Employee Benefits That Attract Top Talent

Money can't buy employee love — but strong benefits can help recruit and retain top performers

As the United States continues to see increased strength in its employment figures, business owners and hiring managers are confronting a new challenge: competition for top talent. But there's good news if you want your company to be seen as an employer of choice without seeing your payroll skyrocket. In October, a study released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and a Glassdoor survey each revealed that strong employee benefits packages, not salary bidding wars, can help you attract and retain the employees you need to drive your business growth.

That's one of the conclusions reached in SHRM's 2015 Strategic Benefits Survey. It revealed that 28 percent of respondents had "leveraged their benefits program to recruit employees at all levels of the organization." Survey participants flagged health benefits as particularly valuable: 66 percent said that during the next three to five years, they would "increase in importance in their organizations' efforts to recruit employees." Retirement saving and career/professional development benefits were not far behind: they were cited by 59 and 50 percent of respondents, respectively, as competitive advantages in recruitment.

Does the survey represent an accurate take on candidates' wishes? Glassdoor's Q3 2015 Employment Confidence Survey says yes. Among employees who responded, 79 percent "would prefer new or additional benefits to a pay increase." The preference was even stronger among younger employees, including Millennials: 89 percent of workers aged 18-34 and 84 percent of those aged 35-44 said they'd opt for employee benefits or perks over a pay raise. Here, again, health care topped the list: 40 percent of respondents said they would prefer them to a salary increase. Also among the most sought-after benefits were vacation/paid time off (37 percent) and 401(k), retirement, or pension plans (31 percent).

Choosing culture over cash

The underlying message is that employees and candidates want to work for companies that will take care of their needs beyond a paycheck. Businesses can therefore use benefits like career training and professional development programs to demonstrate their commitment to ensuring employees' long-term welfare and job satisfaction. That, in turn, signals the corporate culture and values that make companies employers of choice in today's market.

"When people feel invested, when they feel that their vision and their input matters, they're far more engaged in the outcome," says transition coach and career management consultant Nancy Karas. "Companies should inspire their employees to think and to innovate. If we train our people to be resilient and resourceful, and we provide them with skills development, then as we forge forward, we have people on board who can master all those challenges."

In fact, engagement could be counted as another employee benefit—one that could help you identify the programs that your team members will find most meaningful. The simple act of asking them what they want creates an opportunity to show your employees that you value them and want them to be happy working for your company. By working with them to develop their preferred benefits package, you also create a workforce that's loyal to your business and committed to working toward its long-term goals.


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