How to use voluntary benefits to retain and recruit talented employees

Employee retention continues to be a top concern for employers, even more so than last year, according to a Pay Scale survey of more than 4,000 executives and human resources professionals. In 2014, a staggering 59% of employers were more concerned about retaining talent than anything else. Five years ago, only half of those employers said retention was their number one concern.

With an increased focus on retention, employers are taking a closer look at their employee benefits offerings. Prudential’s “2013 Study of Employee Benefits: Today and Beyond” shows that employers are more focused on their benefit strategies (up 17 percentage points since 2012). The Prudential survey also reported that providing a competitive benefits package is important to employers, with 86% of executives saying that benefits are just as, or more, important for attracting and retaining employees than they were a year earlier.

Can voluntary benefits help an employer stand out?

Voluntary benefits can positively impact and meet multiple objectives. In the Prudential study, 40% of employers strongly agreed that offering voluntary benefits has a positive effect on their employees’ satisfaction with their benefits program.

However, a new study by Harris Interactive reports that while 65% of employees say it is important that their employers offer these products, 47% of employees surveyed have not been offered an additional voluntary product since health care reform was implemented in 2010.

A robust benefits package that includes voluntary products makes a big difference in helping employers acquire and retain a talented, productive workforce.

Which voluntary benefits do employees value the most?

The most important overall employee benefit to a majority of the workforce is health insurance. In fact, any organization that strives to have a competitive employee benefits package has to view a health plan as the price of admission. Once a health plan strategy has been put in place, any additional offerings can quickly become the icing on the cake that assists in attracting and retaining top-notch employees.

So what are some voluntary benefit options that can make your total package more appealing without costing you an arm and a leg? According to the MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends of 2014, supplementary dental, disability, and life insurance plans are widely popular. These plans are readily available in voluntary benefit form, which make them an affordable way to give your employees more value in their employee benefits package.

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If you already have these pieces covered in your existing benefits package, there are still more options that can set you apart. Insurance companies cite voluntary critical illness and hospital or medical supplement plans as some of the top products this year. Medical supplemental plans are designed to specifically help employees with high-cost medical claims such as hospital stays, cancer, or other critical illnesses. Hospital intensive care and hospital confinement indemnity policies help pay for hospital stays and physician’s bills, and some even help pay for major diagnostic exams.

As the workforce ages, long-term-care policies have become another type of voluntary product that employees want their employers to offer. Though this kind of product is typically higher in price, long-term care is a benefit that employers should not ignore. Many employees have parents or grandparents who need some assistance with daily living, and it often rests on their children and other family members to care for them during their remaining years — whether directly or just by helping to pay for a stay in a nursing home.

Which voluntary benefits should your organization offer?

Choosing the right voluntary benefits for the organization should begin with discussing the options with a benefits consultant and then surveying employees to find out which benefits they value most.

After you have decided which benefits will best meet your employees’ and your company’s needs, you should develop a comprehensive communication plan designed to educate employees about the new offerings and their benefits. This may include providing tools and calculators that can help employees examine their individual situations and select the appropriate medical and voluntary plans to meet their needs.

After all, offering the right benefits could mean the difference between hiring top performers and losing them to the competition.

Doug Pond is a business development communications specialist at Associated Financial Group.

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