Q&A: Benefits that no longer fit your workforce

Riia O'Donnell, People Operations Writer and Editor
Sep 23, 2021

Work—and the workforce—is changing faster than ever before. Are your company’s benefits programs keeping up? On this episode of POPS!, Workest.com contributor Riia O’Donnell breaks down the types of benefits people want—and don’t want—from their employers. You’ll hear how to determine what stays and what goes, and tips on asking employees for their feedback about […]

Work—and the workforce—is changing faster than ever before. Are your company’s benefits programs keeping up? On this episode of POPS!, Workest.com contributor Riia O’Donnell breaks down the types of benefits people want—and don’t want—from their employers. You’ll hear how to determine what stays and what goes, and tips on asking employees for their feedback about benefits.

After you listen:

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On this episode, you’ll hear: 

  • [00:32-02:13] The benefits the workforce wants from employers today
  • [02:14-04:31] The kinds of benefits that are no longer “cutting it” with the workforce
  • [04:32-05:47] The key challenge for HR professionals when it comes to benefits
  • [05:47-06:30] Why healthcare benefits are more affordable than small businesses think
  • [06:31-07:15] Why time off is good for the individual and the company
  • [07:15-08:07] How to ask employees what they want

POPS Star Bio

Riia O’Donnell is a contributing writer at Workest.com and has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management.


Didi: Do my benefits programs still fit my team’s needs.

Welcome to POPS the show that shows you how to shift from human resources, paperwork, people, operation for the new world. How by answering one question. Today to help answer your question, here’s Riia O’Donnell, contributing writer at Workest.com

Riia: besides healthcare, which is always number one on the hit list. Retirement benefits are popping up is very desirable for employees. Now they’re starting to plan more for their future and then the day-to-day stuff worried about tomorrow, but we’re also worried about today.

So people are looking for. Uh, generous, paid time off benefits. That’s sick time, vacation time, personal days. And they’re also looking for companies that are flexible with regard to leave times maternity, paternity leave. Anything that helps employees. I think balance work and life better is a very desirable benefit that companies cannot.

When I was looking at the data, that was one of the things that surprised me most because in my years in HR, Your employees fresh out of college or new to the workforce, really don’t worry about their retirement. They have been historically, but I think they’re looking at the longer view of their careers and realizing that retirement benefits are a sound investment today.

And a lot of people are learning too, that you can borrow against those funds to buy your first time. In some cases you can borrow against it for college or significant medical expenses. So if you’re lucky you get to use it in your retirement, uh, or buy your first house. So I think they’re looking at retirement benefits very differently than they did maybe a decade or so ago.

And that’s good news for employees and for business because businesses get a tax benefit when they participate in 401k plans and other types of companies supported retirement plans. So it’s really a win for everyone. There’s a couple of categories of things that aren’t cutting at first or the things that people think they don’t need.

A lot of people think they don’t need a D and D accidental death and dismemberment, particularly if you’re like in an office setting, people think they don’t need long and short term disability benefits. They’re relatively low costs to purchase for companies. And if you don’t use it, that’s wonderful.

But if you ever need it, Terrific that you’ve had it. So I think people look at things in that I don’t need that, you know, that’s never going to happen to me. And then you look at the things that people outright don’t want and they don’t need a lot of them, I think are things that companies think are more of a priority than the employees themselves think.

And I, I come really to employee incentive programs, which there’s such a thin line between. Programs that incentivize employees and programs that pit employees against each other. I look at things like employee of the month, which sounds like a great idea. I mean, you’re our employee of the month. You’re shining.

You’re doing wonderfully, but how do you assess who’s the employee of the month? It can be very subjective and then people can think, well, it’s kind of a teacher’s pet thing. It can be based on things like sales data. Which is, you know, quantifiable and it seems reasonable, but if you’re the sales person that works Tuesday morning in the retail location, you’re going to lose out to the person that works Saturday afternoon, every single time, because there’s more traffic coming into the store.

So I think it’s very well intentioned, but it could be really challenging to make it so that it’s an even playing field for everyone and people don’t see it as I’m. I think, you think, see things like gym memberships that are very under utilized. The company goes out of their way to negotiate with a local gym, to get discounted memberships for the employees.

And, you know, in January everybody’s signing up, but by March, April, nobody cares anymore. They’re all lot of things that we have really great intentions about, but don’t necessarily pay off. The challenge for HR professionals is we need to look at the benefits that we’re offering and when we negotiate them and create them, but then we have to go back and see how they’re being utilized, or if they’re being utilized.

I mean, if nobody uses their Ady and D coverage, that’s great. That means there’s been no accidents on the job. If nobody’s going to the juice bar that we spent a fortune to him. That’s not a good investment. The challenge is not just to negotiate the best benefits, but to make sure that people want them and they’re using them and they’re using them correctly.

A lot of the wellness benefits programs that companies offer, like the gym membership. Kind of go by the wayside, but then there are other wellness programs like excess to 24 hour nurses that people can call when their kids get sick, or if they’re sick or if something happens on the weekends or the evenings, those are the benefits that we need to assess and make sure that they’re being utilized correctly.

But I think we need to lean more towards the thing that things that people use as opposed to the things that look really good. I mean, it looks great when you say we have a free juice. In our job posting, but you know, if nobody’s really using it, it’s just, you know, theater more than effective benefits as we’re seeing the market get tighter and tighter.

I think a lot of small businesses are looking around and saying, you know, healthcare is such an expensive benefit. I don’t think I can afford it, but when they really look at the numbers and they look at it in contrast to what they’re having to pay per hour, To get people in the door without benefits. I think many of them are finding it’s much more cost-effective than they think.

And again, there are tax incentives and benefits to variety in healthcare. So I think that’s one thing that you have to look at. Let’s give people what they need, and if you’re going to give them health care, let’s go with those additional, you know, not so popular long and short term disability and, and a D and D benefits beyond that.

You’re going to want to go as time off. And I think. Uh, another big lesson following this pandemic. Is it sick? People should stay home. We were all gangbusters with come to work. If you’re sniffling it’s okay. And having people, you know, power through. We know better now, stay home, get better for yourself and get better so that you don’t infect others.

So I think time off benefits, sick time, personal time, vacation time is good for the employee. They get a chance to recharge and, you know, recommit to their job. And it’s good for the company because we’re not having people that are burned out at their dusk or, you know, their morale isn’t miserable. And they’re certainly not infecting others.

Once you go beyond those, you know, things that people really need. I think you really need to ask your employees what they want. Do you want summer hours coming in late on Mondays or leaving early on Fridays? Do you want that juice bar? Do you want those memberships, you know, look at the things that are very impact.

Like health and wellness benefits and time off, and then ask them what they want. I think most companies would be really surprised to hear what their employees really want when it comes to benefits. They usually don’t want the really expensive bells and whistles. They want the things that are going to help them today.

If you can help them. With those issues. You’re going to end up with loyal employees who are thrilled to be there and who are just thrilled to produce for you because you’re supporting them. They’re happy to support you.

Do you have a question for our experts? Click the link in the show notes, or if you’ve got other ideas and feedback about our show, send them to [email protected]

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