04.24.2013

How to Pick the Absolute Best Employee Benefits

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Bits and pieces of the Affordable Care Act continue falling, like shrapnel, around

Dave tried hard to imagine what benefits would make his employees happy...
Dave tried hard to imagine what benefits would make his employees happy…

employers’ ears, with no end in sight. But while business owners can’t anticipate everything they’ll have to do to conform to the new laws, there are some steps they can take to put their employee benefit plans in place. Because even though many small business owners aren’t required to offer benefits packages, there are favorable tax ramifications for doing so. Plus, if you want to attract the best employees, benefits packages are a good lure.

But which benefits? One thing far too few employers do is find out what benefits their employees want the most. After all, what’s the point of offering vision if only a fraction of your employees cares about it? And what if the squeaky wheel in your office is demanding term life insurance but nobody else gives a hoot about term life and would rather have a masseuse?

So here’s a morale-boosting, money-saving, headache-relieving approach: Ask.

Have your benefits broker create an anonymous survey for your employees on something like Survey Monkey or Zoomerang that includes questions like:

1. Which would you rather have?  Higher deductible health insurance plan with lower premiums or lower deductible health insurance plan with higher premiums  (If its more evenly split, your company could provide a dual option)

2.  If you had $50 to spend on an additional benefit, which of the following would be the most important to you? – dental, vision, disability, life insurance, retirement contribution, wellness program, pet insurance (yes, it exists and yes, some companies provide it!), free meals (although that might be taxable now – more on that in a future blog post)

3.  Comments (be sure to allow them to comment and provide details and feedback)

Give employees a week to ponder the questions and respond. This way, rather than guessing at what your employees need, you would base it at least partly on their answers. It would be good to know what benefits would make your employees happy, right?

You might even learn some really great ways to save money. For example, your employees might be the running, cycling, kale-eating types who would relish an employee wellness program that would significantly cut down your insurance premiums. And if they’re more the channel-flipping, nacho-supreme-eating type, you can learn what might induce them to join such a program.

Then, when you get all the answers, be sure to publish the results:

  • Eighty percent of you said that life insurance was more important than vision, so we beefed up the life insurance and cut the vision.
  • Eighty four percent said you like all the extras the current insurance carrier gives us, so we stuck with that one, rather than switching to a new one.

This tells employees you’re listening and responding to what they want. It’s also a handy report to give the squeaky wheel when he or she starts to squeak.

Asking employees what they want isn’t a revolutionary approach, except that we find so many companies never really consider it. It’s a brilliant tool and something proactive you can do while the Affordable Care Act continues to evolve.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.

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