Benefits are critical for both employees and employers. Here’s what to do if your workers are unhappy with their benefits package.
Here's what you need to know:
- What benefits do workers want? Many see healthcare, retirement plans, paid leave, and flexible working options as top choices
- When it comes to flex and remote work and compressed workweeks, many employees want them but not as many employers offer them
- What some employees dislike: health benefits they don’t need, such as vision and life/ADD insurance and long/short-term disability coverage
- For some businesses, better information and communication about certain benefits — and how they protect workers, their spouses, and children — might be in order
- Other benefits some employees dislike: employee of the month programs, time off they can’t use, and parties on holidays
- Ask staffers to rate the benefits you provide as important or not, and for suggestions on what they’d like to have
Employers are always looking for ways to sweeten the benefits pot to attract and retain talent. They try to find the benefits employees want most and fit them into planning and budget. Healthcare coverage is the top benefit employees are looking for (no surprise), and it’s an expensive benefit. When businesses factor in the cost of all the other benefits and perks they provide, the price tag can soar.
It’s important to provide the benefits employees want and pass on the ones that are missing the mark. Some benefits that employers think are huge winners are actually not, and they can fall short of expectations. Some may not even be on your radar. It starts with knowing what staffers (and job seekers) are looking for, then tailoring your benefits program to meet your needs and theirs.
What do workers want?
A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management ranked the top paid benefits employees want from their workplace. Healthcare topped the list at 95%, but many employers would be surprised to find 71% of staffers point to retirement plans as their number 2 choice, followed by employee leave benefits and flexible working options.
ADP found 80% of employees view benefits like a retirement plan as a key consideration in accepting a new job.ADP found 80% of employees view benefits like a retirement plan as a key consideration in accepting a new job. They also found only one-third of companies with 19 or less employees offer retirement plans. For the companies that do offer the benefit, however, employees save on average 7% more than their counterparts at large firms. This could result in huge tax savings for employers. For businesses that don’t offer any type of retirement savings plan, now may be the time to look into them.
Paid time off is one of the most popular benefits available. This includes paid sick, personal, holiday, and vacation time. On average, small businesses offer 10 days of paid time off during the year. Your employees may be happy with the amount you offer, or could be looking for more.
In some states, paid sick leave is becoming a mandate for employers. The good news is that most of these states have established a sick leave insurance fund employees can pay into in order to receive the benefit. If your state has such a program, voluntary or required, it might be worthwhile to investigate.
Where you may be missing the mark
A study from Robert Half polled employers and workers to see what’s being offered by employers versus what staffers really want when it comes to benefits and perks. The disconnect they found nationwide may be occurring in your company, as well.
One of the top ratings by employees was a flexible work schedule. 88% of respondents said they’d like to have one, but only 62% of companies offer them. This is a benefit that many SMBs can leverage at no cost. If at all possible, work with staffers to come up with schedules that meet business and employee need to boost loyalty, productivity, and morale.
The study found 66% of employees would love a compressed workweek — where they work more hours but fewer days. Sadly, only 17% of employers offered this perk. This is another benefit employers can provide at little to no cost. If there’s a possibility in your company, consider boosting employee engagement with a compressed week.
The study found 66% of employees would love a compressed workweek — where they work more hours but fewer days. Sadly, only 17% of employers offered this perk.
Another big miss for employers is allowing remote work. Many companies were plunged into a remote work model in response to COVID-19 and many found it not only worked, but worked well. According to the Half study (pre-pandemic) 55% of workers wanted remote work, but only 14% of companies offered the option.
What they might dislike
1. Health benefits they don’t think they need
The same Robert Half study found, when it comes to healthcare benefits, employees are indifferent about some of the (costly) offerings you may provide:
- Sixty percent of companies offer vision insurance, but only 16% of workers want it
- 53% of businesses offer life/ADD insurance, yet only 13% of workers are interested
- 58% of companies offer long/short-term disability coverage but only 10% of their staff is interested
These health benefits are important to staff members and their families. For businesses who provide these coverages, better information and communication about the benefits — and how they protect workers, their spouses, and children — might be in order.
2. Employee of the month programs
If you think you’re motivating staff with an employee of the month reward, the opposite may actually be true. These are often viewed as popularity contests, rather than awards for merit. Some organizations tie them to subjective data: a manager nominates a staffer for a job well done, for example. For some teams, whose manager isn’t as proactive, the award is never achieved. The benefit you think is motivating may actually be doing the opposite.
Others have tied “employee of the month” to objective criteria like not being late for shifts. But a study by Harvard Business School found these may produce negative effects as well. It found some workers learned to game the system, while others, who were already stellar employees with excellent attendance, were demotivated and turned off from the awards. Rewarding what they thought was expected behavior, and tying it to prizes, resulted in a 6 to 8% drop in productivity for workers who were already clocking in on time.
3. Time off they can’t/don’t want to use
Employees earn time off, but often fear using it or keep letting it accumulate due to their workload.Mandatory time off has been the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, but pre-coronavirus and post, unusable time off is a stickler. Employees earn time off, but often fear using it or keep letting it accumulate due to their workload.
This benefit, if not leveraged by employees and encouraged by management, can be frustrating for many staffers who need time away to refresh and recommit to their work.
4. Time off when it’s convenient for you
A variation of frustrating time off is time off on your schedule, not theirs. Some industries expect their busy season to be taboo for time off: but barring that, organizations should work to make sure staff can take time off when it’s convenient for them. Workers with families typically want time off during the summer, when their kids are out of school; some want time off during the holidays to prepare for guests and festivities. Working with staff to make sure time off works for everyone could turn around attitudes on a costly benefit that many, unfortunately, have come to resent.
5. Parties on holidays
Especially at the end of the year, holiday festivities are in full swing and employees are busy trying to leverage family obligations along with work. Toss a mandatory holiday party — typically held in the evening — into the mix, and you’re looking at a costly benefit many don’t like. With hectic schedules, work parties can be challenging to fit in. Randstad found 90% of workers would rather have a bonus than a holiday party, but 62% said they felt obligated to go. If you’re spending a fortune on festivities, consider converting it to cash to boost the holiday cheer.
Take a poll
When it comes to the benefits you provide, it’s important to periodically check with workers to make sure you’re getting the most for your benefits spend, and they’re getting the most from the benefits you offer. If you think they might be hesitant to look a gift horse in the mouth, use an anonymous survey. Ask staffers to rate the benefits you provide as important or not, and for suggestions on what they’d like to have. You may be surprised to find cost savings in their responses.