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July 9, 2024

How to future-proof your employee benefits strategy

Employee benefits are taking center stage in corporate strategy, as an evolving workforce is demanding a different level of support from their employers. Generation Z and millennial workers, now the majority of our workforce, indicate that benefits are at least as important to them as salary when evaluating job offers. 

File photo / Jim Neuger
Colleen Kavanagh is the founder and CEO of SoulBeing.

Here are five important themes to consider when establishing a meaningful employee benefits strategy, and actionable ideas to help guide you through the process.

1. Whole person care

Wellness is out. Whole person care is here to stay. The world is waking up to the need for more than lip-service about “work-life balance” and wellness initiatives that turn employee health into a game or a box-to-check.

People want to be valued not only for what they contribute, but for who they are. They expect to be supported the same way.

When creating your strategy, think broadly. With five generations now in the workforce, vertical solutions for specific needs (think: fertility, pain management) can serve an important purpose, but force choosing between demographics. Look for solutions that offer “something for everyone” to optimize your investment and outcomes.

Investments in DEI and mental health are the new standard for business. Family is also an important component of Whole Person Care, so be sure to include dependent access to benefits when appropriate.

2. Benefits as culture

Millennials and Gen Z have different criteria for choosing a job than prior generations. When selecting a company to work for, alignment with culture is paramount. When looking from the outside-in to make this determination, benefits are often the most tangible representation of company culture. 

This is how benefits have become a primary attraction and retention tool for destination workplaces. Forward-thinking leaders consider benefits and policy equal parts of a formula that creates tangible proof-of-culture. They spend the time and money necessary to build a robust strategy that demonstrates commitment to employee health and happiness.

3. Your team is ready

You hired your HR team for a reason, and this is their chance to shine. There has never been a better time to embrace HR as a strategic function and give them the opportunity to work on a meaningful project that is not only impactful, but critical to the future success of your business.

This is a low-risk place to embrace innovation and be the first-mover to stand out from your competition. Leverage your broker and vendor partnerships to see the whole landscape, and ask more of the partners you already have. Good partners will rise to the occasion.

4. Redefine your metrics

Benefits implemented to solve a specific cost problem should be evaluated by ROI, but others require different metrics of success. Many metrics, such as cost avoidance and decreased turnover, have measurable impact on the bottom line, but are difficult to correlate with a specific initiative. These should be included in overall evaluation of benefits strategy, but not necessarily tied to any specific solution.

Utilization data, outcomes reporting, and progress against corporate health initiatives are quantifiable measures of individual benefits. Change your metrics to align with and incorporate your overall people strategy, and hold your broker and vendor partners accountable to providing data that helps you monitor the value of your investments.

5. Build for who you want to hire

Your ideal employee-of-the-future is educated and empowered. Choose solutions that lead with self-service, while offering additional support when needed. No matter how informed we are, dealing with insurance (for example) can require some extra help. 

Grant your employees and their families access to the tools and resources they need, as well as the training to use them effectively, and then let them lead. Acupuncture may be a more effective mental health strategy than talk therapy for some. Empowering your team to build their own personalized strategy for health and well-being can make significant difference to employees, their families, and the bottom line of your company.

While each benefits portfolio will look different depending on corporate priorities, one thing remains true for every organization: to compete in the job market of today and the future, benefits matter.

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