April 3 was National Employee Benefits Day. This year, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans marked the occasion by focusing on the importance of benefits communication, offering a variety of free resources on its website. Our blog post this week covers why employee benefits are not only crucial for employee engagement, but also for your bottom line.
Employee engagement—the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals—continues to be a hot topic these days. In practical terms, engaged employees are willing to put in the extra hours, mentor others, and go above and beyond (even when the boss isn’t watching) because they are invested in the success of the organization and feel an emotional attachment to their work.
HR professionals and top-level leadership recognize the impact engagement has on the bottom line. With an improving labor market and increasingly diverse workforce, organizations are pulling out all the stops and looking for ways to attract, retain, and engage their employees.
But, let’s be real. Employee engagement isn’t just about wanting your employees to feel warm and fuzzy when they think about their jobs. Employers are keen on engagement because it leads to tangible improvements in your business. Multiple studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, absent less frequently, inclined to stay at their jobs longer, and have fewer safety incidences. Furthermore, research from Gallup shows that companies with highly engaged workers outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share. I could go on, but you get the picture—an engaged workforce is good for everyone.
There’s no magic bullet when it comes to employee engagement. And, it may seem like a vague, intimidating notion to tackle. But engaging your employees may be easier than you think. Look no further than your benefits program. Not convinced that benefits are the solution? Consider this finding from a 2014 MetLife study* (and remember, Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce): 56% of Millennials said that benefits played an important role in the company they chose to work for. Furthermore, 63% of Millennials said benefits are an important reason why they stay with their current employer—a higher score than any other generation.
We’ve outlined some of the ways your benefits program can help improve engagement at your company, and why benefits are an important part of the engagement equation.
- The right benefits show your employees the love. The benefits you offer help your employees take care of themselves and their families. You’re in the unique position to help employees improve their health, wealth, and overall well-being. When employees feel confident that they can take care of their needs, it frees up time and energy for them to focus on their work. Our joint survey with Quantum Workplace shows that benefits can be a major reason for employees to stay with a company.
- Listening to employees builds trust. You can’t read your employees’ minds to know which benefits are important to them, but you can ask them. The process for gathering this intel can be as formal (organized focus groups) or informal (online message boards) as you’d like, and the takeaways will be invaluable. While there’s no guarantee to employees that you can implement all of their suggestions, the simple act of listening to what they have to say can help build trust. And trust is key to business performance and engagement.
When Doug Conant became CEO of Campbell Soup Company in 2001, his mission of “Inspiring Trust” became the cornerstone of turning the company around. What happened when he “inspired trust” at Campbell Soup? Shareholder returns were in the top tier of the global food industry, and the company saw some of the highest employee engagement scores in the Fortune 500. When your employees trust that you’re doing right by them, you can trust that they’ll do right by you. A win-win for everyone.
- Benefits are key to competing for top talent. The battle for talent is hotter than ever, but salary isn’t the only consideration when it comes to choosing, or staying at, a job. Benefits are a critical component to your total rewards program. It’s time to give them the attention they deserve! Don’t just take my word for it. There’s data to back it up. A 2016 Aflac survey found that:
- 82% of employees said benefits are important to job satisfaction.
- 42% said improving the benefits package is one thing employers can do to keep them in their job.
- 60% are likely to accept jobs with slightly lower compensation but better benefits.
But employers still have work to do! The 2014 Metlife study shows:
- 78% want a greater variety of benefits to choose from.
- 80% would value benefits customized to individual circumstances and age.
As you can see, benefits play a HUGE role in attracting and retaining employees. And it’s important to think about choice and personalization in your benefits program, since employees continue to place more value on these traits.
- Unique benefits let you stand out from the pack. The MetLife survey found that 50% of employees are satisfied with their benefits at work. Your diverse population requires a diverse benefits package—and with a workforce that spans five generations, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In addition to traditional benefits, many employers are offering a range of perks, such as flexible time off, pet insurance, education assistance, financial coaching, and more. A creative and innovative benefits package sends the message to employees that you care about them and value their unique needs. This matters to employees.
- Benefits support employees so they can support your biz. Wellness programs continue to gain popularity with employers. According to the 2016 Employee Benefits research report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 72% of employers offered wellness programs in 2016, compared with 54% in 1996. And wellness programs aren’t what they used to be—they’re much better! Employers recognize the importance of holistic wellness—financial, physical, and emotional—and are changing their wellness programs accordingly.
Adding a behavioral health program or financial planning component to your wellness program shows employees you want them to be well in all aspects of their lives. Remember: When employees are less stressed about their personal lives, they’re able to bring their best effort to the workplace. The National Business Group on Health sums it up nicely: “Much like investments in training, development, and safety, employee well-being can play an important role in deploying the most competitive, productive, and efficient workforce possible.”
We know your company invests a ton of time, energy, and financial resources to create your benefits package, and with good reason! Benefits are more important now than ever. How you communicate about benefits to your employees is the final piece of the puzzle, so don’t overlook this equally important step. Get a leg up on your employee benefits communications with our new strategy guide. And if you’d like additional help engaging your employees, give us a shout. We can provide as much support as you need to bring awareness to your benefits and help you create a healthy, happy workforce.
*Employee Benefit Trends Study, MetLife, 2014