The employee-employer relationship is a lot more complicated these days — the pandemic era has transformed what workers expect from their companies, but the looming recession has forced companies to be a lot more creative about their investments in talent retention. One thing is true for both groups, though: benefits are top of mind for everyone.
“The benefits landscape is going to change because Gen Z is moving more towards a freelancer mode and staying in their positions for a shorter time,” said Morgan Williams, head of people and culture at The Newsette and a Resources for Humans (RfH) Ambassador.
We know rolling out a benefits package can feel daunting and stressful. Lattice’s RfH Community recently gathered to share their tips and best practices to reduce anxiety and set employees up for success to get the most out of their benefits packages.
1. Do your research.
From fertility benefits to wellness stipends, benefits packages have expanded tremendously in just the last few years — and many of those benefits are still relevant in a hybrid workplace. Offering everything you possibly can sounds like the easiest solution, but it’s not realistic or feasible for most companies. Instead, a well-curated benefits package that is meaningful, inclusive, and relevant to employees’ lives is a better way to motivate their performance.
“When people are thinking about benefits, they get way too in the weeds with the abundance of options,” said Williams. “Think about the demographics of your employees. What are the things that they would want or need?”
HR professionals can reach out to peers at similarly-sized companies in their industry to learn more about common offerings (we think the Resources for Humans Slack community is a great place to start). Community members also advised looking ahead when thinking about total rewards — not every benefit will be relevant to every single employee today, but that can change as companies and employees grow.
“Not everyone is using every benefit to its full capacity,” and that’s okay, said Megan Lamberti, a human resources manager at Cahill Contractors LLC and an RfH Ambassador. “It’s not like you’re taking something away from them if they don’t use it.”
But, if you want an edge in this competitive labor market, aligning your benefits package to your company values can make a big difference in attracting employees who are already aligned with your mission.
2. Gather feedback from your employees.
Like any other corporate initiative, making data-driven decisions is a key to success — in this case, almost all our RfH community members recommended getting feedback on benefits from current employees. Emily Doyle, a people operations specialist at Seesaw Learning, said her company sent out a benefits survey to employees to inform major decisions.
“We structured the survey with the things that we’re thinking about,” she said. “It all goes back to listening to employees and picking up on what we’re seeing to understand what they’re actually going to use.”
Once the list of potential benefits was narrowed down in another example, employees helped determine “where we should focus and where maybe we weren’t necessarily getting the most bang for our buck,” said Christine Conway, a global benefits manager at Invitae.
“The great thing is you already have the buy-in from your employees,” Williams said about surveys. “They’ve told you, you’ve answered. Not only does it help from a benefits perspective, it’s going to help from an engagement perspective, so you should probably have higher enrollment numbers.”
3. Communicate effectively (and often).
A truly effective benefits package is one that employees know about. Our community members said communication methods can vary based on company and employee norms. “Some people like to research and discover on their own, while others prefer to have that information given to them,” Lamberti said.
Because benefits play an important role in supporting employees during tough times, it’s imperative to share information widely and as often as possible. Some more tactics our members shared included:
- “We have a benefits Slack channel that’s very active; all new hires get added to it. It’s great because people can crowdsource the information so it’s not just my team having to answer the same question a hundred times. Then we have a pretty robust Wiki with all the information, and our broker [has] an advocate team so all the questions can be funneled there,” Conway said.
- “We realized there was that gap in knowledge. So we’re going to do “Lunch and Learns” just to put out a little more literature. We’ll make sure employees are aware of how to maximize the use of these benefits, and that they know what’s available to them,” Doyle said.
- “During difficult times, whenever I’m sending company memos, I often will loop in a document just to remind them about products and the EAP. I have that in a lot of my memos to remind employees it’s there to use because we are paying for it,” Williams said.
- “We have a town hall every month where I get a few minutes to talk about the benefits we have, whether it’s something tangible or it’s something like our flexible work schedule,” said Danielle Pinc, a business manager at OMNI Institute.
4. When in doubt, be transparent.
For teams who want to take it a step further, meeting with employees to break down the whole benefits process can be beneficial to gaining trust and buy-in.
“During our compensation review last year, we had the total rewards breakdown with the employer cost and the employee costs, and I just really opened people’s eyes to see, ‘Okay, you are investing in me,’” Doyle said.
“Transparency is huge for explaining the decisions and outlining ‘what’s in it for me?’ for employees,” Conway added.
Bringing up benefits can feel like opening the floodgates of total rewards. If you feel like you’re treading water, you’re not alone. Join more than 19,000 HR leaders who make up our Slack community for more ideas, resources, and best practices by applying to Resources for Humans.