee benefits from a nice-to-have into a human capital management strategic advantage.

1. Invest in Technology

Employee benefits are more tech-driven than ever before. From providing instant access to information and self-service capabilities, to the reporting prowess needed to meet compliance demands, it all starts with the right tech system. Innovative organizations are leveraging cloud-based technologies and mobile applications to support benefits. Integrating benefits into the wider human capital management ecosystem promises to yield greater efficiencies and powerful insight.

This could take the shape of passing data seamlessly from a leave management system to time and payroll systems, or through the greater insight gained from regular talent touch bases and real-time benefits perceptions, helping you gauge overall employee loyalty. With the rising threat of cyberattack, there's also an increasingly urgent focus on ensuring that employee information remains safe and secure. Investment in the right technology foundation can help ensure organizations are able to deliver on their benefits strategy goals.

2. Meet the Compliance Challenge

Benefits compliance is one of the biggest challenges facing large organizations today. Failing to understand and comply with benefits regulations can be expensive, sometimes costing firms hundreds of thousands, or even millions, in fines. According to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, Transforming Benefits Into a Business Asset, nearly half of businesses don't know how many fines they incurred for violations or what it cost their organization. In order to leverage benefits as an asset, it's critical to stay up-to-date on changing legislation around employee benefits.

Beyond this, your organization's payroll and HR systems should be aligned to provide the most accurate information and reporting possible. HR leaders should make it a priority to maintain consistent communication with senior executives on the risk that noncompliance poses to the bottom line and why maintaining compliance must be a strategic priority.

3. Focus on Communication

According to ADP RI, just 9 percent of HR leaders believe their teams were knowledgeable about their benefits. Organizations that invest in developing an effective benefits strategy need to put together a communication game plan that helps employees understand the value of their plans. Effective communication and execution of your benefits strategy relies on three fundamental elements: delivering information that employees care about, delivering it through the right channels and delivering it at the right time. You need real-time meaningful insights into what employees are engaging with and what channels they're leveraging.

For example, if you just launched a high deductible health plan and only 10 percent of employees signed up for the new plan, you'll want to identify which populations of employees did not, so you can tailor education and engagement efforts to these populations. In addition, understanding their preferred communication channels and formats can increase engagement, and might mean the difference between individuals passively enrolling in programs they had last year versus actively partaking in the enrollment process. Developing a targeted communications strategy and having the technology to easily deliver that throughout your benefits cycle can transform the employee experience.

4. Address Multigenerational Needs

A multigenerational workforce can be one of HR's biggest challenges, and this may be most obvious in an area like benefits. For example, the benefits that a Gen Xer with a large family is interested in will likely vary from that of an unmarried millennial. Streamlining communications to different employee segments can help. HR leaders can now provide a customized experience by investing in a benefits system that allows for targeted messaging campaigns to be delivered to discreet employee populations, based on engagement data.

Your organization may notice that certain groups of employees are still calling into your benefits center, despite the launch of a self-service mobile app. Armed with this knowledge, your HR team can organize a training session on mobile self-service and show what the app's capabilities are. Mobile usage could increase among the target populations, along with satisfaction. HR leaders should think about a strategy that allows them to address the needs of multiple generations, as well as perks that will appeal specifically to in-demand workers.

5. Leverage the Benefits Advantage

When each element of your overall benefits strategy works in concert, it can present a significant advantage for your organization. Excellent technology, strong communications, an effective compliance strategy and good communication can lead to a best-in-class program and a positive reputation in the market. This can best be accomplished by:

  • * Communicating the value to your existing employees to increase engagement, loyalty and retention
  • * Utilizing your benefits package to make your overall compensation package more competitive to attract top talent
  • * Offering nonmonetary benefits that carry weight with talent that also bolsters the organization's bottom line

Employee benefits are an integral part of your business compensation puzzle. However, many businesses fail to follow a cohesive strategy or develop a strong benefits platform. Invest now and systematically turn your benefits offerings into a competitive advantage.

Tags: HCM Strategy