It’s time to improve employee benefits


Immunization rates are rising, and employers are putting in place plans to return to the office and back to normal. But some employees may want a new normal, which includes flexible hours and benefits that match their needs and values.

“Expectations have changed. They were already changing, but with COVID-19 the how, where and why of our work have all been transformed, ”says Erika Illiano, director of Strategic Benefit Advisors, a member firm of Brown & Brown Insurance.

Social justice issues magnified over the past year have also made some people expect more from their employers.

“We are all, as human beings, more aware of the world in which we live. It absolutely spills over into the workplace and impacts our expectations of what corporate citizenship looks like. The benefits are part of it, ”says Illiano.

PUSHING FOR CHANGE

Health insurance, paid vacation and retirement tools should be the basis, not the bar, of employer-provided benefits. Employees want benefits that meet their needs, not those of previous generations.

Benefits that reflect the times include tuition fees, student loan repayment assistance, remote work, mental health resources, and other wellness benefits.

Any offer should also be viewed through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion, Illiano says.

“Millennials more than any other generation in the workforce, they expect it,” she says. “If you are designing an inclusive medical leave program, ask yourself: is your paternity leave as long as your maternity leave? If not why ? Do you offer leave only to birth parents? What about national partners? Adoptive parents?”

If you need more of your employer’s benefits, you can and should ask for it. Just be strategic in how you plead.

– ENTER WITH DATA. Are you requesting a new benefit? Bring numbers to support your claim.

If you’re advocating paid time off for volunteering, for example, expand your business case by noting that 26% of companies offer this benefit, according to a 2019 report from the Society for Human Resource Management. (Better yet, find out if there are any competitors offering the edge you’re looking for.)

Want your business to consider student loan repayment allowances? Note that 34% of employees said they would be more likely to stay in their jobs if their employer offered them student loan assistance, according to a May 2020 survey conducted by Gift of College, a crowdfunding platform.

If you don’t have compelling data to back you up, boil it down to your company’s mission and value statements.

– HAVE A PLAN FOR THE “NO”. Your request may not be informed from the outset. If your request is denied, try to understand the reasoning behind the “no”.

“Is that a ‘no’ because of the budget? Because no one has raised it before and they don’t believe it’s a need? Or are they considering allocating money to areas that would also be beneficial? Illiano said. “It would dictate your next move. “

If your employer doesn’t think this is a generalized need, survey your coworkers or circulate a petition to present to your human resources department. If money has been allocated elsewhere, find out when your company reviews benefits each year and make a plan to reformulate your case.

– TAKE A PLACE AT THE TABLE. Does your company have a committee or resource group that advises the benefits team? If so, ask for a seat at the table. If not, suggest creating one and offer to recruit a diverse group of employees to participate.

You will show that you want to improve the overall company benefits program, rather than giving yourself a one-time benefit. You will also gain insight into how benefit decisions are made in the business.

EMPLOYERS: LISTENING TO YOUR PEOPLE

Employers who are at the forefront of benefits can have an advantage in recruiting and retaining employees.

“People’s relationship to work has changed. This is going to create a competition for talent that is truly unique, ”Illiano said, adding that employers need to“ ensure that they deliver dynamic and competitive advantages that appeal to a more modern workforce ”.

But don’t wait for your employees to come to you. Be proactive and seek feedback from employee resource groups and through annual surveys.

If a new benefit doesn’t fit on your balance sheet, look for ways to make existing benefits more accessible, says Beth Garner, national practice manager for the practice of auditing employee benefit plans at BDO, a firm. accounting and consulting.

“Simple changes, like making sure plan information is accessible on a mobile device or making it easier for new employees to renew a previous employer’s pension plan, can help,” Garner says.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Kelsey Sheehy is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @kelseylsheehy.

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