Personal Finance

How to separate yourself from the competition with employee benefits

The Business Journals
Ann Potratz
Koji Aok | Getty Images

Driven largely by employee demand, unconventional benefits once thought to be the domain of startups and tech companies have begun to take hold in more traditional spaces.

Considering that four in five employees would prefer new or better benefits over pay raises (according to a recent Glassdoor survey), many leading employers have taken notice and expanded their offerings.

The new class

If you're looking to branch out and set yourself apart from the competition, consider these not-so-common benefits:

  • Concierge services: In today's "always-on" economy, many employees have less time to take care of basic personal errands and tasks. Corporate concierge programs help alleviate that stress by managing even the smallest tasks, from picking up prescriptions and dropping off dry cleaning to oil changes and making travel arrangements.
  • Student-loan repayment: As younger generations enter the workforce with record levels of student debt, these programs allow companies to help pay down loans with matching contributions, much the way they'd contribute to a 401(k) plan. It's a smart recruiting tool, too: Studies show that millennials are more focused on loan repayment than saving for retirement when they first enter the workforce.
  • Pet insurance: Between checkups, medication, treatments and procedures, the cost of veterinary care can catch pet owners off guard. Available in a range of options from fully funded programs to employer-negotiated discounts, pet insurance is a great way for companies to give pet-loving employees peace of mind.
  • Hearing-aid benefits: Lest you think these unusual trends are being driven by younger workers, an aging workforce and evolving health insurance regulations have driven up demand for hearing-aid insurance. The programs are often managed like vision plans, allowing employees to opt in and out separately from group health care plans.
  • Financial wellness services: From free credit monitoring to one-on-one sessions with advisers, employer-funded financial wellness programs are growing in popularity. Because improved fiscal well-being is a big contributor to overall happiness, these plans often work in tandem with existing wellness programs.

A twist on the classics

While many employers seek to set themselves apart with unique offerings, the majority of employees report that traditional benefits such as health care, paid time off and education assistance still rank among their top priorities when considering job offers. Revamping your policies to stay relevant might mean including some of the following updates:

  • Personalized health plan options: Employees still rank health care as their most sought-after benefit, and many employers are now required to offer it. To stay competitive, consider offering a variety of plans to meet the needs of your diverse workforce. Coverage that feels tailored to your employees' unique family arrangements (such as single, employee-plus-one and family plans) will also help workers feel like their needs are being met.
  • Expanded paid leave: Companies on the leading edge of this trend have added paid parental leave for new mothers and fathers (and even grandparents), and many have expanded time-off entitlements beyond the 12 weeks required under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Paid sick leave laws (required separately from traditional paid time off) are also gaining traction as part of an evolving patchwork of state-specific leave laws. To get ahead of the curve and increase your recruiting power, consider revising your policies now.
  • Laid-back office culture: From flexible hours, unlimited vacation and work-from-home arrangements to casual dress codes, free meals and open-concept offices, some of the most cutting-edge employers in the United States have completely redefined what it looks like to work. Start by asking your employees what would make their jobs easier or more enjoyable, and use their suggestions as a jumping-off point for modernization.

Taking a hard look at your company's benefit offerings should be a no-brainer, whether you're hoping to step up recruitment or just improve retention rates. A thoughtful, innovative benefits package can help increase satisfaction and loyalty for your existing employees while boosting your appeal among new recruits.

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