Voluntary benefits can help enhance recruiting and retention gains 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?

The Benefits

How can you determine which benefits are right for your organization, and how can you capture the highest value from the investment? Voluntary benefits range across offerings such as:

  • 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. Organizational values and commitment to issues such as environmental sustainability, education or wellness should be represented in your mix of offerings. Beyond that, the best approach may be to give employees a voice and let them weigh in on the options they most value or would most want to see. To do so, consider these options:

  • Surveys are quick and easy, but sometimes employees will 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 bring new ideas to the table in a formalized way, and represent the voice of employees. Participation can support a collaborative culture of employee engagement and accountability
  • Pilot programs are often a relatively easy way to assess uptake and interest before fully committing

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

  • Instead of communicating one-off programs, make sure employees see your offerings as part of a broader effort to offer them comprehensive value. Centralize the location where employees can go to learn more
  • 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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