In competitive employment markets, it can feel like a battle to attract the best talent. And, once you've hired and invested in an employee, you also want to know how to preserve that investment and keep that employee thriving. Employee benefits may be a big part of that equation.1

Finding and keeping employees is a major part of any business strategy. And a company's benefit package is an important consideration when prospective candidates weigh options and offers. According to a survey from Paychex, benefits packages rank in the top five challenges that HR professionals face in recruiting.2

Investing in employees through a benefits package adds value to their compensation and helps develop company culture. When reviewing payroll and compensation, companies need to also review benefit packages to make sure what they offer is competitive, serves employees' needs and represents the company culture.

The basics

Not all benefits are created equally, and many of today's increasingly popular benefits aren't legally required. However, U.S. laws and regulations stipulate that there are some things companies are required to provide employees, and these provisions are typically thought of as benefits. Although some requirements vary from state to state, U.S. companies are legally required to provide the following benefits:3

  • Workers' compensation insurance
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Health insurance if the company has 50 or more full-time employees
  • Social Security and Medicare contributions
  • Payment of all state tax requirements, in addition to federal requirements
  • Time off for covered reasons under the Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Minimum wage and overtime pay

All other benefits are considered nonrequired, depending on the state where a company operates. For example, laws in California and Hawaii require companies to offer disability insurance to employees.4 While the following employee benefits are nonrequired in most situations, they're the traditional offerings that many people think of when they consider basic employee benefits packages:5

  • Access to health insurance, with costs either fully funded by the employer or split between employers and employees
  • Life insurance, which the employer or employee may fund
  • Paid time off for vacations and illness
  • Retirement plans for employees to contribute to, with potential contributions from employers

Upgraded options

Increasingly, companies are enhancing their traditional, standard offerings by increasing their contributions to benefits like health insurance. However, they're also providing enhanced perks.

In an effort to keep employees engaged and satisfied in their current positions, companies are getting creative in offering non-traditional perks. These benefits can protect companies' investments in their employees by helping workers feel valued by and loyal to their employers. Companies can also become more attractive to jobseekers by offering upgraded benefits, which means these more-innovative perks can attract and retain top talent.6

Flex time: With flex time, employees have more flexibility in their scheduling. This perk allows them to start and end work at times that are more convenient for them. Flex time can reduce an employee's missed work by allowing them to handle appointments and still make it to work, or even work from home when they're not feeling well. Working from home is another perk that may fall under flexible work plans.

As the work/life balance culture grows, especially among those entering the workforce for the first time, this perk is becoming more valuable to employees. Workers are more likely to stay with companies — and be happier there — when they have flexibility.7

Education: This benefit may include tuition reimbursement, assistance in paying down existing student loan debt or allowances for training and education. Encouraging employees to grow their knowledge base on the company's dime is an attractive option and helps position companies as both generous and caring.

When prospective employees know a company is invested in their professional growth, they may choose a company that provides this perk over one that doesn't.8

Health and wellness: Benefits that relate to health and wellness are growing in popularity. Wellness benefits can include a wide variety of perks like healthy snacks in the break room, memberships to meal-planning or fitness apps, free gym memberships and onsite flu shot clinics. In encouraging proactive wellness, employers may offer paid time off for regular checkups rather than requiring employees to use vacation days, free smoking-cessation programs and other complimentary wellness resources. Health-related perks can boost employee productivity levels and, like other benefits, make a company more attractive to high-value jobseekers.9

Culture-related perks: Employees today look beyond compensation and examine a company's culture because when they feel like they fit in well at the company, they're happier and more productive.10 Employers are subsequently creating environments that recognize employee contributions while fostering growth and support.

Some popular cultural perks don't cost much. Company-hosted lunches once a month, daily coffee service and family game nights are all very low cost but help build culture and a sense of camaraderie. Some companies offer shorter work weeks in the summer months, allowing employees to work longer days to take Friday off or leave early. These office-culture perks don't have to stretch the payroll budget, but they do offer value to employees who feel more appreciated and relaxed.

Creating value in your company's benefit package may help to retain employees and attract new talent. Lowering turnover can reduce your cost of operations and improve your overall business through happier, more productive and healthier employees. Use benefits to help build your company culture and get the most out of your resources.

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