How to Expand Benefits Packages to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

While salary traditionally has been considered the big draw in attracting talent, to compete for employees in today’s culture, companies should give benefits a central role in their recruiting strategies. Employees often place great value on non-salary benefits such as health insurance and flexible schedules, and employers should carefully think through what benefits they want to offer and how they will market those benefits to potential employees. This can be especially important in attracting and retaining millennials, who have a different viewpoint on what constitutes an appealing job than previous generations.

Large technology companies, in particular, are rethinking benefits. Matthew Gregson, senior vice president of Thomsons Online Benefits, described their philosophy to HR magazine.

“There’s a significant focus on supporting employees’ life goals, their wellbeing and giving them a great experience in the workplace, and those things are manifest in the culture,” he said.


Prioritizing benefits


A recent Randstad U.S. survey, which polled more than 750 employees, reveals how important good benefits can be to employee job satisfaction.

Only about 40 percent of employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their company benefits, and only about half of the employees surveyed even knew about all of their benefits. Almost all of the respondents preferred benefits that would increase their quality of life.

Some of the survey’s results indicated that good benefits—especially those sponsored by the employer—could more effectively attract talent than a high salary. More than 65 percent of respondents said that the quality of benefits and perks determined whether they accepted a job offer, and 61 percent said they would take a lower paying job if it offered good benefits. About 40 percent of respondents said that they were thinking about leaving their current job because the benefits were poor, and 55 percent had quit a job when they found a new job with better benefits. Respondents listed health insurance as the most important benefit, followed by early Friday dismissals, the option to work remotely or integrate a flexible schedule, and onsite perks such as a gym.

In a talk at the 2018 Society for Human Resources (SHRM) annual conference, SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor argued that human resources departments should provide leadership in areas such as benefits and compensation, training and development, and creating an inclusive workplace culture—otherwise, he said, companies may outsource these functions. As HR departments set the tone for a company’s image and benefits, they will play a key role in whether their company can successfully recruit quality employees.


Beyond salary


Here are some workplace benefits that can enhance a company’s image and reputation as it seeks to attract the attention of top talent.

Student debt pay-down plans: The Randstad U.S. survey showed that about 40 percent of respondents ages 18-24 wished that their companies offered student loan repayment assistance.  This benefit can be significant for recent college graduates, whose student loan payments may be tying up money they could use for a down payment on a home or car.

Employers can offer student loan repayment benefits by contributing money each year toward an employee’s student loans. Because of their age, millennials aren’t as interested in top-of-the-line health insurance plans as older employees and are too far removed from retirement to prioritize an employer-matching 401(k) plan. For them, student debt repayment plans can be a major draw, as this benefit has a more immediate impact on their monthly budget.


Flexible work schedule: All workers, but especially millennials, aren’t as interested in jobs that require them to sit at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Many value independence and control over their own time, and workplace flexibility allows employees to have a say in their work schedule.

For many employees, this means the ability to occasionally work from home, which can be especially important for parents who need to be available during the day sometimes to care for a sick child or attend an event at their child’s school. Other types of flexible schedules include flex-time, which requires a set number of hours and workload each week, but gives the employee the option as to when to complete the work. Compressed workweeks similarly allow employees to fulfill a 40-hour workweek in four 10-hour workdays.


Professional development: This benefit can be especially important for drawing young, ambitious employees who want to develop their careers and move into higher positions. Companies that offer mentorships, training programs, educational opportunities, and team-building events show potential employees that they are invested in their learning and success. This kind of culture also promotes a sense of purpose and can be especially important in retaining millennials, who tend to job-hop if they sense a better opportunity lies elsewhere. In addition, investing in training and development can create well-trained, knowledgeable company leaders who become longtime, loyal employees.

Current low unemployment rates mean that many labor markets are tight and competition can be fierce for good employees. Companies that translate what potential employees want and value into an appealing benefits package—whether it includes premium health insurance or free lunch—will stay a step ahead in the recruiting game.