.nav li ul { width: 300px; }#top-menu li li a { width: 240px; }

How to Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Friendly (And Why You Should)

The LGBTQ community has yet to have full federal protection in the workplace against discrimination. In May 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which bans discrimination because of an employee’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, but the bill is resting with the Senate, who may decide not to pass it.

Marriage equality is now a federal law, impacting all 50 states, yet there are still 31 states without discrimination protection for this community, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s report, A Workplace Divided.

In your workplace, diversity and inclusion should be two main priorities, and adequately addressing these matters means that you are both recognizing and encouraging the LGBTQ community to feel open, safe, and normal living and working as they are.

Here are key reasons why you should take action to create a more inclusive and diverse workforce, and the ways to do it.

Impacts on the LGBTQ community when they feel excluded

It’s easy to see why LGBTQ workers would continue to feel excluded in the workplace. They often don’t feel understood or acknowledged, and they may feel like they’re not able to participate in normal discussions or activities because of the fear of being judged or stereotyped.

Many people in this community feel overly sexualized. Essentially what this means is that when it becomes known that they have a certain “nontraditional” sexual orientation, they become their sexual identity, instead of coworkers seeing them for themselves and their work capabilities.

This feeling of exclusion leads to negative feelings and even lack of productivity at work: 25% of LGBTQ workers report feeling distracted from work, as the Human Rights Campaign report shows, 17% report feeling exhausted from having to hide their sexual orientation, and 31% report feeling unhappy or depressed at work.

Why encourage openness and acceptance?

According to the aforementioned report, 46% of workers who identify as LGBTQ remain closeted, and half of those surveyed said that there aren’t any employees at their organization who are open about it.

While it’s of course not always a great idea to have everyone discuss or admit to their sexual experiences in the workplace, the reasons behind staying closeted show how fearful a non-inclusive workplace can be for this community. The top reasons that they stay closeted are:
• The potential to be stereotyped by coworkers
• To avoid making others feel uncomfortable
• To avoid losing connections or relationships
• To avoid coworkers thinking they are attracted to them because they are LGBTQ

Make sure in your efforts to encourage openness that you aren’t forcing LGBTQ workers to disclose things they aren’t comfortable with; the key is to educate staff and have serious discussions about these topics. If they aren’t talked about, LGBTQ workers will feel like they have to remain closeted. And while some topics are “supposed to be” taboo at work, like sex or politics, the truth is, many employees talk about their lives outside of work on a daily basis with their coworkers.

Why educate employees?

It’s also important to keep all employees educated about policies and aware of how best to behave in the workplace. You aren’t telling them what to believe, just how to represent the company and treat others while they’re on your watch.

Many employees may just not be aware of these issues, and so they may not even recognize that their behavior is out of line or could be offensive to their coworkers. It’s your responsibility to thus educate them so that they are more thoughtful and deliberate about how they treat certain topics and talk to each other at work.

The Workplace Divided report revealed an additional alarming statistic in this area: 1 in 5 LGBTQ workers have experienced being told by a coworker that they should dress either more feminine of masculine; only 1 in 24 non-LGBTQ workers reported this having ever happened to them. Additionally, 36% of non-LGBTQ employees said that they would feel uncomfortable if an LGBTQ coworker started talking about their dating life.

So, there is clearly still a bias in place that needs to be addressed in each and every workplace. Part of ensuring you are fostering an inclusive and diverse office is educating everyone to get them thinking about their behavior and the way they treat others.

Benefits of inclusivity for your company

Your LGBTQ workers will not be the only ones who benefit from addressing these issues. Think about the benefits your organization will also experience:
• Less discrimination lawsuits and therefore less in legal fees
• Less turnover, as 1 in 4 LGBTQ workers said they stayed in a job because the workplace was accepting of LGBTQ people
• Health insurance costs may go down because the health of all employees is given more consideration
• Partnerships could increase as your company becomes known as a socially responsible organization

Another big reason to address discrimination and encourage inclusivity and diversity in the workplace is because a more diverse office is a more profitable office. A study from Boston Consulting Group last year found that companies with above-average diversity on management teams earn 19% more in revenue than companies with below-average diversity on these teams.

Why? Because diverse teams create diverse perspectives; gone are the days of the bureaucracy, where one team of older white men makes all the decisions for an organization. For any company to grow and succeed, diversity, and therefore greater inclusivity, are assets.

Additional strategies to foster inclusivity and diversity in the workplace

So where should you begin? Try implementing these strategies to foster inclusivity and better educate the workforce about discrimination and how to create accepting, inclusive workplaces:
• Talk about how detrimental stereotyping can be, in general and also related to someone’s gender or sexuality.
• Share statistics similar to those presented in this article to show employees how important these issues really are for a functioning workplace.
• Engage with learning materials that present workplace scenarios so that employees can learn how to approach certain topics and actually visualize how to behave to encourage inclusivity.
• Always stress the importance of diversity and make sure the executive team shares with the company about efforts they are taking in these areas (for example, those in charge should admit when they become aware of areas they could improve, such as diversifying the board of directors).
• Provide resources for LGBTQ workers if they experience harassment or discrimination from coworkers, or if they just need someone to talk to, like an HR representative or counselor.
• Implement actual company policies that protect workers against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Make sure these policies are distributed to all employees and are available for reference.

Key takeaways

• Because discrimination rights based on sexuality continue to stall on a federal level, take action in your individual workplace
• If the LGBTQ community feels excluded in the workplace, they’re more likely to leave and are more likely to feel unhappy or depressed at work
• Encourage openness and acceptance at work so that LGBTQ workers don’t feel like they have to remain closeted to be liked
• Educate employees, especially non-LGBTQ workers, so that they are aware of these issues and are better aware of how to behave
• Recognize the financial and productivity benefits that an inclusive and diverse workplace provides
• Create support systems and company policies that address these issues

When you’re able to educate and encourage, and foster diversity and inclusivity—teaching your employees what they mean, why they’re important, and how they help the entire workplace—your company culture will shift toward being more socially aware and responsible.

Home Telehealth Can Reduce Your Business’s Healthcare Costs: Here’s How

We live in a digital age where every aspect of people’s personal and professional lives is increasingly conducted in the cloud. Companies and employees alike are adapting to and taking advantage of new possibilities for remote working, continuous communication, and other technology to fuel creativity and collaboration. But this same technology can make just as big an impact on your business’s healthcare costs. Businesses are used to the idea that meetings do not have to be conducted in person, and more and more are discovering that many medical visits do not, either.

The percentage of employers who offer a telemedicine program has doubled since 2015, according to a Mercer survey. That’s because it’s an effective strategy to reduce healthcare costs by encouraging employees to get treatment that heads off future healthcare expenses while preventing unnecessary doctor’s office, urgent care, and ER visits. In fact, the average savings per single employee annually is $300 according to the AMA, and that number goes up to $1000 per year for a family of four. Given that benefits like healthcare makeup 25-40% of most companies’ payroll expenses, tackling healthcare expenses through telehealth seems like a worthwhile investment for any growing business. Especially since it is easy to implement and requires minimal upfront investment.

Best of all, implementing telehealth is a cost-cutting measure that actually increases the standard of care for your employees. That means that they are happier and healthier, making them more productive and engaged team members. So telehealth can boost your revenue and help you maintain a stable workforce while it reduces your healthcare costs.

So how exactly does telehealth generate savings which can help give SMBs the financial stability they need to grow? In this article we will explore how telehealth generates:
• Short-term savings from reduced cost of care
• Increased revenue due to employee performance
• Long-term savings

Reduced Cost of Care Generates Short-Term Savings

The clearest cost-cutting benefit to implementing telehealth is that employees will opt to get their medical advice digitally instead of by going to a doctor’s office, urgent care, or ER. These savings can add up quickly as telehealth consultations cost an average of $40, compared to $125 for equivalent office visits. So not only will your healthcare costs go down, but your employees’ out-of-pocket costs will too.

The biggest savings come from averted emergency room visits. Telehealth is highly effective in staving off these extremely expensive visits when employees have unexpected healthcare needs. A study of a telemedicine platform in Pennsylvania found that the majority of employee health concerns were resolved in a single virtual-consultation and that the telemedicine option generated short-term savings by diverting patients from higher-cost options. Each avoided emergency room visit saved $300-$1500, which can make a significant impact on growing businesses worried about maintaining their bottom line.

Telehealth provides employees with a convenient and affordable alternative to a wide range of traditional healthcare services that can incur significant healthcare expenses. That means that implementing a telehealth platform reduces short-term costs for employers and employees alike. It also means that employers will be able to negotiate lower premiums because their employees present a lower risk for insurers.

Increased Revenue from Employee Performance

The savings from diverting employees away from high-cost consultation and treatment options might be exceeded by the revenue generated from fostering a healthier and more engaged workforce. Making healthcare more accessible and affordable for your employees means that they will take advantage of it more often and receive the treatment that they need, making them more high-performing team members. Also, because telehealth can be accessed immediately and from anywhere, employees will not have to choose between going to work and getting medical advice. As a result, employers who implement a home telehealth platform can expect their employees to take fewer sick days due to doctor’s appointments.

Reducing absenteeism generates significant cost savings from increased worker productivity by itself, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. Healthier employees are more productive, straight and simple and telemedicine can help keep them that way. In the current employment and healthcare climate, employees frequently avoid treatment until an illness gets “bad enough”; which means that they come into work sick for extended periods. That’s bad news for companies because sick team members are less productive while collecting the same salary and benefits, and worse still can infect other employees. Getting treatment as soon as issues arise ensures that employees get back to peak performance as quickly as possible.

Home telehealth also streamlines the healthcare experience for employees and saves them significant time and money. That doesn’t just make them healthy and able to work but also makes them happier and more satisfied with their work. It is an additional benefit which makes your employees feel well taken care of, increasing their loyalty and their engagement with your company. Growing businesses can struggle to compete with larger companies to attract, engage, and retain the talent they need to succeed partially because their smaller budget limits the range of benefits that they can offer. Telehealth is a great way for these businesses to stand out for their meaningful benefits program while simultaneously reducing costs.

Long Term Savings

Home telehealth is not just about getting treatment when illness strikes: it also makes it easier to access preventive care and ongoing treatment for chronic conditions. As such, it can prevent significant future healthcare expenses from treating preventable or neglected conditions.

Employees are increasingly foregoing primary care visits and other preventive services. The total number of trips to primary care doctors dropped by 18% between 2012 and 2016. This issue is particularly great among Millennials, a third of whom do not even have a primary care doctor. That can become a big problem for employers as Millennials continue to make up a larger percentage of the workforce. Primary care can help identify potential issues before they become costly and damaging to the patient and provide holistic guidance that increases overall health. Telehealth can help fill in this gap, especially for tech-savvy Millennials.

Telehealth can also provide easy and affordable access to wellness benefits by helping to identify risk factors and guide employees through prevention. This matters because 70% of employer healthcare expenses come from preventable lifestyle-related conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and lung cancer. Telemedicine consultations can help employees figure out what challenges they need to address and can help guide employees through the process of tackling those challenges. For example, telehealth platforms can give employees access to advice and consultation to support weight loss and smoking or alcohol cessation.

Using telehealth to manage treatment for chronic conditions can also lead to significant ongoing savings. People with chronic conditions account for three-quarters of doctor’s visits and nine out of ten prescriptions so managing their health effectively and cost-efficiently should be a priority for any employer. Telemedicine can make this care easier to get and cheaper for employee and company alike, reducing those doctor’s office visits and hospital stays. Employees can access advice about medication management quickly and easily while incurring fewer expenses for themselves and their employer. These savings can be especially great when combined with mail-order prescription fulfillment. And the long-term savings add up when you consider the significant healthcare expenses that can result from untreated, undertreated, or mistreated chronic conditions, all of which can result from under-utilization of healthcare options due to cost and inconvenience.

The last and frequently overlooked area in which telehealth can save your business money is in mental healthcare. Insurers, providers, and employers are beginning to recognize the importance of mental health in addition to physical health, but the infrastructure is still catching up to employee needs. Even when options are available, employees often avoid accessing mental healthcare because it is stigmatized and because regular psychologist or psychiatrist visits are too much of a hassle. Luckily, telemedicine has proven to be an effective method to treat mental health and is cost-effective for employers compared to in-person visits. Not only that, but it is more convenient and private than traditional treatment, making it more appealing to employees. That means that you can reduce employee burnout, underperformance, and turnover due to untreated mental conditions such as depression or anxiety. You will pay less for care and your employees will be happier and more engaged in their work, making them more valuable team members.

Key Takeaways

Home telehealth is a constantly expanding field and there is no way for us to cover every aspect of how it can improve your employees’ healthcare and your bottom-line in one article. But hopefully, we have given you a sense of how telehealth can play an essential role in your efforts to control healthcare costs. Just remember:

• Telehealth appointments are significantly cheaper than traditional alternatives and prevent costly ER and office visits
• The affordability and convenience of telehealth means that it can make your employees healthier and more productive, helping your business grow sustainably
• Telehealth can reduce ongoing and future healthcare expenses by supporting preventive care, managing treatment for chronic conditions, and providing mental healthcare

If you want to cut your business’s healthcare expenses while still attracting and retaining the talent you need to grow your business, telehealth should be just one part of your strategy. We will be hosting a comprehensive webinar to address how CFOs and business leaders can curb healthcare costs on September 19th at 11 AM CST. Learn from industry experts in benefits administration, telehealth, and more so that you can effectively manage your healthcare expenses. Register today!

High-Deductible Plans Are Better Than Ever, Thanks to New IRS Rules

Amid legislation that pushes consumerism in healthcare while putting greater burdens on healthcare consumers, employers and employees alike have turned to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) to minimize their healthcare costs. As premiums continue to rise, these plans offer an opportunity to keep upfront costs low for companies and their employees. At the same time, the IRS permits the creation of tax-exempt health savings accounts or HSAs for people with HDHPs to cover the costs of the higher deductibles when expenses do come up.

This system works great for everyone involved – so long as people stay healthy. Which makes preventive care an integral part of any successful HDHP based healthcare strategy. By allowing patients to head off health issues before they become significant expenses, preventive care keeps everyone’s expenses down and maximizes health outcomes for the insured. Recognizing this, the IRS has allowed insurance plans to cover preventive care such as check-ups, screenings, immunizations, and tobacco cessation or weight-loss programs with a low or non-existent deductible while keeping their HDHP status.

However, the IRS has not generally extended the same low-deductible permissions to treatments for existing illnesses or conditions. Since 2004, certain on-the-spot treatments for conditions discovered during screenings (such as removing polyps discovered during colonoscopies) and medications to prevent recurrence of heart attacks or to reduce cholesterol to prevent heart disease have fallen under the umbrella of preventive care, but that’s about it.

Which means that people with chronic conditions have generally been left out. They have had to choose between paying out high-deductibles for treatments that prevent their conditions from worsening, or giving up their HSAs and adopting high-premium plans. Until now, that is.

The IRS’ New Rule

On July 17, 2019, the IRS issued Notice 2019-45, which significantly broadened the definition of preventive care to extend it to many treatments for chronic conditions. To qualify as preventive care, the treatments must be likely to prevent the worsening of a chronic condition or the development of a secondary condition which would incur greater healthcare costs. It must also meet several other criteria, which we have outlined in this handy chart for easy reference:

The Impact for Companies and Their Employees

So what does this policy change mean for employers and employees? Simply put, it provides enormous opportunities for both to take greater control over their costs, minimizing their expenses while maximizing employee health and wellness. It makes the already appealing HDHP and HSA healthcare option a win for employees who want to increase their welfare and for employers who are looking to reduce their expenses.

The expanded definition of preventive care provides a new opportunity for employers to educate their employees so that they can become more intelligent consumers amid government policies which force consumerism in the healthcare market. Employees can use HDHPs to control their costs without fear of compromising their health, especially by neglecting chronic conditions to avoid paying high deductibles. Instead, they can get the treatment that they need at low costs while keeping their tax-exempt health savings.

Key Takeaways

We’ve thrown a lot of information your way in this article, so here are some key takeaways that you should remember:

• IRS Notice 2019-45 opened up serious opportunities for employers to cut their costs and for employees to reduce their expenses and maximize their healthcare outcomes
• Chronic conditions will no longer force consumers to take on significant healthcare costs to receive the treatment they need to maintain their health and avoid future expenses
• That means that high-deductible health plans, which already provided the best solution for consumers in the current healthcare market, are now better than ever

To make the most of the rule change as an employer, you should partner with a proactive benefits broker who will help you craft a healthcare strategy which maximizes the impact for your employees while minimizing your costs. Benefits are an important tool to attract, retain, and engage the talent that you need to grow your business. The well-being of your company and its employees ultimately depends on the effectiveness of your benefits strategy. So it is more important than ever to work with the right benefits broker.

Interested in making the switch to a broker who is invested in your growth and your employees’ well-being? Start the conversation today.

Do You Know if Your Benefits Broker is Doing a Good Job? 5 Questions to Ask

Do You Know if Your Benefits Broker is Doing a Good Job? 5 Questions to Ask

An effective employee benefits broker is an extremely useful ally in your HR efforts. Employees fuel business growth and success, so it’s important for growing businesses to take care of their employees’ needs in order to attract, retain, and engage the best possible talent. Employee benefits are not just one of your largest expenses, they are also one of your biggest tools in maximizing the human potential of your business. And benefits brokers can bring much-needed experience, expertise, and connections to your efforts to craft and maintain an effective employment brand.

However, not all benefits brokers or insurance brokers are created equal and many effective collaborations can become neglected over time. So how can you tell if your benefits broker is still the right partner for your business or if you need to start taking them to task or finding an alternative? Let’s walk through five questions that will help you clarify matters:

  • Is your employee benefits broker maximizing impact as well as minimizing cost?
  • Are they reviewing and updating your benefits?
  • Does your benefits broker operate on the employee level?
  • Is your broker streamlining enrollment?
  • Do they offer the latest technology?

Is Your Employee Benefits Broker Maximizing Impact as Well as Minimizing Cost?

A good employee benefits broker will not only minimize your benefits expenses but also make sure that the money that you do spend is well spent. While brokers can reduce your costs significantly, benefits remain 25-40% of most companies’ payroll. Instead of treating this expense as a necessary evil, an effective benefits broker will help you maximize your return-on-investment.

Benefits brokers can reduce your benefits expenses by negotiating better rates with carriers and providers as well as helping you identify waste and develop more effective processes. For instance, they can cut down on your prescription drug costs by implementing a telemedicine solution, exploring level or self-funding options, or creating a custom mix of plan designs. And they can save on overall healthcare expenses by working with you to develop an effective tiered insurance structure that allows employees to opt into low-cost plans or comprehensive plans at their own expense. If your broker is working hard to reduce your costs, then that is a very good sign.

But, as we’ve said, minimizing costs is only part of the picture. The best benefits brokers will also serve as employee benefits consultants and advise you on how to strategically invest in your employee benefits. It is just as important for your benefits to have the greatest possible impact for your employees for the given cost as it is to keep that cost in control. So, a good broker won’t just talk about your bottom line, they will also keep the focus on employee health, wellbeing, and happiness.

And there’s plenty of reason to maximize your impact beyond wanting the best for your employees. According to Aflac surveys, 80% of employees believe that their benefits package influences their engagement in their jobs. Plus, most employees surveyed said they were likely to accept a job with lower compensation and better benefits. So, benefits are crucial to any efforts to attract top talent as well as maximize employee productivity and retention.

Are They Reviewing and Updating Your Benefits?

The best employee benefits brokers don’t just help you craft a benefits package and then call it a day. Instead, they serve as employee benefits advisors or benefits consultants, guiding you through your employee benefits journey year after year and constantly working to keep your benefits offerings up-to-date. Your benefits needs will inevitably change as the market shifts, your company grows, and your employee demographics change. New benefits will become available, existing benefits will become outdated, and structures that worked for your startup won’t do as well for your larger, established company. Not to mention, your employees will get older, or you will welcome a new cohort of younger talent, and their needs will change.

Which is all to say that it is highly unlikely that the same benefits package or strategy will be the right choice for your business for years on end. So, it’s not a great sign if you haven’t seen a noticeable difference in your package for 3-5 years, or your broker hasn’t been communicating new options. If you find yourself in this situation, then odds are you’ve become a “safe” account for your broker and they have started taking you for granted. In which case it is probably time to prompt them to reexamine your benefits strategy or start looking for a more proactive partner.

But if your broker regularly notifies you of new options and consistently works with you to review your benefits package to see if it is performing well and still meets your needs, then they may be a keeper.

Does Your Benefits Broker Operate on the Employee Level?

All too many benefits brokers are happy to help their clients set up employee benefits packages and then walk away, leaving the employer to manage the roll-out and maintenance of the package as well as convince its employees of the package’s merits. A good benefits broker will see each and every one of your employees as their clients, rather than appealing to just your company’s C-Suite or board.

Your broker should be a benefits advisor, evangelist, and educator for your employees at every level of the company. First, they should teach your HR professionals and managers how to work the benefits systems, communicate plan details and advantages to the rest of the team, and how to field employee questions. This training should be accompanied by educational materials and resources to give them the tools they need to guide the rest of the employees. Their goal should be to create the best possible experience for your employees and help everyone on the team become a better consumer of healthcare.

Next, your benefits broker should work on the individual employee level through educational seminars, Q&A sessions, and other forms of direct communication. These programs should serve two different purposes. First, they should help employees understand how to navigate the benefits package and make the most of the benefits offered. Second, they should impress upon employees the value of the benefits in order to maximize the impact that your benefits have on employee retention and engagement.

Be on the lookout to avoid a broker that just wants to deal with you and does not want to work directly with your HR team, operational managers, and/or front-line employees. And if your broker takes this approach and is unwilling to change course, then perhaps it’s time to start shopping around.

Is Your Benefits Broker Streamlining Enrollment?

Enrolling employees in benefits and health insurance can become the bane of an HR professional’s existence. Since a large part of your benefits broker’s responsibilities involves serving as your insurance broker, they should be an integral part of enrollment as well. An effective, proactive broker will work with you to streamline enrollment and avoid HR headaches.

The first thing that a great benefits broker will do is help you establish effective enrollment processes. This includes enrollment tracking and compliance record-keeping in addition to the systems used to actually enroll employees in health insurance. Ideally, they will provide or support existing enrollment software solutions that centralize your data and make enrollment easy for employees and HR teams alike.

The next thing that employee benefits brokers should do is prepare employees for enrollment by providing educational resources. They should create easy to digest reference materials explaining plan structure and enrollment processes and hold open meetings explaining your benefits package year-round. They can also help you create a benefits newsletter to regularly update employees on your benefits package and keep your HR team apprised of any changes in benefits or procedures. And when open enrollment time comes around again, your broker should be available to answer any questions that employees, managers, and HR professionals might have.

Do they Offer the Latest Technology?

Technology is changing rapidly in today’s market. New tools are constantly being developed to make things easier for your HR team and for your employees, and to provide added benefits to employees. Innovation fuels industry in today’s economy and that is just as true in benefits and HR. New benefits technology will help you stand out from the crowd to attract the best possible talent and keep your employees satisfied with their benefits.

And if the only reason you know about new benefits technology is because of your own research or conversations you’ve had with your peers, then your employee benefits broker isn’t doing their job. An effective benefits broker will stay on top of the newest technology and help their clients figure out what is useful and what is just trendy. And ideally, benefits brokers will have established relationships with the companies that are developing benefits technology so that you get access to truly innovative solutions.

It’s generally worth your while to find out if your benefits broker provides enrollment software, telemedicine options, HR and benefits automation platforms, and other benefits technology. If you have to go digging for these solutions, then they may not be the broker for you.

Key Takeaways

Many companies work with the same employee benefits broker for years. Sometimes that is because they are collaborating closely on an ongoing benefits strategy that keeps employer costs low, maximizes employee wellbeing, and makes the HR team’s life easier. Other times, it is because of inertia and lack of comparison. Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of how to tell which one you are and how to make the most of your benefits broker relationship. Just remember to:

  • Think about what is best for your employees as well as your budget – and make sure your broker takes the same approach.
  • Make sure that your broker is regularly updating your benefits package and working with you to meet your changing benefits needs.
  • Partner with a broker who operates on the employee level instead of just working with your leadership.
  • Enlist your broker in making open enrollment an easier and more effective process.
  • Work with a broker who provides innovative benefits technology.

Are you looking for a benefits broker who will be your partner in every aspect of your benefits strategy and implementation? Launchways can help you navigate the complicated world of employees benefits to create the most value for your employees and make the most of every dollar spent. Find out more.

How to Build a High-Impact Benefits Package that Will Help Your Business Win the War for Top Talent

The unemployment rate has now fallen to 3.6%, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While American workers welcome the news, it can be a challenge in this climate for hiring managers to stand out and continue attracting the best talent out there.

If your business is struggling to fill open positions, and you’re not receiving the quality applicants that you’d hoped for, take a look at your benefits package. When was the last time you updated it?

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) showed that 34% of organizations beefed up their benefits packages within the last year, and 72% said that retention was a reason they did so. Over half cited attracting top talent as a main part of their reasoning.

In our current “war for talent” climate, creating a benefits package that can sell itself to candidates will ensure you’re attracting that top talent. In fact, your benefits package could be the differentiator that will give you the timely competitive advantage you need. A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 32% of workers will be looking for a new job in 2019, 15% of whom cited lack of benefits or low compensation as the reason.

Here’s how to create a high-impact benefits package that will help your business both attract and retain top talent.

Understanding What’s Hot

Of course, what’s most important to the top talent you’re looking for will depend on your industry. For instance, not every job can offer remote work benefits—some require a worker’s presence in the office.

However, there are general trends as far as benefits go. The same SHRM survey mentioned earlier also showed that benefits for parents have been increased in the last few years, including paid maternity and paternity leave and adoption, foster child, and surrogacy benefits.

According to Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey, recruiters say that the most effective benefits to attracting top talent are medical and dental benefits (67%), followed by 401(k) benefits (55%).

Medical and dental benefits may seem like a given, but making these benefits competitive in themselves can upgrade your overall package. This is why it’s important to shop around for the best price on packages that offer the comprehensive care that your employees need. For retirement, many workplaces offer a company-matching benefit that top talent will look for when considering job offers.

The next most important benefit offering discussed in the Jobvite survey was work-from-home benefits. As mentioned above, this benefit may or may not be possible for your given industry. However, with our current everything-digital work culture, it’s worth considering making it happen, as 43% of recruiters said this was the most effective benefit offering to attract and retain talent.

Offering a flexible work arrangement or flexible schedule shows employees that their work-life balance matters, and that the company wants to support them in managing family obligations and other priorities outside of work.

The last three benefits listed as top attractions in the Jobvite survey were casual dress (36%), continuing education reimbursement (31%), and a signing bonus (28%). Paid vacation is still considered a top benefit, and many top candidates will negotiate the amount of days off they receive with the rest of their offer.

Another hot topic in the benefits world is student loan help. According to data from the Harvard Business Review, 48% of job seekers said that student loan assistance would be taken into account when considering a job offer.

Americans now owe around $1.57 trillion in college debt, as USA Today reported, yet only one in 10 companies surveyed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute offer student loan repayment subsidies or consolidation or refinancing services for employees. This means that employers willing to make this a priority will be ahead of their competitors when attracting top talent.

These examples show how any organization can construct a benefits package that checks off the list of what the modern candidate is looking for.

Building a Comprehensive Package

Once you’re aware of what candidates want, how do you begin the reconstruction process?

1. Research the competition

First, assess the trends within your industry. Start by researching the job ads that competitors are posting, or use a tool like Glassdoor to view salary trends for a given job title or company. Understanding what your competitors are offering is crucial to creating a competitive advantage.

You may also learn about other company’s benefits through interviews with top-level candidates. They may ask for a certain amount of vacation days, a salary level, or 401(k) contribution because they’re receiving it in their current position.

But as ApplicantPro points out, your top recruiting competition may not be the same as your business competition. Companies hiring individuals with the same qualifications, and not necessarily a company offering the same services as yours, may be more of your hiring rival.

2. Use data in strategic planning to increase ROI

Keep up on the latest research about what employees want, in addition to what competitors are providing. Each year, human resources organizations release surveys that reflect the latest trends, such as the surveys mentioned in this article from the SHRM and the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

According to the SHRM, planning benefits strategically based on specific data can help your company receive the greatest return on investment. This is important, because benefits aren’t cheap—they make up about a third of compensation costs (32%). When companies strategically plan benefits for recruitment and retention, the overall performance of the company is above average at 58%, versus 34% from organizations that don’t plan strategically.

3. Understand what drives motivation

Employees are more likely to feel motivated and satisfied by their work if they’re fully supported with adequate pay and benefits. This means making enough money, but it also means being able to receive high-quality healthcare services and to take time away from work to relieve stress and enjoy their personal lives.

This is why it’s also smart to offer a comprehensive wellness program that offers discounted gym memberships, for example, or mental health services, along with a good healthcare package. Over half of employees surveyed by the SHRM said that healthcare, paid leave, and flexible benefits were very important to job satisfaction.

Remember to approach the construction of your benefits package with people in mind, not just the bottom line.

4. Ask your employees for feedback

To better understand what would entice employees to stay at your company, why not ask them?

Implementing some kind of survey system can be instrumental in building a benefits plan that meets the expectations of employees. Just the gesture alone can show workers that you are considering their needs and desires, which can lead to greater feelings of satisfaction and recognition.

Consider holding discussions about benefits where employees can make comments and ask questions, and invite them to offer their opinions about their current package.

5. Continue adapting

During interviews with top candidates, one strategy that could help you succeed is being open to what they’re looking for, and asking them what their expectations are. This can not only open your eyes to what top talent is looking for, but it can also help you revamp your benefits offerings for your current employees. 

Updating your benefits package is not likely to be something you can do once and be done with. Preferences change year over year in the realm of recruitment, as new technologies are introduced or new working trends pick up, so remember that your benefits plan needs to be revisited and adapted regularly. For example, the gig economy and the surge of freelancing has made flexibility and remote work more popular and desirable for employees across industries.

6. Embrace new technologies

Finally, recruiters and hiring managers should embrace new technologies that can help them create a strategic benefits plan for recruitment and retention.

According to the Jobvite survey mentioned above, almost half of recruiters say that artificial intelligence (AI) and automaton will improve their jobs and will allow them to focus more on strategy. Streamlining tasks can open up a lot of time that can be used on research and data analyzation that will lead to better benefits planning that’s focused around attracting talent.

Using an online benefits portal is another way to increase employee satisfaction and streamline the benefits process. According to the SHRM, 32% of HR professionals say that an online portal is very effective as a communication method with employees. A portal can help the HR team deliver messages while emphasizing the value of benefits to employees.

Key Takeaways

Winning the war for top talent takes research, planning, and strategizing, and may not happen overnight. But it’s more important than ever to focus on benefits offerings as the unemployment rate continues to drop and the recruitment competition heats up. Remember to:

  • Stay abreast on what’s hot in the world of HR and recruiting
  • Research your competition
  • Base benefits planning decisions on specific data to ensure Return on Investment
  • Think about what drives employee motivation and satisfaction
  • Survey employees and candidates to find out what would excite them beyond a high base salary
  • Continue to adapt your plan
  • Integrate new tools and platforms that will streamline processes for both you and employees

If you show both top candidates and current employees that benefits are important to the organization and do the research to offer what they really want, you’ll be well on your way to creating a high-impact benefits package that will set you apart from competitors.