The Philosophy of Employee Benefits

How to find the right balance between cost and staying competitive.
Categories: Employee Benefits
Nov 9th, 2016 | By: Chris Nielsen

One of the largest concerns that employers have is what kind of benefits programs to offer their employees and just how far those benefits programs need to extend.

The problem, of course, is twofold. On one hand, it is important in the modern day market to consider the needs and wants of employees. On the other hand, employees don’t want a “little bit,” they often want “everything.” The issue with the latter is that “everything” comes at a cost. That cost, when considering benefits packages, is passed right on to the employer. It can become a fine line between giving too much and giving too little.

So where does an employer start to address this situation? An employer should ideally start with its own benefits philosophy. One of the many definitions of philosophy is “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs.” A benefits philosophy, then, would incorporate how a company or business owner wants to guide the practice of choosing and providing benefits packages to employees. With so much lateral movement in the employment marketplace based solely on benefits (sometimes even at the expense of salary), it should come as no surprise just how important it is for an employer to offer attractive benefits packages.

Dollar for dollar, there are many things to consider. Here are just a few (all of which can be guided directly by your benefits philosophy):

  • Life Insurance is the first item listed on 99 percent of benefit summaries. How much life insurance should an employer provide to an employee? What amount do you want to pay out for a top employee versus a new hire?
  • The primary benefits that employees typically ask about are Health and Dental coverage. But what about Critical Illness and Long-Term Disability? In the event that an employee suffers a major life event like these, what would you as the employer like to see happen? If you didn’t have those benefits as a part of your program, how would that employee cope with a significant health issue? Would your employees actually consider an individual policy to cover them and their family, or would they be relying 100 percent on the benefits they were able to obtain through their employer?
  • Studies have shown that happy and healthy employees are more productive employees. Should you take a traditional reactive approach to this fact or opt for a more proactive one? Would it be a good idea to include Wellness Programs in your benefits package, for example?
  • What if a member of your staff was trying to start a family? Should fertility drugs be covered under your benefits package? Would your answer to this be consistent with the philosophy that your company has set forth?
  • Here is a favorite question for last: If you could only offer one benefit, would your philosophy support a high-end dental program, or would you consider starting a retirement savings program? Does your philosophy support great teeth—or an employee’s dignity in retirement? Which would make your potential employees happier?

What you choose to offer should be guided by the benefits philosophy your company has set forth and the culture that you are fostering. Forming a cohesive company with consistent values is the key to obtaining and retaining good talent in the marketplace.

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