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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.

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