Employee Benefits | Effective Employee Benefits

What are Employee Benefits?

Employee benefits drive companies forward

Employees are the driving force behind the success of any organization. They move the business forward and enable it to grow with their skills and dedication. Many business owners today are realizing that taking proper care of their employees presents a significant return on investment. In fact, for every $1 invested in benefits and Employee Assistance Programs, the ROI is $3 on average.

As much as any business would like to achieve separation between work and personal lives, the two are heavily intertwined. An employee who is struggling with personal issues is often unable to remain productive in the workplace.

Employee benefits are a great way for companies to offer much-needed assistance to their employees in many different areas of importance. These benefits cover healthcare, financial stability, elder care packages, and vacation benefits that can enable workers to get much-needed rest to avoid burnout.

In addition to the common employee benefits that most of us are used to, businesses are now implementing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) that take an extra step to care for employees and boost workplace productivity.


Importance of Employee Benefits

Benefits help employees and companies

Benefits written on multiple road sign.jpegThe tradeoff between offering employee benefits and their cost has long been debated. Is it really worth it to invest in employee benefits, and by extension, your employees? Multiple studies have shown that it is. Here are several reasons why.

  • Attracts high-quality talent – Talented workers who are seeking opportunities in various industries pay close attention to the benefits the company offers. These workers have thought ahead and desire stability in healthcare, financial options, time off from work, and other important benefits. About 55% of millennials identify workplace benefits as a determining factor as to where they will work.
  • Increases retention rates – As previously mentioned, employee turnover is a costly expense for most businesses. One of the leading causes of high turnover is dissatisfied employees who are concerned about their growth potential. By showing that you care for your workers, you can keep them around longer and maintain a loyal and productive workforce. In fact, employee benefits can lower turnover rates by as much as 25%.
  • Boosts morale and productivity – Employees want to feel that they are valued and appreciated. The biggest mistake most companies make is to simply expect their employees to perform at a high level without any support. Companies that offer benefits to their employees are able to significantly boost their morale, which helps the bottom line – businesses with engaged employees are 22% more profitable than those with un-engaged employees.
  • Increases business flexibility – Not all employees are productive within fixed working hours. Businesses that lock their employees into specific business hours are only able to harness a fraction of productivity from their workers. However, companies that are able to offer flexible and customized employee benefits are able to reap the productivity of their employees even when they’re not on the job.

employee benefits retentionResearch continues to show that the companies that take care of their employees get more productivity, better retention rates, and a better overall workplace environment. A thorough benefits package also improves a company’s brand by making them known as a place that respects and helps their employees.

Click here to see an example of an employee benefits package for small to medium businesses.

Costs of Employee Benefits

Picking the right benefits and what they cost

employee benefits roiEvery company wants to offer a comprehensive package of benefits that allows their employees to improve their quality of life. A healthy, happy staff is proven to be a benefit for business performance and growth. Benefits can also help attract top talent – research shows that nearly 60% of people seeking jobs consider benefits and perks among their top considerations.

But like any business decision, the positive results gained from employee benefits have to be weighed carefully against the costs. According to statistics from MIT, a typical employee can cost their company up to 1.4 times their base salary, after accounting for taxes, healthcare, and insurance benefits.

The key to picking the right employee benefits package is choosing one that meets two of the most important criteria:

  • Popular – There’s no reason for your company to pursue employee benefits that aren’t going to be used by the team. Most workers will take advantage of core benefits like health and dental insurance, but if you’re adding educational benefits that employees aren’t using, you’ll waste company resources.
  • Cost effective – Some benefits simply don’t provide good value. We typically see this in large, comprehensive packages that are priced to be an all-in-one solution. In many cases, the individual components of these packages don’t provide the level of service employees need or expect.

All companies will have slightly different criteria for the type of benefits that meet these requirements. Here are some of the most cost effective benefits that are typically popular with employees:

  • Bonuses based on performance/incentives – Although it might sound like “employee bonuses” are out of reach from a cost perspective, these bonuses don’t have to be significant. A simple gesture like a gift card, restaurant meal certificate, or consumer electronic will be greatly appreciated by most employees.
  • PTO – Most companies provide at least 10 days of PTO per year. Even adding a few additional days to the standard amount can help separate your company from competitors, and the costs are relatively minor compared to other types of benefits.
  • Teleworking options – The popularity of remote working has increased exponentially in recent years. Not only is it desirable among employees, it actually provides cost savings to your company. Research shows that a typical business that allows employees to work from home just 50% of the time could save over $10,000 in overhead each year.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) – Many employers take a shortsighted view of benefits, focusing on things they can do to make work easier or more enjoyable. However, one of the biggest influences on an employee’s performance is their personal life. EAPs help employees deal with issues like grief, depression, substance issues, and family problems. These programs typically include counseling, advice on specific situations, and referrals to professional caregivers.

With a thorough understanding of the relative costs of employee benefits, it is much easier to choose the ones that will provide a positive return on your company’s investment of resources. Here is a review of the most popular employee benefits.

What is an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

A package of benefits that extend beyond the workplace

Employee Assistance programOver time, businesses have continued to respond to the needs of their workforce and to develop solutions that cater to these needs. This has led to the development of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) as a part of benefits packages.

Just a few examples of areas where employee assistance packages can be helpful are:

  • Mental health – Research shows that roughly 1 out of every 5 millennials suffer from depression, but it’s not limited to one generation: Anxiety, depression, and other disorders can wreak havoc on an employee of any age. EAP providers offer both self-help tips as well as counseling from certified mental health professionals.
  • Substance abuse – About 1 in 4 adults in the US has either a mental or substance abuse disorder. As addiction becomes increasingly recognized as a disease that can restrain someone’s ability to function normally, EAP providers are offering telephone, online, and in-person support for substance issues.
  • Elder care – Almost half of all adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 and older and are financially supporting a grown child (18 or older). The burden of caring for both an aging parent and a son or daughter can be overwhelming; information is often the most difficult thing to come by. A good quality elder care resource from an EAP provider can offer healthcare recommendations, tips on handling emergency situations, and education on spotting common elder care challenges. Lost productivity due to absenteeism related to eldercare runs into the billions for companies annually.  Integrating an eldercare program into an EAP can offset these costs dramatically.

EAP Providers

Entities that bundle insurance offerings for companies

EAP providers come in several forms. Some health insurance providers offer companies EAP packages included within their normal insurance offering, while others may provide “a la carte” programs that help employees in specific areas.

Because of the diversity in types of EAP providers available, it’s important to do your research before selecting one company over another. Despite what they may put on their websites or promotional materials, not every EAP provider offers the same level of service or response.

For example, many EAP providers offer assistance through a large call center, where employee calls are routed to a phone operator with little knowledge of their issues or needs. In a situation where an employee requires immediate help or is unsure of what to do about a medical situation, the experience of trying to provide information to a call center operator can be challenging.

How is it possible to avoid these types of challenging interactions for your employees? Your best bet is to conduct thorough vetting before deciding on one particular elder care provider or another.

Be sure to ask them at least a few of the following questions:

  • Is assistance available around the clock, or only on limited hours?
  • Is on-site counseling or guidance available, or only remote?
  • How long have you been providing EAP programs?
  • What kind of companies do you usually offer EAP programs for?
  • Which medical professionals do they recommend? How do they select their preferred doctors, nurses and caregivers?

EAP providers will play a significant role in the experience your employees have with their company benefits. It may take some extra time and effort, but it’s important to thoroughly vet your EAP provider so that you can select one that offers all the benefits your employees need to stay happy, healthy, and productive.

Benefits brokers are also a resource for companies to help choose the right benefits packages for employees. They can save time and money.  Here is a guide to getting the most from a benefits broker.

6 important employee benefits trends

employee benefits trendsEmployee benefits is not a static field. They evolve and adapt to the needs of the workforce. While some of the more buzz-worthy benefits of today’s workplaces include nap areas and ping pong tables, there are plenty of other important trending employee benefits:

  • Focus on health insurance options – As the healthcare industry continues to become unpredictable, workers are increasingly concerned about their ability to access quality and affordable healthcare. Companies are implementing benefits with more comprehensive insurance options like health savings accounts, but out-of-pocket deductibles are still on the rise.
  • Employee wellness programs – Companies are realizing that employee productivity is also related to their well-being, not just their physical health. Yoga, meditation, and dietary instruction are becoming common types of available employee benefits.
  • Flexible scheduling – Though not all companies believe in it, there has also been a rise in remote working across many industries. Some employers allow their team to work from home one day a week, while others try to allow schedule adjustments for family obligations and inclement weather.
  • Financial stability – Financial stability is a top concern for employees and one of the leading causes of poor workplace productivity. For this reason, asset protection plans and retirement options continue to be popular employee benefits, especially with baby boomers and Generation X. In fact, they have become even more popular recently: only about 28% of companies were offering financial options in 2014. As of 2017, that number has risen to 49%.
  • Benefits that consider elder care – Lots of employees today find themselves in the “sandwich generation,” stuck with caring for both children and elderly parents. For employees with injured or disabled parents, the amount of time spent caring for them can be significant, even reaching the point of disrupting their ability to maintain normal levels of productivity at work. Many companies are beginning to offer elder care assistance programs to help employees find the right support in caring for their elderly loved ones.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) – Whether employees want to improve their relationships, communicate better with their families, or develop better spending habits, employee assistance programs can provide valuable guidance and instruction. Online courses, in-person seminars, and team-building activities are all commonly included in today’s EAP programs.

Benefits packages trending towards all-around employee development

The broader picture when considering employee benefits is that these benefits packages are becoming more diversified and branching into previously untouched territory. Companies are beginning to offer assistance in more areas than ever before, to both improve the well-being of their employees and ensure they are as productive as possible.

Elder Care Employee Resources

Elder care is an essential EAP offering

As the large baby boomer generation continues to age into their 60s and early 70s, the U.S. is getting older. Census Bureau reporting from earlier this year shows that the average age in the United States went from 35.3 in 2000 to 37.9 in 2016.

elder care eapThis trend is not likely to halt or reverse any time soon. Increasingly, workers from Generation X, and even some from Generation Y, are finding themselves “sandwiched” between taking care of children and elderly parents. Simultaneously, they have to perform at their best in a full-time job that demands 40 hours a week, if not more.

It’s an immense challenge to balance all three of these difficult tasks. Fortunately, the rise of the internet and the new attention being paid to elder care by both employers and insurance providers means there are plenty of resources available for those in need of assistance with elderly caregiving.

Just a few examples include:

  • Medical directories – These are lists of healthcare providers in a specific city or county who specialize in some of the common ailments and conditions faced by the elderly. Some directories also include reviews from previous patients.
  • In-home assistance – This option is for elderly patients who need more personalized attention with things they do around the house. Assistance in the home is offered by certified health or rehabilitation personnel.
  • Food and nutrition programs – Depending on where you live, many local governments offer meal planning assistance for senior citizens. The best-known example is Meals on Wheels, which allows elderly residents to receive meal deliveries in their homes.
  • Caregiver counseling – Most people who have to take care of an elderly loved one never receive formal training on how to handle some of the more common situations that arise with elder care. These scenarios include applying for benefits, talking to an elderly parent about their medical options, and understanding how to access state and federal government programs available for the elderly. Caregiver counseling provides information and explanations of these scenarios to improve the quality of care provided to an elderly loved one.
  • Transportation assistance – Depending on city and county, many areas offer buses, van pools, and other types of shuttles that can help seniors get around to buy groceries, clothing and other things they need. Recreational transportation is also offered by local organizations and community centers.

Some of these resources are designed to help educate a caregiver, while others relieve the burden of providing daily help to an elderly or disabled loved one. The more of these valuable elder care resources that can be included in your company’s employee benefits packages, the better off you will be when it comes to employee productivity and absenteeism.

Healthcare Legislation and Employee Benefits

Healthcare legislation is in an upheaval.  And unfortunately, it’s resulted in providers such as Anthem and Blue Cross pulling out of the market due to the increasing lack of predictability and fear of unsustainable losses to their companies.

Health care providers don’t know if they’ll be able to count on their profit anymore, so they’re constantly raising their costs – which are passed onto companies like yours who provide health benefits to employees. This uncertainty coupled with rising costs, requires planning process to assess your current healthcare plan so you can move forward.

After your review,  important questions to ask regarding your employee benefits:

  • What’s our company’s budget?
  • What are the needs of my employee demographics?
  • Which programs are easily implemented?

Answering these questions will provide your company with a guideline for how to adjust your benefits package in light of the ongoing legislative changes.