Why You Should Offer Voluntary Benefits

Hands reach for many options on a buffet table.

Whether in times of uncertainty, relative stability or growth, people are the drivers who keep your organization moving. Voluntary benefits can help you enhance recruiting and retention at relatively low costs.

When employees think about their overall compensation, they typically account for salary, health benefits, bonuses, retirement and perhaps time off in their calculations. But have you invested in voluntary benefits — and supporting communications — to help employees think more broadly about the value of working at your organization?

A careful evaluation can help you determine which voluntary benefits are right for your organization, and how to capture the highest value from your investment.

Explore the Benefits

You'll want to look at a range of offerings, including:

  • Life, disability and accident insurance
  • Long-term care insurance for employees, spouses and their parents
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Dental and vision
  • Leave and sabbatical programs
  • Employee discount programs
  • Flextime to work from home
  • Wellness incentives and access to fitness facilities
  • Financial education and counseling
  • Group legal plans
  • Pet insurance
  • Adoption assistance

Determine the Right Offerings for Your Organization

Even at low cost, there are many options and vendors out there for voluntary offerings. The challenge is selecting the right mix to appeal to your employees without overwhelming them.

Represent your organizational values and commitment to issues such as environmental sustainability, education or wellness in your offerings. Beyond that, the best approach may be to allow employees to weigh in on the options they most value or would most want to see. Consider a variety of methods for gathering input:

  • Surveys are quick and easy, although employees may express abstract interest in a program and then not use it once it's available.
  • Focus groups can encourage a higher level of employee dialogue.
  • Employee committees can support a collaborative culture of employee engagement and accountability and bring new ideas to the table in a formalized way.
  • Pilot programs can be a relatively easy way to assess interest before fully committing to an offering.

No matter what combination of approaches you settle on, make sure you continue to assess utilization and employee appreciation for all your benefits. You should plan to churn some offerings each year, providing new opportunities and discontinuing stagnant programs.

Communicate to Get the Full Value

Quality communications can help maximize participation in programs while supporting greater employee appreciation for the value that comes with working at your organization. Here are tips on how to approach communicating your benefit offerings:

  • Centralize the location where employees can go to learn more — instead of communicating one-off programs, make sure employees see your offerings as part of a broader effort to offer them comprehensive value.
  • Balance the marketing of new content with the need to make things simple. One reason employees appreciate voluntary benefits may be that they're easy to sign up for and use. If you overwhelm people, overall utilization could drop or stagnate.
  • When your offerings align to corporate values, make sure employees make that connection and understand the organizational investment in them.
  • Communicate simply and in small chunks and provide links to more detailed information.
  • Coordinate with vendors so they're not communicating randomly and independently to employees.
  • Look for employee champions and ambassadors — this is a space where employees can safely grow and develop as future leaders. Make the most of that opportunity. In turn, success stories could encourage higher participation and greater levels of employee awareness and satisfaction.

Collaborate with HR

Given the relatively low cost and the opportunity to make a strong positive impact on recruiting, retention and engagement, supplemental benefits are a prime opportunity for finance leaders and HR leaders to work together. Get started by assessing your employee's understanding of the organization's total employment value proposition and current offerings, then engage with them to understand their perspectives.

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