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How to Maximize Employee Benefits While Minimizing Cost

Tuesday September 15th, 2015

Estimated time to read: 4 minutes, 15 seconds

In an age of doing more with less, it’s easy to assume that cutting employee benefits will lead to greater profit margins. But more and more studies seem to suggest that simply isn’t the case.

The logic:

Overall job satisfaction rates are higher among employees who have a good understanding of all the various company-sponsored benefits and perks available to them, regardless of whether or not they ever actually take advantage of any of those things. More importantly, employees with this basic understanding are also more likely to rate their employer as “very good” or “excellent.”

Happy employees are more likely to talk up your company’s products and services to everyone they know. Therein, they ultimately have the potential to be walking, talking billboards for your business.

Creating happy employees is a process, not an event, especially when you have limited funds. Here are a few strategies to help get you started…

Get Feedback

Kick off your benefits analysis by soliciting your employees for feedback about their current benefits. Include a concise list of benefits your company currently offers, and ask them what is and isn’t working and/or valuable to them, and why.

You can gather this information many different ways, including face-to-face meetings with individuals, small groups or the entire company, or anonymously through virtual surveys. But no matter how you go about it, be clear that their opinion matters – even if all their words of wisdom can’t be implemented.

It is also important to keep in mind that every employee has slightly different priorities, circumstances, and overall motivating factors with regards to their employment benefits. Therefore, if you decide not to garner feedback from every employee, be sure to select participants that represent some common interests, as well as some outliers.

Get Help

Once you’ve gotten some internal feedback, don’t be afraid to collaborate with at least a few other professionals outside of your organization. For example, you might look to some of your friends and colleagues in the HR arena for free advice, as well as join a few discussion groups on LinkedIn or any other professional networking site that you use.

You might also consider outsourcing the in-depth research and cost analysis on higher-ticket items such as health care, investment plans and HR software to a local or national Human Resource consulting firm. Their services come at an expense, but it will probably save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

For example, most consulting firms will already have basic comparisons of several different providers and plans on-hand for you from day one. In addition, any specific questions you have that they can’t immediately answer can be directed to one of their established contacts that can. If you choose, they can also take over day-to-day management of certain benefits, as well as do much of the heavy lifting during open enrollment periods, including giving presentations and filing all the paperwork.

Get Creative

As you solicit feedback and advice, be sure to welcome creative and less-traditional ideas for additional perks to complete your overall plan. Also keep in mind that there are a ton of low-to-no cost perks that can get you quite a bang for your buck. Here are just a few examples:

  • Public recognition for major achievements, milestones, and exceptional customer feedback
  • Leadership opportunities (even within just a small group and/or project)
  • Coffee, drink, and snack machines (perhaps even a popcorn machine)
  • Contests (perhaps even get your customers to judge or participate in themselves)
  • Free seminars and discussion groups (e.g., monthly book clubs, weekly “Lunch-n-Learns”)
  • “Go Green”/”Work-From-Home” days (once a quarter, month, or week)
  • Raffles or giveaways for obsolete company property (e.g., furniture, equipment)
  • Short-term distractions from the daily grind (e.g., brain teasers, jigsaw puzzles, boards games)
  • Gym memberships (group rates are much better than individual rates, you can also just split the cost of membership as something is better than nothing)

Also consider offering as many benefits and/or perks as you can to part-time employees, especially if you are ultimately grooming them for full-time positions. Although they may have low exposure to your company culture, they may have a lot of friends that need your company’s products and/or services.

Go Virtual

Even if you’re the kind of person that loves file cabinets and paper trails, your employees will appreciate having direct access to their overall benefits information and forms via a Human Resource Management software application/self-service web portal, typically found within comprehensive HCM platforms. Honestly, you might even end up appreciating it even more than they do.

For example, it can be time-consuming and often frustrating for both you and your employees to engage in a series of phone calls, emails or in-person chats every time they need to confirm the benefits they’ve signed up for, or get a copy of a form they filled out, or a new form to fill out, or just want to know how much PTO they have left. Therein, supplementing your precious file cabinets and paper trails with a self-service portal will ultimately make everyone’s lives a little easier, and save everyone a lot of time and money in the long run.

Moreover, even the most basic of these types of programs usually have reporting capabilities that will allow you and your fellow managers to quickly extract personnel-related information summaries (e.g., hire dates, review dates, PTO, who’s using which benefits, etc.) as well as break all of that information down by department or some other grouping without a lot of fuss.

If you’ve hired a Human Resource consulting firm, they may have some virtual platform comparisons and recommendations for you. They may even be able to provide you with a self-service portal as part of your initial consulting package or for a separate fee. If your employer is not using an HCM platform with self service capabilities, your HR consulting firm may have some basic types of these programs to offer.

If you haven’t hired a consulting firm, please keep in mind that it may take a little time to find the right virtual platform for your organization – but once you do, it will be well worth the effort. It might also take some time to setup and enter/import your initial data – but once that’s done, your system should be fairly low maintenance.

Make Your Benefits Easy to Understand

The mere process of soliciting people for their feedback and advice, adding some creative perks, and going virtual will inevitably lead to greater overall employee awareness and understanding of your benefits plan, as well as higher job satisfaction rates among your employees.

But you can’t stop there…

  • Create an overall list of available benefits/perks and an overall list of benefit-related FAQs for both existing employees and new hires.
  • Hang a bulletin board dedicated to HR info and announcements in a shared space. Include your list of employee benefits/perks, as well as FAQs, recognition messages, and upcoming events.
  • Consider holding quarterly benefits Q-and-A sessions, instead of just annually during Open Enrollment season.

Moreover, always keep in mind that your employees are “internal” customers of your organization. As their needs change and evolve, so should their benefits.