Ever since the advent of the HMO in the late 1970s, the standard in employee benefits has been a health insurance plan and some sort of retirement option. For more than forty years, such has been the expectation among employers and employees alike. But change is afoot. That change revolves around voluntary benefits.
Voluntary benefits are those above and beyond health insurance and a retirement plan. They include things like dental, vision, and life insurance. They are the new wild card in the staffing game. Companies are figuring out that voluntary benefits bring a lot more to the table in terms of employee engagement. They can make for more effective recruiting and retention if used the right way.
Employee Needs Are Different
It was easy to fall back on health insurance and retirement plans back in the day when only the best jobs offer employee benefits. White collar workers employed by well established companies did not have a whole lot of additional needs their employers could meet. So health insurance and a retirement plan seemed like obvious choices.
Things are different today. Employee needs are different. As a case in point, consider employees in the long-term care (nursing homes, assistant living facilities) sector. Statistics suggest that 70% of America’s long term health workers decline the health insurance benefit offered through their employers. This is an incredible number.
That same data shows that employees in this particular field have other concerns they feel are more pressing:
- Childcare costs
- Affordable housing
- Transportation costs
- Food costs
- Financial security.
Imagine an employee foregoing health insurance because their portion of the premiums could be better spent on housing or childcare. Do you think that employee would jump to a new position if offered a childcare or housing benefit in lieu of health insurance? It doesn’t sound so farfetched.
Likewise, imagine a young person fresh out of college. Being young, they are not worried about facing a catastrophic illness that could lead to financial ruin in the event that they do not have health insurance. But they are worried about never being able to pay off their student loans. They would probably jump at the chance to work for an employer who offered a student loan reduction benefit.
Plenty of Choices
One of the best things about voluntary benefits is that there are so many choices. Student debt repayment assistance is one option. So is a benefit that helps parents cover childcare costs. Believe it or not, pet insurance is gaining ground as a voluntary benefit. Enough companies are interest in it that Dallas-based BenefitMall recently ran about employers offering pet benefits.
The post was meant to encourage benefits brokers to offer their clients a pet insurance option. A typical pet insurance policy covers health issues and burial costs. It also provides discounted vet services along with cheaper food, toys, and other pet supplies.
Voluntary benefits do not even need to be tangible. Something as simple as allowing employees more flexibility in their schedules is enough to draw attention. A basket of voluntary benefits from which employees can pick and choose offers the opportunity to customize according to their own needs. Employees love that.
It is How You Compete
How well a company competes for talent usually determines its level of success. These days, the fiercest competitors are working hard to secure a voluntary benefits package they believe will get attention. Offering a solid list of voluntary benefits gives prospective employees something to look at beyond traditional health insurance and retirement plans. And because of that, they are the new wildcard in the staffing game.