Embroker Team May 13, 2024 7 min read

How to Design an Employee Benefits Program That Works for Your Business

Two people in a workplace wondering about employee benefits planning for their organization

How important is it for employers to offer an attractive employee benefits program in today’s business climate? This important:

According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) conducted in 2018, 80% of the people who were polled said that they would choose a job with benefits over an identical job that had a 30% higher salary but no benefits.

It has become crystal clear that companies that don’t offer advanced and well-designed benefits plans to their staff members are fighting an uphill battle to attract top talent and retain their best employees.

Sure, there are some employee benefits that are mandated by law, but simply offering the benefits you’re legally required to offer is not going to cut it anymore. So, what are employees looking for from a benefits program? What benefits can your company offer to stand out and attract top-tier employees?

In the broadest possible terms of classification, companies can offer a combination of monetary and non-monetary benefits. Monetary ones are easy and are usually offered as a series of bonuses and monetary incentives that reward employees for jobs well done.

However, getting the non-monetary benefits right will be the bread and butter of your employee benefits program. This entails picking the right services to offer and properly recognizing what benefits your employees would appreciate and benefit from most.

This is why designing a proper employee benefits program is not easy. But the reality is that investing in such a program is absolutely vital, as it can represent and define your organizational foundation and company values.

Let’s take a look at the steps any business needs to take when striving to put together the best possible benefits program for its employees.

Know What You Want to Accomplish

The better you are at defining the objectives of your benefits program, the easier it will be for your company to design and install it. But this doesn’t mean that you need to know exactly what benefits you are going to be offering at the onset of the process.

It means that you should take steps to understand what you want to accomplish with your employee benefits program, both in terms of how it will benefit the company and your employees.

Of course, you’ll never know what benefits your employees truly want unless you ask them outright, which is why your employees need to be included in the process from the start.

Get Employee Feedback

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To determine what benefits should be part of your program, go straight to the source and ask your employees. Getting employee feedback, whether through surveys or one-on-one talks with staff, will help you narrow down the list of benefits that your company should target.

If you already have an employee benefits plan that you would like to improve on or revamp completely, get the employees involved in this process as well. Let them tell you what they think of the current plan and which benefits they are or aren’t using. Contact your insurer if you offer medical plans and health benefits to get an idea of how much and to what extent these types of benefits are utilized.

Surveying employees and getting them involved in the process also helps your company show that you truly care about their opinions and want to provide them with the benefits they truly want.

Once you’ve surveyed your staff, continue researching every angle that could provide clues to help you create the best possible plan.

Take a look at recent trends and market research and what they suggest as popular benefits. Identify what benefits your competition is offering; use anything that can help point you in the right direction.

Know Your Budget and Financial Situation

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Unless you’re a Fortune 500 company or a unicorn startup with money to burn, you’ll probably not be able to afford every employee benefit you and your team want.

That’s why it’s important to know right away what type of budget is available for benefits. Creating and analyzing an employee benefits budget is not something that anyone can do. Companies should absolutely hire an accountant or other financial professional to help with this process.

It’s important to remember that many of the most popular and prominent benefits, such as health insurance, should be expected to constantly increase in cost, even if your employee count isn’t growing. That’s why hiring someone, whether in-house or outsourced, to help navigate the financial landscape and provide assistance to your company with these very involved and complex budgeting projects is prudent.

If you are a small company, it’s always better to spend what you can afford instead of trying to compete with benefits programs that larger companies offer and ending up in financial trouble.

At this point, you should know what benefits your employees want most and be aware of your budget. With this information at your disposal, you should be able to make the right decisions once the process of designing your employee benefits program begins.

Design Your Employee Benefits Plan

As we’ve already discussed, even with all of the planning and groundwork you’ve put into the process, designing your employee benefits plan is still going to be a daunting task with many factors that need to be considered.

  • Does your current plan need to be revamped or completely scrapped?
  • What can you do to cut costs?
  • Are there benefits that aren’t being used? If so, is it better to focus on getting employees to use them, or is it a sign that they should be excluded from your plan?
  • Will employees have to contribute or are you covering all of the costs?
  • Are you going to hire a third-party administrator to successfully implement the benefits?

These are questions that need to be answered and ones that, when answered, will give you a clearer picture of what your employee benefits plan is going to look like when all of the pieces come together.

Inevitably, your company will be forced to make hard decisions in an effort to balance the benefits your employees want most and what you can afford to implement currently.

To give this decision-making process a stricter and easier-to-navigate form, start with your “must-have” employee benefits and then move on to secondary benefits that you might be able to tack on to the program once you’ve checked all your most pertinent boxes.

Essential Benefits

When we talk about essential benefits, we are not talking about the ones mandated by law. Those are required benefits. An essential benefit would be something like health insurance.

While health insurance is required for companies with more than 50 employees, almost any company that wants to attract great employees will offer it, even if it isn’t required to do so. The same goes for life insurance, disability insurance (which is required by law in several US states), and retirement plans.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to offer all of these, use the data you’ve gathered from your employee surveys and market research to choose which combination of essential benefits will work best for your staff and your budget.

Secondary/Optional Benefits

Some companies follow the philosophy that it’s better to strive to offer all of the essential benefits instead of trying to add “fringe benefits” that might not be as popular or requisite. However, this really all depends on the type of company you’re running.

For example, if you’re a startup that mainly attracts young people in their 20s and 30s, there might be more people who want benefits such as tuition reimbursement, child care subsidies, flexible work arrangements and hours, and pet-friendly offices than those who are already thinking about a retirement plan and how that would be a great benefit to have.

That’s why it’s so important to remain dedicated to the process of designing an employee benefits program for the long run, which includes constantly keeping your finger on the pulse of what your employees want and how happy they are with what they are already getting from you.

Evaluate Your Program Regularly

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Once your employee benefits program has been installed and has been operating for a solid period of time (six months to a year), make sure that you have an evaluation process ready to go as well.

To offer your staff the best possible program, it’s important to periodically review and assess your program to see if your employees’ needs and company’s objectives are being met.

Again, market research can be helpful during this phase. Use benchmarking and trends to determine the effectiveness of your program, and once again, make sure that your employees are included and surveyed during the evaluation process as well.

However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the process of putting together an employee benefits program and feel that you could use some expert help, don’t hesitate to reach out to set up a meeting with one of our employee benefits experts today.

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