A lot has changed in the business landscape over the past few years, and the social contracts built around traditional business practices struggle to keep up. Are your benefits strategies evolving quickly enough to stay competitive?
The way we work, the type of work we do, where we work, and who we work with all look different than they did even ten years ago.
Employees don't need to work in the same room or even the same country to achieve their objectives. They're accepting more responsibilities and embracing more autonomy as teams rapidly flatten, and average tenure is much shorter.
Why does this matter?
To achieve the greatest impact, it's essential to think beyond table stakes.
Many employee benefits that would have been considered crucial just a decade ago are no longer even on an employee's radar. Employee benefit strategies are one area many organizations are working to modernize, and cash in on some of the opportunities they present.
Benefits are more powerful when they're aligned with, and supportive of your organizational culture. An outstanding organizational culture can even be its own benefit.
When things are really clicking, the advantages of your benefits and culture aren't just additive — they're multiplicative.
Here's the catch: benefits that are misaligned with your organizational culture can actually work counter to your goals.
For example, if family is an important cultural focus amongst your team, a strong benefits strategy will prioritize that cultural value. In your particular case, a sound parental assistance policy would strengthen organizational culture more than any amount of catered lunch, ping pong tables, or kegerators ever could.
If creativity is a fundamental element of your organizational culture, a benefit like 20 percent time or regular hackathons can help provide an environment of creative freedom that will help to attract and retain innovators from around the globe.
The key is understanding the motivations and goals of the organization on a fundamental level, and communicating them through your benefits strategy.
Building a culture of recognition is one of the most scalable, affordable, and powerful benefits your organization can provide for its employees. Without it, some of the most costly benefits you provide will be hamstringed because the program lacks a crucial element of motivation.
Part of the problem is thinking about recognition as an afterthought, or "just something we do." Think of recognition as an actual part of the benefits package provided to your team, and think about ways the other benefits you're providing can support it.
For example: your organization may provide annual bonuses as a part of the benefits strategy. The problem is that there is little or no connection between the work someone does on a day-to-day basis, and recognition in the form of an annual bonus.
Like Josh Bersin mentioned in his Forbes article that detailed recent research, recognition is more powerful when it's frequent.
Think about it this way:
Let's say I've worked very hard this week, staying after hours to solve a really challenging, but crucial problem, missing dinner with my family and causing some stress at home. My organization's current benefits strategy dictates that if I'm recognized or rewarded for that sacrifice, it will happen during my annual review. If it takes another 4 months before my contribution is recognized or rewarded, it will be worse than disappointing.
Scenarios like these aren't uncommon. Not only would this scenario likely result in a failure to improve engagement, there's considerable potential for it to result in active disengagement.
Think about ways you can provide recognition more frequently, and in the moment. It's possible to do this without increasing overall compensation expenditures, and the results can be asymmetrically positive.
Professional development benefits are a great way to achieve two goals with one policy.
Most employees want to work in a place that supports their personal and professional growth. Denying them that avenue for growth results in the dreaded dead-end job.
But it gets better.
Professional development programs don't just provide employees with the opportunity to reach toward self-actualization and become the best they can be — they also have the unique advantage of improving employee performance. The earlier they're implemented, the more their effects can magnify across an employee's tenure.
If you don't think there's a budget for professional development, it's worth considering the goals, priorities, and structure of your benefits package. If you're certain there's no budget, simply get creative with implementation.
It's possible to provide career development opportunities with the assets your organization already possesses. Some people on your team will be natural teachers, and interested in sharing the knowledge they've obtained over the years.
There might also be some latent talents within your team that are more tangentially work-related, but still valuable skills to learn.
Whether it's supplementing courses, education, and seminars, or providing a mentorship program, professional development is a priceless asset to a benefits strategy.
There are two very important basic points to make about employee autonomy:
- The amount of time someone spends at their desk is not always (or often) indicative of the amount of work they get done while sitting there.
- "The way we've always done it" isn't always (or often) the best way to do something.
Employees (especially knowledge workers) value the ability to choose when and how they tackle their tasks. Many organizations are working to more fully support and encourage employee autonomy as both a recruitment and retention tool.
Here's the best part:
Encouraging autonomy isn't only good because it attracts results-focused employees and keeps them happy. It's advantageous because it helps the organization operate more efficiently.
Strict hierarchy and bureaucracy aren't the most efficient ways to accomplish most tasks. It certainly helps to have someone to check in with, and someone who's looking at the machinery from a higher elevation, but the opposite is true for micromanagement, and work environments where every minute decision has to be run up the chain of command.
Modern employees look for positions where they're granted more control over the work they do and the decisions that get made.
Work from home options, plus flexible scheduling and time off can be very attractive benefits to offer, both for attracting new employees and keeping your best ones.
Great peer relationships are a unique benefit that is rewarding both at work and away.
According to recent research by TINYpulse, peer relationships are the number one motivator for employees to go the extra mile in their work.
Although it's not possible to dictate that employees build strong relationships with one another, it's easy and often inexpensive put the necessary things in place that will increase the chances of that happening.
For example, weekly team lunches and other get-togethers can have an extraordinarily positive impact on the relationships between team members. Outside activities like volunteering are great opportunities for employees to work together towards achieving a common goal.
If there's no budget for that, simply building areas that promote coworker interactions into the workspace can make a big difference.
There are a multitude of ways you can multiply the effects of your benefits strategy. In many cases, it doesn't take much more resources or effort than you're already devoting to your current plan.
If you're ready to take the next steps toward building an amazing benefits strategy and work culture, check out our latest guide: