benefitexpress January 26, 2020 10 min read

Use Voluntary Benefits to Increase Employee Retention, Engagement & Productivity

Value of voluntary benefits

Core benefits will always play an important role in an organization's benefits strategy - but as times change, the modern workforce expects - and demands - more. With unemployment at its lowest level in nearly half a century, employers must be at the forefront of offering innovative and sought-after benefits, including "soft" benefits. 

From supplemental health to lifestyle perks and discounts, financial wellness programs and more, candidates are putting the microscope on all aspects of a benefits offering, creating the need for employers to continually reassess their benefits strategy to remain competitive. The shift also pushes brokers and consultants to freshen up their portfolios and identify benefits technology platforms that can accommodate today's benefits needs.  

The challenge? Creating a robust benefits package (including soft benefits), to recruit and retain top talent across four generations is a tall order. We're sharing how and why to make voluntary benefits a part of your employee benefits strategy. 

Make a difference outside of work

It's no secret that factors outside of work can make an impact at work. For example, the financially strapped employee may experience a decrease in productivity when distracted by their money concerns. It shows up in obvious and less-obvious ways, such as making calls related to one's finances, or thinking twice about joining a lunch out at a new restaurant - and maybe missing a opportunity to build connections with colleagues. This is where soft benefits like financial wellness programs come into play.

Today's worker expects a broader set of tools and solutions that aren’t limited only to retirement savings, but also day-to-day money challenges. According to a study, 60% of workers said they are more committed to their employer and more productive at work when employers demonstrate a commitment to their financial wellness. Read our tips on how to create a financial wellness program for your business! 

The same can be said for other types of wellness programs like those which incorporate physical, social and emotional wellbeing. Considering the rising cost of healthcare, lifestyle benefits help employees adopt other ways to stay healthy. For example, fitness reimbursement programs can aid in the expense of a gym membership, or a fitness tracker. Adding mental health days to your PTO plan is another soft benefit that allow employees to recharge and practice self care. Lastly, more and more organizations are realizing the need for employees to connect and socialize with others while giving back, thus coordinating team outings and volunteerism opportunities. 

In summary, employers who offer expanded benefit options beyond core health are creating opportunities for employees to do things that are separate from work and help them grow on a personal level.

More on Soft Benefits for Overall Wellness

Attract and retain top employees  

As the largest group in today's workforce, many employers are focused on the Millennial experience. And while Millennials certainly remain an important piece of the benefits puzzle, an organization's benefits strategy should consider the needs across generations - because no one member of a generation is the same.

For example, Generation Z is picking up speed as the newest entrant to the workforce. New in their careers, the benefits that are important to them may differ from their Millennial predecessors. For instance, access to student loan programs and pet insurance may appeal to the single, Gen Z dog owner -- while flex time, parental leave or unlimited PTO could benefit the new Millennial parent. And while it's tempting to assume benefits are for one cohort or another, pet benefits are also attractive to Baby Boomers - the only generation to see an increase in pet ownership in the past 10 years. 

The consumer experience of the multi-generational workforce is another thing to consider. While Millenials and Gen Z employees might be deemed the most tech-savvy, because they've always had internet and social tools, we live in a digital society where technology and ease-of-use are the minimum expectations for most individuals.

It's human to seek convenience in everything - and it's human to expect all web experiences to be as easy as one's last, best web experience - whether Amazon,  Google, Facebook or Instagram. This expectation of ease applies to something as simple as an online meal order, and as important and personal as enrolling in employee benefits, and year-round administration.

And while employees wish to be known as more than their nine to five - with families who count on them, hobbies and passion projects, and life goals that may be quite separate from work...they rely on and have come to expect their employers to advocate for their needs both on and off the clock.

It's the plan sponsor's dilemma: striving to meeting the expectations of the workforce, while accomplishing company goals. Whether employees are new or seasoned, convenience and "at the ready" technology are becoming the employee's expectation of their employer-provided benefits. 

Here's the bottomline. Your experience as a administrator matters, too. Does your  benefits administration provider place a high priority on employee experience and offer a platform flexible enough to accomplish your benefits goals for core, voluntary, supplemental health and lifestyle benefits?

When taking the time to invest in a robust benefits plan that addresses these factors, you'll reap the rewards as you strive for an employee base more engaged in their benefits - no matter their age or requirements. 

The need for attracting top talent and retaining top performers is an ongoing challenge - especially for mid and enterprise level organizations. Keep your hiring and retention game strong by understanding how to differentiate your organization in a competitive labor market. Download the e-book to learn more!