As unemployment sits at historically low levels, companies are increasingly discovering the need to attract and retain top talent through more than just a salary offer with a traditional compensation package.  Facing greater competition for hiring, future-oriented employers are realizing the hidden value of employee benefits: as a strategic investment in workers’ engagement and business productivity.  By leveraging rewards packages, organizations are reporting better overall company performance and increased effectiveness in recruitment and retention.

            While employee turnover is a substantial cost to most organizations, strategic benefits can actually reduce the financial strain of rehiring and retraining by attracting talent and increasing retention.  According to a 2018 SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) survey on job satisfaction, the vast majority of employees (92%) say that benefits are important to their overall job satisfaction.  While that’s not necessarily a surprise, it may be eye-opening to discover that approximately a third of employees cite their benefits package as a top reason for not pursuing a job with another employer.  It’s clear that a satisfied employee is a more engaged and more productive employee—and one that is more likely to stick around for the long haul. 

            Due to the costs involved with providing benefits plans, a strategic implementation of rewards is the best course of action.  Using demographics to help select the appropriate benefits for a target workforce is imperative.  For example, among a group of aging employees, retirement savings and healthcare may be the top priorities.  On the other hand, for a group of Millennials or younger, student debt repayment assistance is quickly growing in popularity.  Additionally, flexible working options (e.g. telecommuting, compressed workweeks, etc) are another potent benefit for attracting young talent that in some cases may flip the benefits cost model around and actually result in saving the company money (e.g. via a reduction in “real estate” costs).

            Wellness benefits, including stress relief and anxiety reduction programs, are increasing in appeal as more evidence points to the value of preventing poor health outcomes rather than simply reacting to them.  According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), wellness benefits can help reduce the likelihood of employees developing 4 of the 10 most costly health conditions (i.e. heart disease and its related ailments).  From the perspective of an employer, this is significant information, as the indirect costs due to missed work, productivity loss, and rehiring are substantial. 

            In addition to the benefits mentioned previously, other categories that are becoming more important to employees include: paid leave, professional and career development, and family-oriented benefits.  Of course, each employer will need to individually address its situation, select the benefits most applicable to its current—and future—employees, and communicate its offerings to its workforce.  

            The value of benefits programs has been well established over time by research and workplace surveys.  It’s no longer simply an issue of whether an organization can afford to provide benefits, but whether if it can afford not to provide benefits in an environment that is increasingly growing more competitive.  The truth is that the majority of organizations are increasing their benefits offerings to help them to attract and retain top employees—and this trend is only gaining steam.  Additionally, by being strategic with selection and implementation, companies can expect to see significant and positive changes in overall business productivity as well as with long-term associated costs.  As prospective hires seek out the best employers, highly valued work benefits can be leveraged in the employer’s favor, potentially becoming the competitive difference that make the employer stand out, ultimately aiding in the recruitment and retention of top talent.