Employee benefits are an important part of the total employment experience. Not only do employees need benefits like health insurance and paid time off (PTO), but benefits show that the organization cares.
Rob Hecker, vice president of Global Total Rewards for Unum Group, reminds us that an employer’s most valuable asset is its workforce. “Offering a robust employee benefits package, along with other work perks like generous paid time off, paid family leave and flexible working conditions, shows you care about their financial, emotional and physical wellbeing,” Hecker says. “Research shows when employees feel valued, they’re more productive, more satisfied, more likely to recommend your company to others, and less likely to leave.”
Organizations should remember that employee benefits are more than a “one and done” conversation. There are several times in the employee life cycle when the organization should make sure that employees know about the benefits available to them.
During the hiring process. There used to be a school of thought not to talk about benefits until the job offer was being extended. Thankfully, that’s changing. Organizations are openly sharing with candidates some of the most popular benefits they offer like unlimited time off and student loan repayment programs before job seekers apply and throughout the recruitment process.
When someone starts working for the company. Most companies do this one, especially since employees need to complete payroll paperwork and enroll in health insurance. New hire orientation is a great time to talk about supplemental coverages like dental, vision, and disability.
During annual enrollment. Each year, every organization has a time when employees hear about upcoming health care plan changes and costs. And they’re able to make changes to their coverage. While this activity is typically focused on medical coverages, organizations can use enrollment to promote all of the employee benefits available, not just talk about changes.
When an employee is promoted. Some organizations offer different benefits to management and/or exempt level positions. Or they offer the same benefits but contribute a different percentage toward the cost. Don’t assume employees know or remember this information. Use it as an opportunity to let a newly promoted employees know that along with their new title and salary, they are eligible to sign up for benefits like increased life insurance coverage or accidental death and dismemberment coverage (AD&D).
During employee leaves. Sometimes employees take a leave of absence under emergency circumstances, and it’s hard to schedule time with them to review their benefits. However, many employees take leaves in conjunction with a planned medical procedure or parental leave. This is a good time to let employees know about their current benefits and what will happen to those benefits while they are out of the office. NOTE: There could be employment laws – like the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – that are involved here. Organizations should consult their legal counsel for additional requirements.
When an employee is leaving the company. We tend to think of benefits in terms of when employees are eligible to sign up for them but what about when the benefit is going to end? Whether an employee is leaving voluntarily or involuntarily, they need to know when their benefits end and if there are options to continue the benefits. Some of this is governed by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), but there are other benefits an employee needs to know about, including perks like health club discounts or tuition assistance.
Employee benefits are important to the employee and the organization. Companies want employees to use their benefits because it contributes to employee satisfaction and retention.
Hecker points out the connection between benefits and employee retention. “Employees have a deeper appreciation for their benefits and look to employers to offer meaningful ones. Employers that optimize benefit investments and create programs to meet the diverse needs of their employees will have an advantage attracting and retaining talent. Outside of the standard benefit options, employees are looking for benefits that will improve their quality of life.” The key to making the connection Hecker mentions is regularly promoting employee benefits. Because the more employees know about their benefits, the more they will use them and improve their quality of life.