Top 4 Employee Benefit Categories That Matter Most to Employees

Benefits can be basic or surprising, but they’re important factors in the decision to take a job or stay with an organization.

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An overview of the top 4 categories of employer-provvided benefits that attract and retain talent

Winning the quest for top talent requires a strategy that appeals to the needs and wants of job seekers and employees. Overall compensation packages must include salaries and benefits that attract and retain the best workers your company can afford. Some benefits are costly, others are free; still others offer both the business and workers tax benefits. There are a myriad of choices available that should fit almost every size business.

For workers, benefits are a critical factor when deciding whether to take a new job or stay with their current company. Zenefits recently polled 1,100 employees of small to medium-sized businesses about their top choices for benefits. Their answers provide a guide for businesses to fulfill employee’s “must-haves” and options to provide benefits on their wish lists. Even with all the benefit options available, the poll found that employees’ responses can be broken down into 4 main categories.

Healthcare

The number one choice of workers in the Zenefits poll and across the nation is healthcare coverage. Basic medical coverage, at the very minimum, is a top requirement for many workers. Adding family coverage for children, either voluntarily or under Affordable Care Act mandate, and spouses sweetens the pot for many job seekers and employees.

Businesses often see tax benefits to offering healthcare coverage for staffers. In addition to reducing payroll tax obligations (employee contributions are pre-tax) and deductions for employer contributions, healthcare may be a more affordable option than many SMBs assume.

More healthcare choices are available today, including dental, vision, and short- and long-term disability coverage. Our survey found 2/3 of workers are interested in vision and dental: more than a quarter are interested in STD/LTD. These benefits can be relatively affordable while providing  healthcare security for staff members.

Furthermore, these benefits round out an overall healthcare package that focuses on employee wellness, a top priority for workers and organizations. Businesses that invest in employee health reap benefits of their own: increased productivity, reductions in absenteeism, presenteeism, and an overall reduction of health costs are often realized when the focus is on preventative and responsible health options.

In addition to reducing payroll tax obligations (employee contributions are pre-tax) and deductions for employer contributions, healthcare may be a more affordable option than many SMBs assume.

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Financial benefits

Offering benefits that help employees meet their financial obligations and goals can be a no-cost or low-cost option or employers. Flexible spending accounts are the most basic, helping staffers pay for medical and caregiver expenses — and come at no cost to the employer.

401(k) retirement plans help employees plan for the future, and often provide businesses with tax incentives to begin and administer a plan. More than half of those polled cite a retirement plan as an important benefit. Life insurance is another low-cost option that offers staff members peace of mind to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Some organizations even offer stock options to their staffers. What better way to incentivize performance and success? Research shows when employees feel financially secure, they’re less stressed at work and at home. That can translate into higher morale and better performance on the job.

Work/life balance 

Paid time off and resources to balance their personal and professional lives is another area of benefits highly sought-after by workers. These can be relatively low cost for employers, as well. It begins with paid time off — including sick, personal and vacation days. PTO is the 2nd most sought after benefit our survey respondents chose.

Sick time

Sick days have taken the spotlight in 2020. One of the lessons learned in the COVID-19 pandemic is the importance of taking time off work when sick. Rather than worsening one’s own health and jeopardizing others, sick days must be utilized. Unfortunately, many workers don’t have the financial option to do so.

For some SMBs, local authorities help offset the cost of sick time payments with insurance funds created through staff member contributions. Other businesses know the value in providing the most generous sick time off they can afford.

Personal and vacation days

Whether it’s the ability to take an occasional “mental health” day — or enjoy a vacation or staycation — solo time off and time off with friends and family recharges employees.

Personal and vacation days are another way businesses encourage employees to keep their life in balance. Whether it’s the ability to take an occasional “mental health” day — or enjoy a vacation or staycation — solo time off and time off with friends and family recharges employees. It provides them a chance to refuel themselves, their families, and their commitment to the company. The biggest challenge for many SMBs is encouraging (even requiring) employees take the time off they’ve earned. It’s important for them and for the organization.

Remote work

The newest work/life balance trick of the trade is another lesson learned through the pandemic: remote work. Working from wherever may have been a long-term policy or newly thrust on an organization, but businesses are making it work. So many employees love the convenience and few miss dealing with rush-hour traffic. Across the country, businesses are adopting the model permanently. Companies are finding savings on real estate, utilities, and other “in-person” expenses through remote work.

Flexible scheduling

Flexible hours, or flex time, are another no-cost way employers can help staff keep their lives coordinated. Shifting shifts, staggering start times, and offering compressed work days/weeks  helps staffers in many ways. Whether it’s starting a bit late so staffers can get the kids to school, or working longer days and shorter weeks, flexible scheduling often meets employee and employer needs.

Parental leave

Family/parental leave, including mandatory requirements for state and federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and beyond are another important benefit. Employers can help workers transition to the responsibilities of parenthood with no-cost to highly generous options. Some organizations fully pay for time off: others offer job security even if they cannot provide salary.

Volunteerism

Still another low/no-cost option is allowing staff members time off for volunteerism. Whether it’s 1 day per year or more frequently, employees are loyal to companies that allow them time to help. Some companies offer volunteer opportunities. At others, staffers provide help to organizations they personally support. For businesses, the benefit attracts workers and boosts their commitment (and brand identity) within the community.

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Professional development 

Today’s job seeker and employee is looking to the future of their career. Whether training is on-the-job or through other sources, employers and workers both look to improve employees’ skills and value. Tuition reimbursement is the traditional means businesses use to offer professional development to staff members, and it’s an important benefit to a large portion of workers.

There are other offerings employers can leverage, including online classes and in-house training. From the most basic lunch and learn, to helping employees plan for financial success, the more training you can provide, the more valuable staff members will become. From online coding classes to fully paid sabbaticals, investment in staff is an investment in your organization

Benefits can be basic or surprising (cryopreservation?), but they’re important factors in the decision to take a job or stay with an organization. Our survey found 70% of job seekers admit they’re unlikely to accept a position without healthcare coverage: almost 30% have left a job with poor benefits packages. Offering the most comprehensive benefits package you can afford is key to attracting and retaining talent. With options that range from zero cost and up, there’s something for everyone.

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